Nobody likes endings. With the stakes raised and loose ends to cover, it always puts the medium in a quandary. It will either live up to expectations or suck the excitement out of your soul as that cloud of disappointment begins to loom over your mind. Either way, that’s why they are notoriously difficult, yet fascinating to see that creative thinking unfold.
That’s where we find ourselves in the very last issue of Blade Runner 2019. Once again, the beacons of the series continue to shine. Andres Guinaldo’s impeccable artwork immediately grabs your attention with its nostalgic nod to Eldon Tyrell’s replicant owl. Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson underpin their story with ambitious skill and craft, leaving their audience on a climactic knife-edge as Ash comes face-to-face with the man in question – Alexander Selwyn.
For a character we’ve not spent much time with (and therefore, we have to fill in the blanks), issue #12 makes a concerted effort to get inside the mindset of Alexander Selwyn. For someone who regards Tyrell’s work as visionary, the devilish and arrogant enjoyment emitted from Green and Johnson’s words presents him as a God-like saviour in continuing the project.
Not for the first time, but again Blade Runner excels in those intricate, power-play moments. It taps into the same, mirror-image synergy explored back in issue #4, where the so-called concerned father and husband switches into an unconscionable and ruthless individual. Surrounded by a multitude of Hythe replicants is evidence of that, not just for how he feels protected but also the proud showcase of his evolving work.
Ripped straight out of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, the duel standoff brilliantly adds to the growing tension where Ash is outnumbered and outgunned. There’s an argument to be made for Ash being incredibly naïve and reckless for going it alone. But the panels that follow in its aftermath prove how much this moment was worth it. Ash’s adaptiveness to survival, even when the cards are stacked against her, are on show.
Issue #12 can be described as a victory tour, coming full circle. So, as expected, the return of certain characters was always going to be that wildcard entry thrown into the mix, like a WWE PPV (Royal Rumble sprung to mind). Keeping this spoiler-free, in this instance, it brings Blade Runner 2019 back to its emotional core, reminding its readers how this entire adventure started. Yet the haphazard use of re-introducing familiar characters – even by its admission – pushes the boundaries of convenience.
Like any expectations, the re-introduction is dramatic from a storyline perspective yet slightly anti-climactic with the precarious situation Ash finds herself in. And like the previous issue, it’s another ‘get out clause’ that quickly fixes a scenario without fully embracing the dangled consequences it beholds (and therefore, robbing Ash of figuring out a way to get out of her predicament). It doesn’t take the shine off its achievement – at some point, Alexander always had to ‘face his demons’, a reckoning for his God-like endeavours that Green and Johnson have been carefully orchestrating. But, it’s another sign where it throws its readers into the pit of their imagination to visualise how those ‘chess piece manoeuvres’ were put in motion.
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In sounding like a broken record (because of how frequently I’ve mentioned it), you want to spend more time with these characters without feeling short-changed. The comics can often lean heavily on the world-building (which is a great feature) but can neglect the people that inhabit it. The Hythe replicants go out in a blaze of glory which potentially leaves the door open for further exploits (I hope so) but could almost carry an entire issue by herself in understanding her side of the story.
But ultimately, issue #12 is about closure and healing, again relying on its strength and resolve of its characters and the choices they make as individuals. For the continued fact that the chapters have made strides to ensure a female presence throughout, remains a welcomed change, faithfully remaining as part of the dystopian conversation. And however brief their contribution is (despite the occasional clunk in their execution), the potential is what carries their arc through.
In retrospect, Blade Runner 2019 showed what was possible. In the most thrilling of ways, it laid a benchmark, giving us the familiarity and the doses of nostalgia, yet crafted a compelling story worthy of its cinematic name. And by opening those doors, Green and Johnson have provided new possibilities for what the franchise can evolve into. As a Blade Runner fan, that is a cause for excitement which will undoubtedly go a long way in serving its longevity well. And I look forward to seeing how they continue that spirit and verve in its next instalment.
Blade Runner 2019 #12 is out now from Titan Comics.