To paraphrase Dinah Washington – what a difference an issue makes!
Despite knowing that ‘business as usual’ was always on the cards after a filler-induced issue #6, it’s equally satisfying seeing a story find its mojo again. It’s not a stretch on the imagination, once again returning to a familiar yet comforting dynamic we have seen before, but issue #7 has an abundance of fun doing so.
And with a full-throttle bang, even its audacious cliffhanger has a weight of excitement, curiosity and a desperate need for answers. In other words, ‘now that’s what I’m talking about!’.
We find ourselves back in 2026, this time on the off-world colony of Ramanuja. Ash is back to her blade running ways alongside her new partner Hythe in a Christopher Nolan-esque timeline hunt where Cleo has a one-week advantage in not getting caught.
But the beauty that surrounds issue #7 is how it navigates those changes. It’s a heavy dose of familiarity, but writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson are not interested in recapturing past successes. Instead, they’re using the Blade Runner world to go deeper into that universe, relaying a nuance that’s confidently back on show.
The fact that time is used as a narrating tool for this latest issue is not surprising. Ash might be a blade runner once again, but as illustrated in the opening panels, it’s evident the world has changed. Changed for the better? Well, that’s a statement left for the reader to dissect for their own conclusion.
The uber-cynical would look at Ash and Hythe’s new partnership as deliberately confrontational, but its use openly justifies how far Ash has come. While she was protecting Cleo like an adoptive parent, time stopped for her while the world moved on. Thanks to Hythe’s ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach, the nature of blade running has become even more ruthless and viciously regressive.
Watching Ash empathetically react to her newfound circumstances is like watching someone come off a pseudo-maternity leave (along with the ‘welcome back’ gift of a new cybernetic back brace), out of the game but trying to preserve the ‘old ways’, in comparison to Hythe who operates with no such obligations or patience for that matter. Green and Johnson understand that context with great respect; their exquisitely written exchanges between the two detectives are presented as a ticking time bomb on ideals, moulded by personal circumstances. It offers no remorse or moral judgement, just the ugly confirmation of adapting to survive.
The underlying question is where do these changes take us? With time as a factor, there’s an avenue for potential storylines to fill that void of the questions it continues to pose. As readers, we’ve already experienced the whiplash of jumping from 2019 to 2026. And as much as the move proved necessary in establishing its new discourse, we’ve lost ample emotional time between Ash and Cleo as they adjusted to their off-world surroundings. Inevitably, the story will once again converge into something epic, but does the cliffhanger bring that emotion back into perspective? One would hope so. As with everything from Blade Runner 2019, they sure tease a lot!
But it’s an important question when it comes to telling Cleo’s story. There’s so much left unsaid about her speciality and the attention gained from corporate interest. Passing off as a boy with a shaven head like Ellen Ripley in Alien 3 is one thing (and it will be sooner rather than later when that secret comes out), but even her journey has quickly reached an impasse. When one of Pellam’s gang openly asks, “what are you still hanging around for anyway?”, even as a reader, you have to ask the same question.
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And although the issue makes attempts to instil loyalty into her character by staying for the sake of Padraic (who, like every other new character in this new chapter, we know very little about) and repaying a debt owed to him, with a limited number of issues left, we urgently need her voice and perspective. It will go a long way in establishing her purpose along with that steely independence that resides within her. A new life awaits, and yet it feels we know little or next to nothing about her.
On a positive, Andres Guinaldo’s artistry continues to impress, establishing a shifting colour palette between the muted coldness of Ash’s present to the occasional warmth of Cleo’s timeline. In one beautiful panel, there’s a lovely homage to the original Blade Runner film, capturing the same perspective where Deckard once stood on his apartment balcony, only for Ash and Hythe to replicate its thoughtful significance.
As Blade Runner 2019 charts a course into the unknown, it may have its faults, but the franchise remains relentlessly compelling.
Blade Runner 2019 #7 is out now from Titan Comics.