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: Science Fiction

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.

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!