Alex and Ada Volume 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
|Alex and Ada Volume 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn|
|Category: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A superlative drama from the near future, with a stunning artistic style giving us something we may have seen before, but never done this well.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 128||Date: July 2014|
|Publisher: Image Comics|
Meet Alex. You'd probably be in a minority if you did, for he's a bit of a loner since he broke up with his last girlfriend. He meets few people in the workplace, has a quite antiseptic flat with his virtual cinema and his flying robotic kitchen aide, and that's about it. But others aren't too keen for Alex to carry on like that – people such as his gran, who has given herself the gift of an android in the form of a handsome young man to, er, keep her company. And yes, that too. Unfortunately, as Alex sees it, she buys him one for his birthday as well – a Tanaka X5, which you wake up by tugging on an earlobe. This being a world where the first real Artificial Intelligence went nasty and killed people a year ago, Alex is certainly torn about having the thing in his flat – especially as it just kowtows to his wishes and opinions without having anything like its own, as it is not allowed to get that close to sentience. But Alex changes his mind right upon the point of returning the thing, and begins to explore just what kind of life the gift could end up presenting to him.
The whole concept of people bringing AI into their personal lives has been done many times before, in all formats of sci-fi. Jonathan Luna, responsible for helping with script and creating all the wondrous images, has form himself in bringing Alien Life into characters' personal lives, with the help of his brother on Girls, which was that rare thing, a graphic novel series one could have wished lasted a lot longer than it did. This form does count against the book somewhat, for we know pretty much what to expect when we open these pages and go further than my plot summary above. To jump to the ending of this volume, it's at a completely pat place, where we might have a world of possibilities ahead of us for further stories, but we knew every step of the way how we got precisely to that point.
That's down to the main scriptwriter, Sarah Vaughn, although she more or less hits the ground running with her first ever published work. It's hard to see beyond the illustrations, but the script shows a commensurate cleverness and assuredness – many wordless images give way to a gabble of wordy panels, and they in turn have to deal with spoken dialogue, voice-over from the holographic newsreader and dialogue that's not spoken but thought, courtesy of the same Tanaka company's mind implants.
But if the book is so eye-opening, it is for the design and illustrations. Those thought balloons, with an electric blue outline, are only one part of it. The whole world is in a stately, pristine, clinical form due to Luna's lines. He uses repeated images of great appeal to great effect – the revelation of Ada as she becomes known, to Alex's friends, first in one silent spell with one shocked friend, then the rest of his small gang of companions. I dare say computers help him out with his art, as there's nothing out of place and the images can repeat as often as he wants to portray the awkwardness of Alex's quandary in forensic precision. The book aids this in being very glossy yet understated – not for this design a rear cover full of puff pieces from other artists and gloating quotes; not for these five issues even a hint of a messy cover.
That's not to say there's not humanity here, for the script hits the right notes when it comes to the potential of AI, and of course takes a sideways look at real life, with feminist issues and so on being able to be applied to the contents. I repeat there is too much that was mechanical about how this volume ended, but the two great examples of humanity who in fact get us that far can go anywhere they wish in future. I would definitely like to accompany them on that path.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Letter 44 Volume 1: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque is the year's other first-rate sci-fi graphic novel title, to my mind.
You can read more book reviews or buy Alex and Ada Volume 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Alex and Ada Volume 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn at Amazon.com.
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