I was on a bit of a roll with my comic book reading but like so much else in life, it's gotten a way from me of late. I'm not sure if I ever told you about Alex + Ada or the first two (and have started the third) volumes of Saga, all of which I enjoyed immensely. I like comic books. They are sort of palate cleansers if you know what I mean. Often they are quick and entertaining reads that you can drop in amidst longer or more complicated books. (Which is, of course, not to say that comics are not complicated or sophisticated, but they are a very unique kind of storytelling).
Alex + Ada by Jonathon Luna and Sarah Vaughn (and forgive me if I am not using the correct comic book terminology) is a complete story. It was issued in fifteen comic books (issues) and collected into three volumes and the story is said and done and I wish there had been more. I was intrigued by the plotline as it is about artificial intelligence--androids that are so real that there is a fine line between human and robot. The world Alex and Ada inhabit is not so very different than our own and I sometimes think it is only a matter of time before robots become a more common reality.
In Alex's world (he's the human), people can be implanted with chips that make virtual reality, well, real. You can tell your appliances to do things, call up a relative on the phone by just thinking about it or saying it aloud and then an image is projected in front of you--like having a computer at your fingertips but without having to have any hardware. It's all very Star Wars/R2-D2-ish, yet the world is very much the same otherwise as we know it. Alex has recently broken up with his girlfriend so his grandmother sends him an android, an X5 from the Tanaka Company--the latest and most sophisticated robot to help get him out of the fug he's been in. They are literally life-like with the exception that they are non-sentient. They have no consciousness or free will. They can only do as their owner instructs them.
Ada is the android and meant to be a helper and companion, but Alex is unsurprisingly conflicted about owning her. She has no thoughts of her own and no feelings. The catch is, and there is always a catch in science fiction slanted stories, she can be 'woken up' and allowed to think and feel on her own. As helpful as robots can be there are laws making it illegal for them to become sentient. If they were to go rogue and walk amongst us in secret, it could potentially be deadly, so not everyone sees them in a favorable light. Alex decides to wake Ada up and this is where the excitement of the story comes in, and the cliffhangers that keep you buying the next comic book. I quite enjoyed the story. The illustrations are on the simpler side and often the story is moved along by illustrations alone rather than dialogue. My only criticism is that the ending felt a little rushed and because of it, that aspect of the story was a little bit of a let down after so much build up. But this is definitely one to look for, especially if you can find library copies. For all its simplicity, however, it does pose the question of what makes us human and the idea of ownership.
As for Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples . . . if you are a comic book reader, you are likely already familiar with this ongoing 'saga' (yes, it is indeed a saga) and may well have read the story so far. This is a space opera (like a soap opera but set in space, yes?) that is still going and the most recent is volume six, I think. There are thirty-seven issues out and the next three are being released monthly. I am ready to get back to volume three and read in earnest.
Saga is sort of a wild love story very much à la Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet but with a decided edge to it. Two people who are from different worlds and who should hate each other, they are at war you see, fall in love. The story is told in part from the perspective of their daughter who in the first volume is just a baby. While Alex + Ada is a fairly straightforward story, Saga is much more complicated with an already large cast of characters and all sorts of side stories going on. Lots of conflict and edge of your seat endings.
Alana and Marko shouldn't be together in the first place, but to top things off they are on the run with a variety of beings pursuing them. Alana is from the planet Landfall and Marko from the satellite planet Wreath. Landfall is the larger and more advanced planet and Wreath has a more magical slant to it (I think of them as one being more Empire and the other Colonial territory, though that's not entirely accurate really). War has been 'outsourced' to other planets in the galaxy as devastation would mean the end of everything. The pair are being pursued as Alana, meant to be guarding Marko who was a prisoner of war, not only lets him go but flees with him. And then they have a baby which is not going to make anyone at all happy. Two different beings not meant to be together and then the victor releases her captive which makes them both fugitives and traitors.
You know that rhyme about the old lady who swallowed a fly? And then she keeps swallowing more and more things? Well, Alana and Marko have a knack for landing in the wrong places, pissing off native species and have accumulated a number of interesting beings following them--including Prince Robot--who has a TV for his head a mercenary called The Will, and when last I left them, Marko's Ex was mightily angry and on his tail, too. She's combined forces with The Will after he 'rescued' a slave girl who has visions of Alana and Marko . . . yes, a saga indeed! Marko's parents are along for the ride and are not impressed by his love interest across racial boundaries but they are quite affectionate towards baby Hazel. This really is a wild ride sort of story--their babysitter of choice is the ghost of a young girl who was dismembered and now floats (partially) body-less (she's lost her legs) in their orbit helping them all out. And that is just what happens in the first two volumes and a little bit of the third!
There is lots here to stretch your imagination with touches of fantasy and myth. While Alex + Ada is a fairly pared down in the illustrations and storytelling, Saga has lots and lots of visuals going on and what surprised me a little bit is the no-holds-barred depictions and language. It is a little bit graphic at times. There is bloody violence and childbirth and sex and wild creatures. Like I said, this is quite a ride.
I think I work on volume three now as I have volume four at the ready as well. I dipped into new comic by Greg Rucka called Lazarus and I have Marvel's Agent Carter: Operation S.I.N. on hand, too. I have plenty of comics to keep me entertained. It's probably a good time for a change of bookish scenery for a day or two. When my reading begins to drag along (very slowly) it is nice to read something quick and feel a bit of accomplishment.