New chapter. New mystery. New era.
If there is a word that sums up Blade Runner’s comic book entries, then it would be assuredness. It’s a testament to the confidence, resilience and application that radiate into an impactful consistency that delivers. Thankfully, that tradition continues in its brand-new instalment – Blade Runner 2029.
By its own admittance, issue #1 of 2029 is a low-key re-introduction to the Blade Runner world. Written by Michael Green, it doesn’t overly rely on action set pieces to deliver its moments. At its heart, issue #1 is all about the drama of the story, and its execution is patiently measured as it roadmaps its latest adventure.
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But from the get-go, what’s immediately striking in the opening issue is the lush and vibrant use of colour (thanks to Marco Lesko’s colour work). Gone is the damp, dull, darkened reality world that inhabited Ash in Blade Runner 2019, for what can only be described as Andres Guinaldo’s tribute to Roger Deakins’ cinematography in Blade Runner 2049. Given how the comics have been an excellent bridge between the two films (including one notable Easter egg towards the conclusion), the choice to reflect that is inspired. One panel is beautifully drenched in tonal hues of yellow, echoing the moment when Agent K (Ryan Gosling) visited the offices of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). And, of course, there is a natural upside to the brightened bask in colour – Ash gets a new wardrobe, and she looks fly!
But it’s also reflective of the passage of time. The Selwyn arc is a distant memory (at least for now – one anticipates it may be revisited in some capacity) and the world seemingly moved on from previous events. Whether for the better – that is subjective, because like anything in life, the past has a habit of rearing its ugly head. Somehow, it wouldn’t be Blade Runner without it! But in doing so, it takes its readers through a flashback encounter between Ash and a replicant named Yotun.
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Another impressive feature is the time devoted to Ash and Freysa’s relationship. Blade Runner 2019 #11 touched upon this – a relationship born out of ‘back and forth’ conversational exchanges, that broke down their respective barriers of pain, trauma, and survival. It’s so beautifully done, it’s still one of the best moments in the comic book franchise, and seeing the characters develop only enriches the experience, and eloquently builds on the scope and depth of the franchise.
It comes down to seeing Ash in a new light. The previous storyline tapped into Ash’s maternal bonds – the absence of her mother, and then her story entrusted to protect a special child in Cleo Selwyn. While it is a media stereotype to show female characters as ‘mothers’, it delved beyond Ash’s persona as a ‘hardened badass with issues’. But the execution was always a mixed bag, balancing development and its haste rush to reach the next element of the plot. Here, in 2029, it’s starting with its strongest and most natural bond to build its arc.
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It’s the vulnerability in the words which strike a chord. With Ash back to her Blade Running ways, the strain of the job takes its toll; physically because of Ash’s cybernetic back brace, but mentally as well, where her divided allegiances between loyalty and duty is a murky conflict. They entertain what their future could look like, but their co-dependency is infused with love and support for what they’re doing in the present. It’s a bond I look forward to seeing grow and develop. I hope Freysa gets the necessary development, because she’s more than a combat medic. But knowing the twist and turns that writer Michael Green is capable of, this relationship will be tested.
The overall success of issue #1 comes from how it finds the poetry, especially towards its conclusion. It sets up the mystery that naturally builds curiosity – a nostalgic throwback to the neo-noirs that defined the franchise. And because of the intertwined nature of the films, 2029 opens the door to those possibilities of how everything is connected. While its end is a signal of sacrifice, Green demonstrates with potent skill that Blade Runner 2029 will stand definitively in its own right.
Blade Runner 2029 #1 is out now from Titan Comics.