I’ve always looked at science-fiction as allegory; relatable conversations that parallel our society. In Blade Runner, it’s the juxtaposition between humanity and replicants – an ‘Us vs Them’ scenario where fear of being replaced is an added subtext that consigns a replicant’s fate to ‘built for purpose slaves’ – second class citizens who are ‘less than human’.
That’s why the opening panels feel striking where readers are essentially watching a ‘modern-day lynching’ of a replicant Black man. The senseless brutality is one thing – triggering emotions that have come to sum up the tumultuous year that is 2020 for Black lives. But if a deliberate argument is to be drawn besides its narrative ties of the Blackout 2022, then the dystopian horror it fuels of being hunted, to be ‘judged, juried and executed’ by mob justice, still thrives in abundance. And it only goes to re-iterate how science fiction begins to take on a different feel and texture when the lens is switched to a diverse eye.
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However, issue Blade Runner 2019 #10 doesn’t dwell on this moment for long – a pity. It merely suggests a parallel (visually) rather than divulge its correlation. The replicants’ story and their search for societal equality, as illustrated, is covered in the events of the Blackout, where fragile anonymity has bought them time. Then there’s Ash’s suggestive narration where civilian intervention at hunting down skin jobs was ‘appreciated’ which adds to the complicit society and lack of empathetic compassion. It’s enough to drive further conversations about accepted anger and hostility, turning a ‘blind eye’ to the outright lawlessness, but deserves more than just a few panels.
The Blade Runner universe is compounded by these analogies, shaping what eventually underpins Blade Runner 2019’s thematic turn of events. We find Ash back where we left her, uncovering information about Project Isobel alongside a creepy yet eccentric Doctor Fost. After gathering the necessary information, she safely exits to continue her search for Alexander Selwyn.
The inability to escape the past is what drives issue #10. We learn that Fost is mentally trapped, refusing to grapple with the post-Blackout reality covered in death and destruction. But for Ash specifically, the old world she once knew doesn’t exist anymore. Her old methods have turned against her. And that truth comes crashing down when she’s chased and arrested by the police.
As readers, we knew Ash’s mission was going to be a complicated challenge. She’s on the wanted list for murder and kidnapping. Friends and allies are in short supply. And by the revelation in the last issue, Hythe’s comeback sets the board in motion for an epic showdown (which I hope gets sufficient build-up to make the payoff justified). But it’s at this point where writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson reinforce Ash’s steely resolve and tunnel-visioned naivety – also known as ‘you expect to waltz back into the city without consequences?’.
But there’s something symbolic about how it approaches it. It was only a few panels earlier where Ash refused to break Doctor Fost’s denial of reality when the option was there. Ash – almost through the same misguided mindset – undergoes the same thing. And instead of pity (which afforded mercy to Fost), Ash doesn’t get to have that luxury. Once again, it’s her friend Wojciech who decides to bring her back to reality.
True to Blade Runner’s fashion, if there’s one aspect that keeps it thoroughly engaging, it’s those nuanced conversations when the stakes are inevitably raised. Here, it’s reflected in that exchange between Wojciech and Ash, a conversation laced with betrayal and distrust. Andres Guinaldo’s artwork cleverly captures the tension within each panel – mirrored reactions where Ash’s anger is visible to a truth she doesn’t want to hear. But in truth, for a character so single-minded, it’s a conversation that may have ended up changing the nature of Ash’s mission.
But given the limited pages, conversations such as these are far and few between. The latest issue is very much an action-heavy spectacle in a storyline that tips the needle of progression in a steady direction. The revelations are not earth-shattering, but crucially the interest never wanes, even if it takes a slight backseat just to put all its components into place.
But having said that, Green and Johnson do an admirable job in ensuring that its storyline doesn’t fall into the realms of predictability. They find a way to get Ash out of her tricky situation, presenting a subtle conversation about home truths, new alliances, and the birth of a revolution. It’s a solid entry, and now we have to wait and see how this payoff evolves.
Blade Runner 2019 #10 is out now from Titan Comics.