It’s hard not to fall in love with the Blade Runner 2019 comics. In a short space of time, each cinematic issue has ‘upped the ante’ that beautifully celebrates the mythos by delivering a compelling story worthy of the medium. Perhaps in time we’ll see this visualised as a motion comic, or better yet, an animated short like Blade Runner 2022: Blackout. But for the time being, writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson continue to make a strong case for 2019 to become one. Because just like issue #3’s fiery opening (which might as well be a metaphor at this point), whatever secrets our female protagonists have tried to protect, everything is about to crash and burn.
“The freeways are the bones” and “the streets are the arteries” – like anything in the Blade Runner Universe, everything is done with an essence of poetry. In a precarious life and death situation where Ash plunges to the ground in her spinner (in meteoric fashion thanks to the exquisite art by Andres Guinado), she eloquently describes the city as a human body. And in typical Ash fashion, someone who’s deeply ingrained on the city, she knows where the best place is to cut, and crashes into an abandoned warehouse.
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Given the invested interest, we knew that Ash wasn’t going to die, but like all good cliffhangers, it had you on the edge of your seat. But at the same time (thinking its revelations would drag on for a few more issues), you’re almost caught off guard by the rapidity with which everything unravels. With Ash hospitalised, her secret is exposed, her boss Wojciech can’t protect her anymore, and is fired from the case despite the progress she’s made. She got too close to the truth, and as good mysteries go, the decision was above Wojciech’s pay grade. There are no witnesses, and Ash is being made a scapegoat.
With the bar being raised in such epic fashion, issue #3 slowly morphs into an Ash-centric episode. With every pain-laced piece of dialogue delivered from her hospital bed, you can hear her disappointment, her frustration and her desperate need to point out the hypocrisy and prove herself once again. Proving how instrumental and worthy to the series she is, we acknowledge her vulnerability behind that toughened steeliness. She is treated like an outcast with no place to go, and the only thing she has left is her dignity and committed pride to solve the case by whatever means necessary.
Ignoring the advice to ‘fix her life’, she decides to follow up on a lead, and it’s at this point that the issue begins to earns its pedigree, finally delivering on a payoff it has been building to since it started – the Tyrell Corporation. Eldon Tyrell doesn’t make an appearance, but we get the next best thing in Ms Elo.
Living up to the hype with a series of beautifully written exchanges, Ms Elo fits into that Tyrell model of God-like power and control, knowing everything about her client. We finally learn how Isobel became a replicant, but it’s Ms Elo’s attentiveness that grants Ash an offer she can’t refuse. You can also tell there’s scope for more. You wish the scene went on for a little longer as Elo tests Ash’s moral beliefs with that famous Tyrell ideology. But its briefness highlights the rare limitations of the comic and 2019’s potential to be explored on a bigger canvas.
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Working for Tyrell does come with its resource advantages, including a brand new spinner. But you also get the feeling that with Ash outside of her usual enforcement rules, she will begin to sink deeper into darker territory. Tyrell Corporation removed the leash, and now, she has the freedom to choose whatever means necessary to get to the truth, even if that means ruthlessly hurting other Blade Runners in the process. But if anything, issue #3 treats Ash’s new predicament as a test. She knows there’s more to the story. There’s still an obvious, distrusting element with the case. But she persists, because the whereabouts of Cleo is vital and it’s imperative she gets to her first.
However, the character-driven aspect of the story does come at an unbalanced price. Isobel’s story continues to follow a repetitive track of escaping the city that expands the environment but lacks her personal and intimate voice in the scenario which conveys her convergent experience in the same way we’re exposed to with Ash. Hopefully, that’s something that is corrected for the next issue.
But in essence, issue #3 is a strategic chess piece manoeuvre that is the calm before the storm. It’s a brief respite from the previous issue, but it wastes no time in redefining our expectations, and with each anticipated new issue brings an excitement that just keeps getting better and better.
Blade Runner 2019 #3 from Titan Comics is available digitally and from comic shops.