There will be light spoilers for the wholly ignorant, but anyone with a passing knowledge of the premise should be good to go!
When it comes to reading new titles, there’s usually a specific draw that causes me to pick it up in the first place. A familiar character or team, an artist or writer whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past, a premise that sparks my curiosity. All of these are pretty normal reasons, not all that different from how most people pick and choose. Sometimes I read things because everyone is talking about it or because a request has popped into the inbox.
This time it was different. I picked up Alex + Ada purely based on the cover alone. Something about the image made me think and the lack of description when I turned to the title page pushed me forward.
It’s a book that starts quiet. It doesn’t use flashy action to pull you, but rather starts off in a way that can be incredibly annoying if not used well. It starts with Alex (our protagonist) being woken up by an off-screen voice. It isn’t until the next page do we realize that the voice is actually the disembodied voice of a computer interface. This same computer interface we later learn is from a chip implanted in his brain allowing him to control the tech of his world, even have a phone conversation using thought alone. This is a world that both bears some resemblance to ours, but is also very different.
As a fan of the works of Asimov and the movie Blade Runner (amongst others), I know and love the A.I. and extremely humanoid robotics tropes. I like the sort of stories that get told in worlds where the lines between artificial and natural humans get blurred. They are excellent tools for exploring problems starting to emerge in our own world, such as the over-reliance on technology, but also basic human questions.
While Alex + Ada might be a story about a man and a robot, it hasn’t quite become that yet. The robot in question (what I assume to be the titular Ada) doesn’t even appear on a panel until the third to last page. She doesn’t have a spoken line of dialogue until right before the To Be Continued page. Right now the book is mostly Alex’s story and despite the near-future world he lives in, it’s a familiar one. He gets up, he goes to work, he talks to his friends both through email and in person. He’s got a family. He has a life, even if he doesn’t seem to be that connected to it. We learn that he’s suffered a break-up that he’s not getting over as fast as his friends think he should. The art reflects the distance Alex puts between himself and his network of friends and family. It’s always distant and when there’s a hint of a dynamic change, he flees.
Then again, this is all just the first issue which means that I could be reading way too much into this. However I find the fact that this book affords me that opportunity to be incredibly exciting. I have other titles for action and brain candy reads. This one that gives me pause and I’m excited to see where it goes.
The visuals of the book add to the ambiance of the story. Detailed without being distracting, a lot of time is dedicated to portraying close-ups of faces and displays of floating computer interfaces. All clean lines and muted colors, it creates a near-future world where people have come to rely on robots and tech first and human face-to-face contact second. People are very clearly lost in their own heads, making Alex’s isolation (real or imagined) palpable. The art tells just as much of the story as the written dialogue. There are no narrative cues indicating time or fading to black. It’s sequential without being rote, the panels flowing into one another without abrupt breaks. It made for an easy read.
The second issue comes out later this month and I’m excited to see where this story goes. I suggest anyone who appreciates near future stories or lovely understated art to give it a shot. Or even if you don’t like any of those, it’s worth a peek.