Graphic Novel Reviews: Alex + Ada Vol. 1 and Orphan Black Vol. 1

Alex + Ada Vol. 1 by Jonathan LunaAlex + Ada Vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan

Genre: Sci-Fi

Publisher: Image Comics on Jul 16, 2014

Source: Library

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From JONATHAN LUNA (GIRLS, THE SWORD, ULTRA, Spider-Woman: Origin) and SARAH VAUGHN (Sparkshooter) comes ALEX + ADA, a sci-fi drama set in the near future. The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot.

Collects ALEX + ADA #1-5.

In many ways, Jonathan Luna’s ALEX + ADA VOL. 1 feels very familiar. At an undetermined time in the future, humans have fully embraced artificial intelligence (AI) and it permeates almost every aspect of society. People like Alex rely on embedded computer software in their minds to perform even the most basic tasks, like turning off the lights and unlocking their cars. But when Alex is gifted an incredibly human-like android, he is forced to confront the complications of combining the human with the technological.

At first Alex is uncomfortable with – and reluctant to keep – his Tanaka X5, the most advanced android model on the market. There’s a real stigma around owning them since they’re so often exploited, typically for sex but also for labour. Add to that the fact that the android is completely devoid of personality, and we’ve got ourselves a seriously creepy situation.

Image: Sarah Vaughan and Jonathan Luna
Image: Sarah Vaughan and Jonathan Luna

Naming her “Ada,” Alex does his best to act as if she’s human. But it soon becomes clear that Ada will never be the kind of friend and companion that Alex wants if she doesn’t have sentience. Of course, Alex isn’t the first to have these seditious thoughts, and he’s soon thrust into the world of Degrees of Freedom, an underground artificial intelligence rights movement. There are some obvious parallels between Degrees of Freedom and real-world activism like queer rights and more recently, Black Lives Matter.

The need to protect activist’s identities while still remaining visible enough to gain support is a delicate dance, and Alex will need to be more careful if he wants to avoid prison. After all, allowing robots to have sentience is illegal. Turns out Alex isn’t as law-abiding as he always thought he was (go, Alex!).

Although not much happened in ALEX + ADA VOL. 1, I can tell that there are big things coming up for the series. This volume barely scratches the surface of the economic, political, and social critique that Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan have crafted in their version of the near-future.

Orphan Black Volume 1Orphan Black Vol. 1 by John Fawcett, Szymon Kudranski, Graeme Mason, Jody Houser, and Cat Staggs

Genre: Sci-Fi

Publisher: IDW Publishing on September 23, 2015

Source: Library

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Sarah’s life was changed dramatically after witnessing the suicide of a woman who looked just like her. Sarah learned that, not only were she and the woman clones, but there were others just like them, and dangerous factions at work set on capturing them all. Now, the mysterious world of Orphan Black widens, with new layers of the conspiracy being peeled back in this miniseries by co-creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson!

Collects issues #1–5.

As a huge fan of the TV show and a member of “clone club,” I knew that I’d enjoy ORPHAN BLACK VOL. 1. Cleverly divided into an issue featuring each clone, this graphic novel gives readers the opportunity to follow their favourites years before they had met. While there’s little added to the overall story arc of the show, I loved seeing the clones back in action.

There were a few little teasers for season 4 of the show here and there, particularly in the issues dedicated to Helena and Rachel. We got some insight into the mysterious Helsinki operation, and a new character who played an important role therein is also introduced. I’m really intrigued by her, so fingers crossed that she plays a role in the next season!

My personal fave of the group is Cosima and her story-line did not disappoint. She’s the kind of character that I’d love to be friends with if she were a real person, but let’s be real: I’m definitely not cool enough to hang with her. Since the graphic novel is written in first person, you’re privy to the thoughts of the clone who’s narrating, which I really appreciated since it gave good insight into some of the more questionable decisions they’ve made. I found myself feeling relieved to know that Cosima wasn’t completely blindsided by the Delphine Thing.

If you’re not watching the Orphan Black TV show, do yourself a favour and get on that. Those of you who are already fans of the series will enjoy ORPHAN BLACK VOL. 1 but I wouldn’t recommend it for newcomers. As my first media tie-in, ORPHAN BLACK VOL. 1 was fun but nothing too special.

What graphic novels or comics have you been reading recently? Have you read any sci-fi about artificial intelligence and AI rights? Are you as excited as I am for Orphan Black season 4? Sound off in the comments!

