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Comic Book / Alex + Ada

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Alex + Ada is a fifteen-issue Image Comics sci-fi/romance series written by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn with art also by Jonathan Luna which ran from 2013 to 2015.

Alexander Wahl is twenty-seven years old, was unceremoniously dumped by his fianceé seven months ago, and pretty much just works, spends time by himself, and sleeps, rinse and repeat. After he comes home from a surprise twenty-eighth birthday party thrown by his friends, he's shocked to see that his grandmother has bought him a present: an extremely lifelike Tanaka X5 android. Out of curiousity he activates her, but is disillusioned by realizing that she's little more than an automaton. He researches methods of making her more human, then finds an underground internet forum that informs him she could be made sentient...but not without risks.


Tropes featured in this series:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: How the United States government feels about robots and androids; this attitude is understandable when you realize a year before the events of the series, an A.I. went rogue, uploaded itself into bodies, and killed thirty-four people for no discernible reason.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Alex's grandmother mentions her sex life at least once every time they talk, much to Alex's chagrin. Ada gets hit with this as well after being unlocked; turns out one of the things she likes is sex, and after their first time, she quite unashamedly asks Alex if they can do it again right away.
  • Androids Are People, Too: There's a grassroots movement called Robot Rights that seeks to remove the restrictions on A.I. development and make androids and robots legal citizens.
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  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Jacob backhands Ada and berates her in an attempt to force her to reveal herself as a Sentient. This backfires when she loses her temper and attacks him before breaking off after realizing what she's doing.
  • Artificial Human: All of the androids are this to a certain degree, though some (like the Tanaka X5 models) look perfectly human, while others have metallic 'shells' instead of realistic skin.
  • Beta Couple: Teji and Emily. Possibly Daniel and Levi in the end, as they're shown holding hands.
  • Big Eater: An android that's low on power can be this; they'll need to eat several regular meals worth of food to get back to 100%. Also played with the morning after Ada is unlocked; Alex fixes her a large variety of breakfast dishes so that she can sample them all, and she eats pretty much everything. Teji is implied to be one as well; he eats eighteen of Emily's burned cupcakes in one sitting and says they were "delicious".
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bitter: While on the run from the police, Ada gets shot, shuts down, and is disassembled by the authorities (who are looking for proof that she's sentient), Alex is found guilty of several crimes and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison, and when Isabel reveals she was the one who tipped off the cops about him, he quite flatly ends their friendship. Sweet: By the time Alex is released, Sentients have been granted legal rights, Alex's grandmother left him enough money that his friends were able to use it to keep his house in working order, Zelda manages to reassemble Ada, and Alex's foray into Ada's neural network reveals that she hid her 'self' in a protected part of her brain; when Alex reconnects this to her OS she returns to normal and they can resume their relationship.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: At least the X5's can eat pretty much any organic matter (supposedly even something like pet food), but Ada prefers normal human food. With the exception of oranges, which was one of the only things Prime wasn't able to make compatible with their synthetic taste buds.
  • Break the Cutie: After being unlocked, a bored Ada decides to do some gardening in the back yard. Alex's neighbor finds out she's an android and literally runs screaming back into her house. When Alex comes home, Ada is sitting on the bathroom floor, looking as though she feels like crap.
  • Broken Bird: Alex is one of the rarer male examples. His fianceé left seven months prior to the beginning of the series without telling him why she was leaving, and he has mostly withdrawn from his family and friends, to the extent of them having to cajole him into doing anything other than working and sleeping.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Averted with the more humanesque androids, as they are fully capable of performing. Some of the other, more 'robotic' models however, are explicitly said to not be able to technically have sex, though this can be...dealt with. For example, Zelda and Aldus, who are a human-looking and robotic-looking couple, can't have actual intercourse because Aldus has no genitals, but he is "very good with his hands".
  • Central Theme: Three. Will all artificial intelligence eventually turn on humanity, or can some of it be trusted? Is the government crackdown on said A.I. a reasonable attitude in the wake of an A.I.-perpetrated massacre, or just knee-jerk reactionism? And finally, can a human and a sentient robot ever truly be happy together?
  • Circle of Friendship: At the start of the series, it's Alex, Isabel, Jacob, Emily & Teji. At the end, it's become Alex, Ada, Emily, Teji, Zelda, Franklin, Daniel & Levi.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: Part of why Alex has Ada's sentience unlocked is because he wants her to be able to experience life and form her own opinions. If those opinions include not wanting to be around him, well, at least it's her choice.
  • Cool Old Lady: Alex's grandmother.
  • Decompressed Comic: The series is known for this, taking time with significant actions. But not a negative example, in fact, it's highly praised for its pacing. Inverted with issue #15, when twenty-five years pass within a few pages.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Alex's grandmother dies in issue #12, but only says she's been "sick for a long time", without naming her condition.
