Comics

Blade Runner 2019 #8 – Comic Review

After an extended hiatus, the latest issue of Blade Runner 2019 sees the series going full circle, concluding its arc with converging timelines, self-reflecting moments, and the past reconnecting all at once. One thing is for certain, there’s a lot to unpack.

‘Family reunion’ is a loose term, but that impact is felt with the re-introduction of Isobel Selwyn. Did she really escape? Or is she another replicant with new (and duplicitous) directives? The situation is not helped by the revelation that she’s working for her husband (another proof in Blade Runner’s vast richness of capitalist power and control, every replicant is a disposable commodity that can be easily replaced). But from the get-go, the distrust is sowed in early on.

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Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson take the time to emphasize its intention. For Ash and Isobel, they are two parents edging towards a crossroad moment. Every dialogue exchanged is a ripple effect; an undercurrent of promises and sacrifices made for the sake of Cleo’s survival. The series has always been at its best when it dives headfirst into those emotive spaces. And through short and sharply written panels, not only do the characters do the ‘heavy lifting’ of the issue, but it changes the dynamics of the complex mission into a personal one.

There’s no doubt that there is a notion of greediness about Issue #8. As a reader, you want to watch the distrust played out for longer, where they’re pushing the boundaries of humanity in a Dystopian world. I still passionately believe this could make an excellent move into a visual medium, where grey areas and complexity can be enriched and explored further. But due to the limited amount of time (and pages), the issue speedily moves onto the next part of its concluding setup. But it’s not without its drawbacks.

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That drawback comes in the shape of Cleo. When the arc began, her authority was defined as a child growing up in an unjust world with a surrogate mother. There was a steeliness in her attitude. As issue #5 came to a dramatic conclusion (in fearing the worse for Ash), there felt an eagerness to discover the possibilities of who she is as a character. But in issue #8, that emotive scope is quickly erased.

Syncing up the converging timeline is one thing by Blade Runner standards, but outside the assigned panels where she prepares her escape from Ramanuja to Arcadia, Issue #8 rarely spends any dedicated time to explore her side of those emotional depths. I mean, outside the reunion smiles and hugs, imagine what emotions would run through a child’s mind in believing both of your mothers were dead and suddenly they return to you? Would she exhibit mixed feelings at their presence? Have questions as to how they survived? What happened to her in that week timeframe when her new reality was being forged?

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They may be superficial questions; her choices were bounded by survival and necessity, especially the dreamlike symbolism of Arcadia. But nevertheless, the reader has to imagine what those conversations possibly entailed. Because as a resolution, it became an ending that subsequently needed to happen to give the arc a clean break, but not an ending that defined her identity outside of those conflicting realms. Missed opportunities and simplification in places immediately springs to mind.

And that has been a primary issue throughout this specific arc – balance. The reader knows that Blade Runner 2019 is Ash-centric. But as it explores the bigger picture, you don’t want other characters to be left behind, and for some, they barely scratched the surface. All her story needed was a bit more breathing room and extra dialogue instead of feeling like a comic MacGuffin.

Do I believe it will be the last we’ll ever see of Cleo? Absolutely not. The scope and curiosity to her character means there’s potential. But at least, for the sake of the comic and its conclusion, she gets a happy ending, which in the world of Blade Runner, it’s a rare opportunity.

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Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Padraic, who literally ‘ate a bullet’ to save Cleo from being re-captured. It’s a sad end for his character, once again highlighting the eventful stakes at play. But because of the comic’s limitations, again his story is never given a full range to expand beyond his backstory. Hythe was another fate that ended too quickly.

But what Issue #8 confirms the return of a character I had long expected to make a comeback. While there were some notable shortcomings in this phase of the story, it ends strongly enough to give fans of the series an exciting showdown in its next chapter.

Ash is back in her element, on a journey that will only end one way.

Blade Runner 2019 #8 is out now from Titan Comics.

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