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  • Lynn Williams

    The only graphic novels that I’m working through are the Sandman novels by Gaiman – which reminds me that I need to get the next instalment.
    This looks like a really fascinating premise, maybe a little bit of a slow start but it sounds like it could be really good.
    I’ll watch out for what comes next.
    Lynn 😀

    • You know, despite how many great things I’ve heard and how famous they are, I still haven’t gotten around to reading the Sandman comics yet! I should grab the first one from the library.

      Definitely slow to start, but there’s real promise here. I’m sure I’ll be writing reviews for the next volumes, so I’ll let you know what I think! 🙂

  • Greg Hill

    I just read Alex and Ada Vol. 1 myself and loved it, I liked the little bits of humor sprinkled throughout and am very curious to see where they go in Vol. 2 . And I had no idea there was an Orphan Black graphic novel! I love that show and am close to finishing Season 2. I like Cosima too but Alison cracks me up- and her and Fee make a surprisingly good team! 🙂

    • Yeah, the humor was really subtle but still totally fun. Introducing all your friends to your android companion…awkward. Haha!

      Yeah, I hadn’t heard much about it either! All I knew about the OB graphic novel was that it hinted at some things for season 4 (which it definitely does). Alison is HILARIOUS! Her frenetic energy makes for some great television, and you’re right – she and Felix definitely have a special friendship!

  • I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Jonathan Luna (and his brother) in the past, like Girls, etc. Been eyeing Alex and Ada for a while, ever since it landed on my radar. Kind of disappointed that the ratings haven’t been higher, as they opinions I’ve seen generally echo your review, but it sounds enjoyable enough!

    • I actually haven’t read anything by Luna before, so this was my introduction to his work. Despite being a bit slow, I liked what I saw. I think if this series (3 volumes) were released as an omnibus or as one really long graphic novel then it would’ve had higher ratings. I’ve heard that all the action is in volumes 2 and 3, so fingers crossed that I’ll love those!

  • Ohh the grahic novel looks great!
    And I do enjoy Orphan Black, but…this 3rd season, 2 eps in, it is taking ages

    • Isn’t the artwork in Alex + Ada cool? I like how sleek it looks because it gives off a futuristic vibe just like the graphic novel itself. HA! Yeah, the first couple episodes of each season are a bit slow in my opinion, but things definitely pick up. Prepare for some insanity!

  • I keep getting told to watch Orphan Black and I just haven’t. I’ve seen the first episode… and then completely forgot to watch the rest. It did look interesting but I am the worst for keeping up with shows. I may try again with it, you can never have too many shows to watch, right?

    I’m a little bit interested in Alex + Ada, but the artwork continually puts me off. I am so fussy with graphic novels, if I don’t like the art work, regardless of how good the story is, I will not be able to keep reading. I know it’s stupid, but that’s what I’m like. Maybe I’ll give it a try whilst I watch Orphan Black.

    • Oooh yeah, the first two episodes aren’t enough to get you hooked but that third episode…damn. I hear you on falling behind with TV, it happens to me constantly! But eventually my shows go up on Netflix and I catch up that way. 🙂

      I don’t think that’s stupid at all! I mean, the whole point of graphic novels is the art, right? So it makes sense that the style would make or break your decision to read something, just like a distinct writing style might prevent/encourage you to read a novel. I found the artwork in Alex + Ada off-putting prior to reading it, but now that I have I think it actually fits the story perfectly. It looks so smooth and sleek and sterile – the way that society is in a future where everyone is a slave to technology.

      • How did we survive before Netflix? I actually remember it coming out in the UK a few years back and my eyes were opened to a whole new realm of TV wonders. I will give Orphan Black another chance at your insistence. It will have to wait until after my binge watch of Daredevil, though. I mean, I have to prioritise somehow.

        And this is true, but I never give them a chance once I’ve written them off for the artwork. I know that it could end up growing on me and I’d probably really enjoy me, but it’s hard to motivate me to try. And your analysis of artwork is way more in depth than I would ever look at it. I bet it probably is intentional the style chosen to help with the story, I’d never even thought about that!

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I watched like one and a half seasons of Orphan Black. Not sure what happened, I just stopped. It’s been a while since I’ve read a graphic novel, I should pick one up 🙂

    • That’s what happened with me too, then I binge-watched the rest of the series while I was on a break from school. It’s definitely an addictive show! Let me know what graphic novel you end up reading, I’m always intrigued by your choices!

  • ALEX + ADA sounds interesting. It’s been on my radar for a while. I might have to pick it up soon.

    • I’d recommend it, but with a few reservations. If you can get it from your library (which is how I got my copy) then you should definitely check it out!