As penultimate issues go, writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson set the bar high with their ambitious endeavours, even though Blade Runner 2019 issue #11 tends to rush towards its climax.
The issue begins where it last left off: tipped off by Wojciech, Ash’s prison convoy was ambushed by members of the Replicants Resistance. Ash is then taken back to their hideout where she’s introduced to the group’s leader. And through a common enemy, they both want the same thing – Alexander Selwyn.
It continues to be an exciting feat with every issue whenever artist Andres Guinaldo includes nostalgic references to the Blade Runner universe. It almost becomes a subtle game to find them, woven so naturally within the bedrock of the story that they neither obstruct nor overwhelms. Here, his latest easter egg is the infamous close-up of the eye – Blade Runner’s quintessential and signature shot, that’s littered with poetic and symbolic encapsulations of eyes being ‘windows to the soul’. But also, (used to great effect within this issue) for how they embed a lifetime of stories. Roy Batty’s “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe” has never felt so apt under the circumstances.
And behind those eyes is a replicant’s life story. Its leader, Freysa, talks about how the replicants have survived, hiding in plain sight (thanks to the Blackout in 22 which protected their anonymity) in hospitality labour jobs such as washing cars, being waiters and nannies. Ash naturally asks the question that has been brewing in my mind since the last issue: is this the first inkling of the proposed war between humans and replicants? Green and Johnson are swift in their response, treating this band of resistance as a ‘welcome home party’, a means for the replicants off-world to come back to Earth safely. They help them integrate into Blade Runner’s fractured world so they can live out their lives in peace.
Credit to Green and Johnson, it sticks with this mood of conversational exchanges. We find out that Freysa was a combat medic – useful for Ash for when her mechanical back brace starts to malfunction. She recounts her ‘built to spec life’, an eyewitness to the chaos and bloodshed on tours in Kalanthia and the Cerium Belt. Through the natural ebb and flow of the dialogue, Green and Johnson throw out the niceties, where Ash and Freysa break down their respective barriers and trust issues, before that injection of humanity starts to kick in.
At its heart, this is Blade Runner 2019 at its best when it’s taking the time to build into its characters. And in that short space (which is impressive given the limitations of the comic), we get to know a lot more about this replicant’s journey and Ash’s natural resistance as opposing points of view more expressively than before. It’s helped that their discussion has an uninterrupted focus throughout, representing the issue’s most engaging aspect. It was thoroughly enjoyable to read.
What takes the shine off this issue is how it begins to reconcile and evolve out of this newfound environment. One act of betrayal and suddenly Hythe shows up ready for action.
The problem with this execution comes down with timing. It’s the disarray of the moment, losing build-up, potential character growth and motivations, thrown away so quickly for an abrupt action sequence. The reasons as to why someone would betray the replicant kind is wrapped up in dialogue exposition.
And when sacrifices are made, issue #11 hasn’t made the deserved (and most importantly, emotional) strides for us to care about their demise or decision making. It’s minor issues like this which point out the drawbacks of the comic (something highlighted in previous reviews) where the reader would have to do most of the mental heavy lifting to fill in the gaps. But crucially, it’s a moment that doesn’t feel warranted or earned at this point; a hasty scene that gets its characters out of a sticky situation.
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Hythe’s job is relatively simple and vicious as an ‘off the rails’, unhinged Blade Runner. It’s the perfect foil for Ash, who has come a long way, seeing the world anew from the experiences gained. Yet, it still feels like a missed opportunity to delve more into her character. Its end does tease something possible, considering the revelation of Alexander Selwyn’s nefarious plans with the Nexus replicants. Freysa and Ash even speculate on her nature. It would be a stretch considering how Blade Runner loves ambiguity and mystery, but the hope for the finale is that her resolution has a rewarding payoff.
And as the issue concludes, it finally reaches its ‘full circle’ moment. Ash finally meets the man in question. Just like that, Blade Runner’s wild ride sets everything on a tantalising knife edge.
Blade Runner 2019 #11 is out now from Titan Comics.