Serving as a ‘book closing’ moment, the first chapter of Blade Runner 2019 takes the franchise to an explosive conclusion.
In my previous review, I mentioned the lack of perspective from Isobel – her voice lost to the heavily dominated storyline between Ash and her conflicted deal with the Tyrell Corporation. As if prayers were answered, issue #4 makes up for it. For once, Ash is the passenger in this issue, caught in the middle of an incredible (yet somewhat predictable) position, forcing her to choose her allegiances. For once, Isobel gets to reconcile with her true form as a replicant, used as a tool by her husband to keep the spirit of his dead wife alive, and the paralleled, sacrificial choices she makes so that her daughter can have a future. And if it wasn’t eulogised enough, this is Blade Runner at its core, blurring between the lines of a replicant’s ‘built for purpose’ mechanism and its basic desires for compassion and humanity. And through that simple understanding, Isobel’s arc becomes the heart and soul of this issue.
Even in its climactic, ‘Tears in Rain’ showdown of a battle, it’s a beautifully layered display of selflessness. It seems befitting considering the tough choices and split decisions people make when the odds are against them. She knows she’s not real, but re-claims her identity to do what is necessary. Through narration, it’s a profound juxtaposition between war, death and the violent bursts of machine-gun fire, and the remembered milestones of her daughter’s growth which amplify the emotional decision she takes.
It’s a direct contrast to Alexander Selwyn’s re-introduction; intimidating, explosive, and angry – everything that speaks of entitlement by not getting what he wants. Issue #4 wastes no time in demonstrating the lengths he will go to just to get his daughter back. First, he threatens Slattery before following it up with a full-scale assault on the replicant safe-haven in Mexico.
While it does well to take advantage of its limitations, it’s instantly recognisable that writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson have more in their locker. The comics cover the basic ‘need to knows’ with whatever space is available to dictate. But there is a part where you greedily wish for more, knowing there are more stories to tell in its in-between moments, especially in dealing with Selwyn’s personality change into a toxic individual or Ash and Isobel spending time together before its epic conclusion. Considering Alexander Selwyn has not been seen since issue #1 with his actions explained ‘off-page’, the dramatic re-entrance feels abrupt.
However, it is effective – Blade Runner 2019 is not solely about Alexander Selwyn’s scientific ambitions for his daughter but rather the paralleled discourse between Isobel and Ash, which has remained constant throughout. To be reminded of their survival and echoed circumstances as outsiders is a nice touch for something that appears simplistic and straightforward (particularly with this issue). But every lingering thought happens to build an inescapable understanding that culminates in a fantastic, artistically-driven battle between the replicants and Selwyn’s army.
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It’s a payoff that works – Andres Guinaldo once again delivers cinematic art on a comic book page. At times it is beautifully frenetic, capturing an evolving landscape of paradise before changing into a violently holistic conversation on the ideals of war. It seems that no matter what the replicants do, there is no such place as a sanctuary where they can spend their remaining days with dignity. Eventually, the truth comes knocking at their door.
Issue #4 concludes with its mytharc universe expanding its doors, and I’m thankful that is the case. Already, this is the beginning of something incredibly special that only furthers our knowledge and love of the series. For the direction it is heading, it deserves that.
Blade Runner 2019 #4 from Titan Comics is available digitally and from comic shops.