Alex + Ada #9 – Where do broken circuit boards go?

Of course that title is massively belittling to a book that is trying to show that emotions are real, no matter where they arise. There is a crystal purity that resonates from this comic, and it is not just the beautifully simple artwork but a refined version of the classic tome of unrequited love. As the recently heartbroken Alex fails to find solace in the company of a non-sentient android, he breaks her programming to allow her independent thought. Unfortunately he fails to take responsibility for bringing a new life into the world. Ada is young and innocent, forcibly expelled into a world that fears and incarcerates her kind.

AlexLuna and Vaughn’s story concepts are quite interesting and well explored because the book is quite slow paced and methodical. We are almost party to her thoughts as they happen for the first time, but it does not feel boring or tiresome. In fact the art is so wonderful that we are able to empathise so easily, but quite tragically with Ada’s predicament. It is almost as if her movements are happening in real time because she is a robot and you can imagine her being quite still, as she begins to learn how to move like everyone else. Alex is similar in nature but for the opposite reason, his demeanour is quite muted as he is full of angst and regret of the breakdown of his recent relationship. He often sits there longing with a perpetual frown, it even occurs in this issue as he listens to Ada’s farewell message. Jonathan Luna has an exceptional ability to convey vast amounts of emotion from only a few strokes of a pencil. It is a skill that is only found in a few artists, that the slightest angulation of the eyes can change the way a character comes across. It is quite wonderful to see, especially when combined with the letterbox panelling he employs throughout the comic. The scenes are almost stop motion animation, as the environments appear quite sparse and still, allowing the character’s movements to be the single focus of the scene. It is gradual and flows wonderfully with the subtle use of close-ups throughout. His colouring is a slightly overexposed use of gentle and calming creams, pinks and off whites. So when we see Ada out in the darkness hiding from the raindrops, we instantly recognise her fearfulness. It all builds together to giving a character exposition so stirring that we feel so sad at her simple ails of falling to hunger.

Ada panelsThe tone of the book has almost a Wes Anderson movie feel to it, with the drawn out silences and the emotional unease. If you view the comic as a book between two lovers trying to understand each other and their relationship together, you may find it quite frustrating as Alex really struggles to truly feel for Ada. His perturbed heart is able to let Ada be free from servitude, but his acceptance of her as a sentient human does not extend to allowing him to feel kindness and love towards her. Vaughn’s writing explores this every issue and in this particular one we watch Alex try to rationalise his rejection of her in order to alleviate his guilt. What is particularly interesting is whether he actually does feel any affections for her, or is this just a way to make himself feel better. As a reader it is difficult to actually know the answer to this, but I generally sway to the negative one. Whereas Ada is in a completely different situation as her innocence is her greatest hindrance. She interacts with other sentient androids and tries to live in a world she is completely naïve to. Her sense of fight or flight is quite astute as she runs from authority but she is clearly scared and has no idea how to survive in the real world. She is emotionally quite labile which is understandable considering these are her first experiences. Her completely natural fondness for her guardian, Alex, has left her confused and awry. She has little idea of how to process her feelings, let alone begin to understand his. Unfortunately she feels the pain of the cold shoulder and returns to her basic instinct of flight. It is these inbuilt drives that keep us safe from harm, whether it is a physical pain or an emotional one. Alex may be feeling guilty or even confused with his actions but he cannot expect anything else from Ada, he brought her into the world and now has to deal with the repercussions of that.

FinalThis book sits at the crucial crossroads of its plot and is about to lead into a story of further romantic confusion or a succinct resolution of tragedy or elation. The writing and the art are so clear and precise that the characters deserve refined development and a realistic ending, which would befit Alex being with Ada or the converse. I do have some concerns that it may become more complex than it needs to, in a bid for an epiphany that would bring a grander ending. After all we do live in a world of over romanticised media and unrealistic relationship expectations. Maybe we all just want a simple answer to why things happen they way they do, and the easiest way through to the other side. What I adore about these creators is that, so far they have done just that. It is beautiful, it is honest and it is incredibly endearing. If only the real world was like that.

“That felt nice, you’re my first real hug”

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