You can tell writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson have kept their cards close to their chest. The latest issue in the Blade Runner 2019 franchise is more than just hitting the reset button. It’s a perfectly paced edition where familiarity is coaxed and sprinkled with the new. Ash remains compelling as always as its leading figure. Even its conclusion drew an “oh snap” from under my breath, in a reveal that was more of a happy response than a shock. I underestimated them, and they proved in issue #9 that the long game was worth the wait.
That euphoric feeling comes from the issue finding its harmony and rhythm again. If the previous chapter had a noticeable lack of balance in its ambitious second chapter (by leaving characterisation by the wayside), then issue #9 doesn’t suffer from the same plight. And immediately its impact is felt when we’re thrust into the action with Ash returning home to catch up with an old friend.
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On a personal note, it’s great to see the re-introduction of Wojciech. As Ash’s trusted friend and former colleague, allyship is one thing, but there’s longevity for the character. And while the reunion is kept brief, it sends a signal that she’s not a lost character amongst Blade Runner’s intricate world-building.
It’s an important acknowledgement that plays into issue #9’s gripping conclusion. We want to see these characters breathe and explore their opportunities. As mentioned on several occasions, the limitations of the comic will inevitably hinder their progress. But in acknowledging its strength, these characters can’t be written off. Their potential is vast, which, based on this evidence, opens the doors for others to return. And in the case of Wojciech, it’s getting Ash up to speed; Alexander Selwyn is in hiding, and there’s still a bounty on Ash’s head for Isobel’s “murder”.
What follows next is a series of homages to the Blade Runner Universe. Andres Guinaldo’s gorgeous artwork continues to excel, once again capturing the spirit of the franchise in its panels. It’s hard not to be enamoured of the sheer level of detail and comprehension of its design, especially when Andres captures the destroyed and derelict ruins of the Tyrell Corporation in cinema-like quality. It’s a poetic representation of ‘how the mighty have fallen’ considering how Tyrell was on top of the pyramid of a classist society. That ‘chef’s kiss’ comes in Ash’s description – “a monument to progress”. And depending on what side of the battle you’re on, defines what ‘progress’ really means.
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But it is proof that the dead always leave behind relics of their past – for better or for worse. In a scene that could have been taken from 28 Days Later or World War Z, Blade Runner 2019 rolls with that concept as Ash is violently ambushed by replicants who have taken residency. With a nod to the Blackout in Blade Runner 2022, the rebellion is still alive.
Blade Runner is no stranger to horror elements. A classic example involves Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) chasing Deckard (Harrison Ford) in the final stages of the original film, where the intensity of the moment is dialled up until it eventually reveals its endgame. Issue #9 utilises horror in a different convention as Ash befriends a female scientist in Fost Neurophys.
A million questions begin to surface about Fost. For example, how long has she been there? When was the last time she had contact with the outside world? Does anyone know she exists? They may sound like superficial questions, but when she introduces Ash to her ‘team’, it’s like a scene out of Castaway. And instead of Wilson, it’s a board meeting full of dead replicants, rotting away under plastic sheets. Her character feels more of an off-kilter response to William Sanderson’s J.F. Sebastian from the original film. But in this case, instead of an ageing disease that was inflicted on Sebastian, it’s psychological isolation where the eccentricity and gift are taken to the extreme in a creepy reveal. And in doing so, it adds another layer of dynamism to Fost’s character that hopefully gets explored further in upcoming issues.
But if the last few panels are anything to go by, the re-introduction of Alexander Selwyn and his nefarious amount of wealth and resources only shows the arrogance of power in the vacuum left by Eldon Tyrell. And the comic wastes no time in acknowledging this fact.
Green and Johnson wade into a seemingly straightforward affair with a dangled twist that readers know will make Ash’s job difficult and complicated. And showing no signs of lost magic or running out of steam, issue #9 delivers a remarkably rewarding payoff.
Blade Runner 2019 #9 is out now from Titan Comics.