  • Distinguishing Mark: All humanesque androids have their manufacturer's logo tattooed on the underside of their right wrist for identification. Covering it up is against the law, and if a Sentient removes it, a distinctive scar is left behind.
  • Distressed Damsel: Ada gets hit with this a few times, first when her sentience is unlocked and she experiences her senses without limitation for the first time (which drives her into a temporary fugue state), then later on when she's running low on power while avoiding the FBI.
  • Extreme Doormat: Any android that isn't sentient is this, since they can only do what they're told.
  • False Friend: Isabel. She's in love with Alex, but never tells him, instead vainly hoping he'll notice her. When she finds out that he's in a relationship with Ada, she informs the authorities that he's in possession of illegal Sentient technology, which ends up getting him sent to jail for twenty-five years. Suffice to say Alex doesn't take this well when he finds out.
  • Fantastic Racism: Sentient A.I. are met with outright aggression by the general population.
  • Foreshadowing: Isabel goes on a rant about Ada at Teji's 'new leg' party, gets upset with Alex for bringing Ada, and with Emily for inviting her, since Ada is only a "thing." Which of course foreshadows her dropping the dime on Alex and Ada later on.
  • Uncle Pennybags: Grandma Pennybags: Alex's grandmother is wealthy enough that she can drop 800,000 dollars on a top-of-the-line android for him without a second thought. And the inheritance she leaves him is enough to pay all his legal fees and keep his house in working order for twenty-five years.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: One of people's big fears about robots and androids in the wake of the Nexaware massacre, that said androids and robots might develop sentience and act out violently if they think they've been treated poorly.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Alex's grandmother, who doesn't mind discussing sex in front of Alex, who really wishes she wouldn't.
  • Love Confession: Alex to Ada in issue #10, Isabel to Alex in issue #15. That second one...doesn't go so well.
  • The Metaverse: Prime Space, which one accesses via implants in their brain, is basically the internet.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Used when Alex and Ada have sex for the first time in issue #10. Between the layout of the panels and the sheets, you can't see anything between their legs and shoulders.
  • My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: When a newly unlocked Ada logs into Degrees of Freedom, the other androids quickly realize from her comments that she and Alex are attracted to each other, even when they aren't aware of it yet.
  • Nice Guy: Alex is one. He refuses to do anything sexual with Ada at first because he knows she'd just be following his orders, and when he finds out that she can actually become truly sentient, he decides to give her that freedom even if it means she'd end up striking out on her own, because he wants her to be her own person.
  • Oblivious to Love: Alex's friend Isabel is very attracted to him, although he does not return her affections. This comes back to bite him in the ass later.
  • Pinocchio Syndrome: Alex tries to teach "X5"-version Ada how to act more human, and even researches add-ons that would help, before deciding that she can't act like a sentient being unless she becomes a sentient being.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Jacob to Alex. Jacob initially worries about Alex becoming too obsessed with Ada, then he sees a video of suspected Sentients and recognizes her. He attempts to goad Ada into violence (and initially succeeds), but then seems to change his mind and refuses to cooperate with the prosecution at Alex's trial. His previous actions apparently sour their friendship permanently though, as he isn't part of the group that greets Alex when he gets out of prison.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: The androids in Alex + Ada are all over the map. Some look like robots, some look human. The Tanaka X5 series in particular set the bar high for appearing completely human; their skin feels realistic and warm to the touch, they have blood (though its purple), they eat food for energy, and they are capable of having sex. The only readily apparent evidence they're not human (aside from their manufacturer tattoo) is that they don't sweat.
  • Robosexual: Several of Alex's friends joke about this with him after they first meet Ada. His grandmother is one unashamedly, as she bought her X5, Daniel, to be a companion after her husband died. She often makes references to their sex life, much to Alex's embarrassment.
  • Robot Girl: Ada, the 'sexy' variety. Even his closest friends (a married couple, a single man, and single woman) say she's "hot".
    Emily: Ada, what are your measurements?
    Ada: Thirty-six, twenty-four, thirty-six.
  • Robots Think Faster: Being an android, Ada is able to truly multitask; while spending a day hanging out with Alex, she's simultaneously researching romance and love.
  • Runaway Bride: Alex's fiancé Claire left him, not giving any reason.
  • Sexbot: This is what Alex's grandmother uses her X5 Daniel as, and it's what his friends initially think he intends to use Ada for. One of his neighbors even says he would "love a test run".
  • Three Laws-Compliant: Ada hews close to this when she's first turned on; she tells Alex that she won't harm humans, animals, or property (Rule 1); that she won't endanger herself unless it's to protect him or he orders her to (Rule 3), and she later says that he is the only one who can give her orders (Rule 2).
  • Unusual Ears: Not physically unusual, but to turn an X5 on or off, a switch in their earlobe has to be grasped and held.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Once she's sentient, Ada quickly becomes attracted to Alex, but he tries to dissuade her, thinking that she needs more experience of the world before deciding something so important. She's very hurt by this and nearly ends up leaving before Alex realizes he returns her attraction and they decide to explore their relationship.
  • What Measure Is a Humanoid?: Pretty much the driving plot of the series; a mix of 'can humans and sentient robots live in harmony' with 'can A.I.'s really be trusted'.


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