Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna's Alex + Ada seems to have hit its stride with this most recent issue. That's not to say the first five issues weren't good. They definitely do their job of setting up a larger story. But now it feels like we've come to the main event. Alex has decided to void his warranty and “unlock” his android Ada. While in the not future of today, that means he could switch from Sprint to T-Mobile, in the story (and the future), it means his robotic counterpart has gained full sentience. Waking up a completely different woman, Ada then spends the day with Alex discovering what it means to be human. Kind of. She really just does things around the house that trigger sensations. She feels things, tastes things, smells things, and watches things. I'm actually kind of surprised there wasn't a scene of her listening and weeping to Beethoven. Anyway, this issue has Ada set down a path of self-discovery, the end of which might not work out so great for the nice little life she and Alex seem to be setting up.
Though I may have made it seem a little cliché earlier, Luna and Vaughn really do nail the way Ada experiences all of these new things. Ada goes through a variety of seemingly mundane things like feeling the difference between the carpet and the couch and a pillow, but in Ada's eyes these things are new and exciting. The portrayal of Ada's reactions to these new experiences comes across as genuine. We see her working through these new sensations, whether its excitement (boiling water) or delayed disgust (Alex's dirty socks). Ada is learning and feeling and growing, and the book does a great job of showing this with a nice level of subtlety. Another thing this book does well is showing how kind of stark and boring the future is. Alex's walls are kind of bland off-white. His furniture looks like it's from IKEA. He and his neighbors have almost identical backyards. It kind of makes sense why Alex always looks kind of bummed. Appliances seem to look the same, but then why wouldn't they? Ada's curiosity works to shatter this hyper-ordinary feeling of uniformity. The use of black gutters is a nice way to balance it as well.
One joke that sticks out as extremely well done is where Ada finds herself amazed by the fact that a pot of water boils “exactly like [it's] supposed to”. The point was made in the previous issue that these Androids are like babies being taught how to act. Ada's reaction to the water is the perfect example of that innocence. Alex seems to see her in this way. But then Ada says something like how crazy boiling water is on a molecular level. She may be experiencing life like an infant, but she's actually really intelligent. She may be learning, but she already knows a lot. Another fascinating example of Ada's awareness comes across non-verbally when she watches Otto, the future-roomba. You can almost see the gears turn as she ponders the fact that they're both machines of convenience. She's just looks more human. It'll be interesting to see where their relationship goes.
Speaking of seeing where things are going, this issue's cliffhanger leaves us with Ada mid-thought. She's confronted by another human, the first she's met, other than Alex, post-sentience, and she's given the opportunity to introduce herself on her own terms. But she still knows she's not supposed to be aware. Alex + Ada #6 leaves us with a great final page of Ada in a kind of stunned state. Is she going to introduce herself as human? Is she going to act like a soulless machine? Her next move will determine the rest of her artificial life. The experiences in the house were just a taste of what it means to have humanity. We'll see if she can survive the scariest part of being human: basic social interaction.