In “Alex + Ada” #8, love blooms but doesn’t have clear path within a thorny bramble of law and ethics. The events of the issue are a payoff, since sparks between the two principal characters have been suggested from the start with the obvious title pairing.
The first half of the comic flows as naturally and gracefully as before, with lots of meaty plot developments, picking up from Alex’s grandmother’s suspicion at the end of the last issue, and proceeding to another visit to the Degrees of Freedom forum, where Ada gets a chance to interact with other androids. The conversation among the androids has an obvious plot function, but the dialogue feels natural and lightly funny. The means by which Ada discovers Alex’s feelings and her own is delightfully cute.
However, the second half of the comic isn’t as well-written, and it’s a letdown since there’s a pivotal moment that is flubbed. The sexual tension reaches a new high, and the awkwardness and nervousness leading up the first kiss is well-done. The dialogue goes south soon after, though. The substance of the fight is badly written. The pacing feels rushed. Worse, a lot of the dialogue feels cliched and forced, with lines like “you don’t trust that what I feel for you is real.” This is weakest dialogue in “Alex + Ada” so far. These lines come off as stale, and Luna’s facial expressions, which are so good at conveying quieter emotions of doubt or weariness, don’t deliver enough here to keep the reader fully immersed through the scene. The points raised in the argument come across like they are crossing off a checklist rather than words that spill out in the heat of the moment. Alex’s lines are better than Ada’s, but only marginally. This argument is the climax of “Alex + Ada” #8, but its efficacy is crushed under the burden of the ethical themes. The creative team loses its grip when the situation calls for something more primal and visceral.
Ada’s hurt would more sense if Vaughn and Luna took more care to emphasize Ada’s psychological development and vulnerability in this situation. She behaves impatiently and reacts badly to rejection, more like a child than an adult. This only undercuts her position that she’s ready for love and sex, and it reinforces Alex’s argument that a romance between them would be wrong.
However, the aftermath of the argument strikes a truer note, and Luna’s drawing of Ada’s quiet tears is just right. The final three pages are silent, and Luna’s color shift into a purple-gray dusk is beautiful. His panel compositions rhythmically hook the reader again with a convincing progression of Ada’s sadness and thoughts. The visual leitmotif of a door is used again with excellent effect. The ending page’s minimalism is resonant and reminds the reader of Luna’s design skills.
“Alex + Ada” #8 is uneven and misses a step in the dance, but the action turns another major corner. The series as a whole is definitely still worth following to the end.