The Power of Self-Awareness in Alex and Ada
by Nya Powell and Hannah Vogelsong
In the graphic novel, Alex and Ada: Volume 1, by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, the authors discuss the importance of sentience. Ada, an android gifted to Alex, does not possess the ability to make her own decisions or think for herself. Alex was determined to create Ada into a responsive being. On the second to last page of Volume 1, the authors constructed the central theme of self-awareness. This central theme of awareness is demonstrated by the space, transitions, and design throughout each panel on the page. Primarily, panel one signifies hope and change. Alex has developed hope for Ada to become a perceptive being. The lack of space surrounding Alex and Ada in panel one demonstrates a confined notation. The confinement not only comes from the design of being in a room, with the door slightly opened, but from the confinement that Ada has been living in. In addition to the door being slightly open, an opportunity for a new beginning is represented. The darkness of the room is interrupted by the light peeking through the door that Alex is opening. Light symbolizes Alex’s optimism towards Ada’s new found sense of awareness. While Ada is walking towards the light, it demonstrates her willingness to take risks and readiness for change. The door represents a transition that is about to be made, the transition from inside to outside and the transition from android to sentient. The author chose to make the hotel room dark and dreary; the light from the door captures the significance of hope and change. In addition, panel two transitions Ada to the outside world. She was introduced to her first life experience as a sentient being; watching the sunrise with Alex. The distance between Alex and Ada has gradually drawn closer and indicates that they are slowly being granted the ability to share ideas and thoughts. Yet enough space is between them to indicate that Alex still wants Ada to feel empowered to make her own decisions. Also, the space surrounding the sunrise is bare and open, which symbolizes the endless opportunities that are to come. Every day is ended with the sun setting and every new day is started with the sun rising. Having this page be surrounded by a sunrise, symbolizes that it is a new day and a lot is going to change from here on out. While Ada is standing in front of Alex, he is staring at her, examining her movements, while patiently waiting for her thoughts on her new experience. Alex is still unsure if Ada has become sentient since no one has spoken about the view. Subsequently, panel three demonstrates Ada’s self-awareness. This is made evident while observing the sunrise as she begins to establish her own ideas through a speech bubble, demonstrating that she is capable of thinking without Alex speaking first. Alex’s facial expression illustrates a sense of wonder toward Ada. He looks as if he is yearning for her sentience to be expressed. Usually Ada responds to Alex, but in this panel she speaks first. The space between Alex and Ada is closer now than in panel two, getting his true desire: Ada becoming sentient and them being drawn together by similar interests. Luna and Vaughn use the relationship between what is there and what is not there by showing only the upper-halves of their bodies; demonstrating the importance of what is being developed by the mind and being demonstrated through their individual voices. The transitions between panel two and panel three advance the theme of self-awareness. Transitioning from panel two, which focuses on the back of their bodies to focusing on the front of their bodies, demonstrates that we are now focusing on the mind and body connection. Linking together what they just saw and how they are interpreting it. Additionally, the authors use space and transitions to create a design that also advances the development of self-awareness. In the fourth panel, Luna and Vaughn illustrate Ada finally speaking her own thoughts. By declaring, “It’s beautiful,” to describe the warm purple and orange sunrise shown in panel two Ada is now telling Alex that she is a responsive being. Allowing her open eyes to describe what she is seeing Ada is willing to start her new life with Alex. In this panel Ada steps forward away from Alex to speak. This symbolizes her breaking away from the programmed android that she once was. At this point, the transition is complete from android to cognitive being. Finally, the concluding fifth panel on this page demonstrates the complete understanding of the change between Alex and Ada. At this point, Ada has now spoken on her own accord and acknowledges that she is now a sentient being. The willingness to move forward, be proud, and explore her new life is now at the forefront of her life. Smiling with a sense of pride and relief Alex turns to Ada showing his wonder. The characters are closer to each other than in any other panel. This symbolizes the equality that they now share, since Ada is no longer a program. Becoming closer to Alex, signifies their new life together. Overall, panel five shows acceptance and readiness for the future. Ultimately, Ada was not desired by Alex. As an android, her inability to express her own thoughts and opinions made him feel very uncomfortable. Once Alex learned that he could potentially create Ada into a sentient being, he became more hopeful of their future together. The second to last page of Alex and Ada: Volume 1 demonstrates that Alex has finally gotten what he wanted and that Ada has finally become self-aware. Self-awareness is demonstrated as a central claim on this page through the space, transitions, and design that the authors have created.