By David Dissanayake
I once bumped into Sarah Vaughn, co-creator of Image Comics' Alex+Ada (with Jonathan Luna), without knowing it. I was going to my old local comic shop, Big Planet Comics, on U St. in Washington, DC. It was a Wednesday, and I was in a terrible mood after an exceptionally long day of exceptionally annoying work. I walked up the metal stairs to the shop's front door just as a young woman was coming out. She held the door for me, giving me a big smile and a kind hello.
It genuinely cheered me up.
I had the first issue of Alex + Ada on pull that week. I knew nothing about the book, but there was something really appealing about the cool, clean, inviting logo and cover design. I was gushing over exactly that to Big Planet owner (and all around badass) Jared Smith when he told me that it was actually Sarah Vaughn who had just held the door for me. She had popped into the store randomly. Small world.
Alex + Ada turned out to be one of the most intelligent, poignant, and subtle being published today. It's also the most underrated, by far. It is not getting nearly enough of the buzz that it so rightly deserves. It's always one of the first books I read from my stack whenever it comes out, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Luckily, the first trade of Alex + Ada will be out July 16th. I already have all the issues and I will still be picking this one up.
The story is this: Alex, against his wishes, is given a bleeding edge X-5 model realistic android. Her name is Ada, and she is programmed to do whatever her owner requests of her. Installed in her OS is a consciousness-blocking program that prevents her from developing self-awareness. That program can be removed – illegally. It turns out there is an entire underground movement of illegally self-aware androids and their allies. What happens if Alex chooses to free her? What happens when Ada becomes aware?
It's a little like Bladerunner meets Her, set in the suburbs, 20 minutes from now, where androids are consumer commodities in the way iphones are now.
What makes the book so outstanding is that it feels like it could be real. The world of Alex + Ada feels like our world, but 20 minutes into the future, full of technologies that don't exist now, but will very soon. The story is very much character based, and Vaughn and Luna do such an amazing job developing them, even the supporting characters, that they seem like people you could actually get to know, like you could go out to lunch with them and become fast friends.
The true triumph of Alex + Ada though, is its discussion about the political/social/moral/legal implications of artificial intelligence in modern society that looks just like ours. Obviously these themes are nothing new in fiction, but what is new is the context and presentation of Alex + Ada. It's not some strange barely recognizable future. It's now, in a world we recognize all too well, with people who have jobs just like ours, with consumer technologies we might soon have. The book recaptures some of the greatest sci-fi discussions, re-purposing and imbuing them with a new meaning and purpose.
Like all truly great stories, Alex + Ada will make you reflect on yourself, your own humanity, and the world as it will likely be very soon.
Its damn good fiction. Go check it out.
Alex + Ada #7 will be released June 18th and can be ordered using Diamond ID: APR140557
The first Alex + Ada tpb collection will be released July 16th and can be ordered with Diamond ID: MAY140618