Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn’s “Alex + Ada” #3 has Alex’s friends finding out about Ada and reacting with natural curiosity but reasonable restraint as they question her only slightly differently than they would grill a new girlfriend. Meanwhile Alex does his best to find out if there’s anything more to Ada than meets the eye and when he’s left wanting, begins his own research that leads him to forums with talk about “Robots Rights,” among other things.
There’s a lot of subtlety in “Alex + Ada” #3 in the form of identical panels as only dialogue changes, or things like barely noticeable eye movements. It’s a form of storytelling I actually quite like, but even I have to admit that there’s an insane amount of panel repetition in the issue. It feels like Luna had to draw maybe three pages total and the rest was cut and paste. Perhaps that shouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but I did ultimately find it distracting. While there’s a very effective creepiness factor in the way Luna plays with the silence and monotony, the issue would have worked better if there were a few scenes that worked that way as opposed to every scene. In fact, while Luna was surely making a statement about Alex’s feelings about Ada’s lack of personality/soul/agency and thus how boring and creepy she ultimately is as a robot trying to stand in for a person, the statement would have been even stronger with a better contrast of more active scenes of Alex when Ada wasn’t present. Perhaps that’s also a statement Luna is trying to make — that Alex is not so different from Ada what with his simple “want for nothing” lifestyle — but if it was, it didn’t quite work for me. Because of how this issue rolls out, it’s hard to feel that Alex has much more personality than Ada, which doesn’t feel like the point.
Independent of that issue, there are a lot of great things happening in this book and it continues to be well considered and smartly executed overall. Alex’s friends’ reactions to Ada feel real and earned and Alex’s attempt to bond with Ada is relatable and has an appropriate creep factor. Ultimately, Alex’s pursuit of what other options there are to help Ada become more “human” — including possibly illegal avenues regarding “Robot Rights” is where things begin to get very interesting. Luna and Vaughn have in their hands the potential to tell a really compelling story that pushes on boundaries, and I hope that they will indeed push on them. The set up is clearly here.
On the whole, “Alex + Ada” remains a solid entry in Image’s increasingly strong line-up. With lovely subtle art, smart, crisp writing to match, and an intriguing concept poised to go in compelling possibly “dangerous” directions this is a book worth checking out.