An Unfamiliar Blade Runner In a Time-Honored Dark Future
This coming Fall holds great import for die-hard science fiction cinema fans. After all, November 2019, was the backdrop for Ridley Scott’s science-fiction cult hit, Blade Runner (1982). This provided perfect timing for Titan Comics to release their new title, Blade Runner 2019, which presents a familiar ‘future’ Los Angeles, with a new cast.
The comic (and the original film) presents a world filled with ecological collapse, utter corporate dominance, and high-tech low-life. The premier scientific advance of the setting are Replicants – artificial life forms that pass as human. Genetically engineered for enhanced strength and dexterity, they were primarily used as slaves and cannon fodder on distant off-world colonies. After several violent incidents involving replicants on our home planet, Replicants were declared illegal on Earth. When they are found on Earth, special police officers – Blade Runner Units – are dispatched to destroy them. As the movie famously states, “This was not called execution. It was called ‘retirement.’”
This well-drawn tale, fortunately, is not a retread of the Blade Runner films, nor a direct port of its source novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ by Philip K. Dick. Instead, we are presented with a new Blade Runner working out of the city of Los Angeles. Aahna Ashina – better known as Ash – is a hard-to-like protagonist who nonetheless drives the story forward, not totally unlike the well-known Blade Runner, Rick Deckard, from in the 1982 film. Unlike Deckard, Ash revels in her job, going as far as to collect grisly trophies from the replicants she retires. Her utter determination and legendary status land her an extracurricular job from one of Los Angeles’ corporate elite, Alexander Selwyn. The job is to use her ruthless detective skills to locate Selwyn’s missing wife and daughter. Forced off the replicant beat by her superiors, she grudgingly accepts the job and begins to track down the missing women, who are not entirely what they seem. Then again, neither is Ash; it turns out she has secrets of her own.
The work cleaves closely to the ethos of the original film in both narrative and visual style. You’ll find familiar landmarks such as the apparently universal Police installations, as well as iconic vehicles like the Spinner. You’ll also find the desperation and grit, complete with replicant self-mutilation and the decadent lifestyles of the corporate elite.
Weighing in at thirty pages of story content and several prints of alternate cover designs, it provides an interesting first step into a new Blade Runner story – it’s hard to say though how I feel about the work on the whole without seeing more of the story play out. The characters have enough similarity to the tropes we recognize in the Blade Runner universe to engage me. It avoids the common pitfall of the quick cash-grab spin-off where someone just copy and pastes the old story with changed names. Ash presents us with a darker, more clearly dysfunctional protagonist with a different set of problems than Rick Deckard had. The world feels right, with obvious nods to the style I’ve come to know and love from the films. The work from the artist feels akin to Nineties-era J. Scott Campbell with more restraint and more realistic proportions. It also steps around the most recent film entry, Blade Runner 2049 (2017), giving purists of the original film something to rejoice in. For more obsessive fans of the Blade Runner franchise such as Deadpixels and myself, it provides yet another layer of intricacy to an already complex but fascinating world.
For now, I give it a three-and-a-half stick rating – but only because I need to see how it all plays out. Good news is that we should be getting to those issues quickly as the summer flies by.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Authors: Michael Green and Mike Johnson; Artist: Andres Guinaldo
Publisher: Titan Comics; MSRP: $3.99 (Physical/Digital)
Available: July 11, 2019