We came to Alex & Ada as a direct result of Humans, the TV show on Channel 4 which won the channel its biggest audience share in over 20 years (in our humble etc, the show started off with a good idea and then circle-jerked itself into inanity, but what do we know?). Humans earned itself a fair share of column inches, a great many of which commented upon the fact that AI seemed to be the topic du jour, what with Alex Garland’s Ex-Machina and… well, Alex + Ada.
Preceding the other two by a couple of years, Alex & Ada tells the story of a slightly disaffected young man (the aforementioned Alex) who is given the gift of a young lady robot (whom he names Ada) by his wealthy grandma. Of course he doesn’t want it and decides to send it back but circumstances conspire and he ends up keeping her. More than this, however, he stumbles across an online community dedicated to freeing the blockers installed in the robots by their manufacturers thereby creating true AI and sets out to open up Ada (despite the fact that it’s a crime). The book skilfully and sensitively explores issues of the other (for robot, you could very easily read migrant) at the same time as it fashions a compelling narrative that isn’t afraid to linger, moment by moment, in the more mundane aspects of everyday (albeit slightly futuristic) life shot through with the interactions of humans and robots, and incorporating Minority Report style news shows that work to illustrate how the larger society is reeling with events we see very much in miniature.
What’s more, and eschewing the kind of rolling narratives we see these days in the likes of BPRD, Saga and Walking Dead, among others, Alex + Ada finishes, right here in volume 3. This is it. Three books and you’re done. Of the 15 editions that comprise the run, 14 of them are truly worth reading: the art, the narrative, the pacing and the characterisation are all really well judged. It’s only in the 15th and final edition that the wheels unfortunately come off, as we speed, dizzily, many years into the future. If you were just reading along and didn’t know an end was speeding towards you, the cover of the third volume might lead you to suspect that Alex + Ada was veering into Logan’s Run territory (which would’ve been awesome). Instead, we don’t even get Logan’s Dash; it’s more like Logan’s Sprint. Logan’s 100 metres. You get where I’m going with that. It’s over before it began. Promise comes to nothing. Disappointing is not the word.
Now, 14 great comics and one disappointing one (or four fifths of volume 3 if you want to look at it that way) is still a pretty great run; and the finale is only disappointing when set against the comics that preceded it, which still counts as praise for the most part. If you were to ask us, should you read Alex + Ada, we would say yes. Wholeheartedly. Just cover your eyes when you get to Issue 15 and read through your fingers. Maybe Luna and Vaughn just got a better idea they are excited to pursue. Here’s hoping. We’ll definitely read whatever they (individually or together) choose to do next.
Any Cop?: The last thirty or so pages aside, volume 3 comes recommended from us (and to get here you would have to read volumes 1 & 2 and they are even better).