“Revenge is a dish best served cold” – that is the first thing that pops into your mind when you’re reading issue #2 of Blade Runner 2029. At first it may sound like a jokey one-liner, uttered in the aftermath of a character receiving their comeuppance whilst basking in the moment. But on closer inspection it’s a poetic symbol serving as one of many conversations writer Michael Green is willing to have with the audience.
Blade Runner has always operated on the simple premise of humans vs replicants, exploring the eroding differences between humanity and machinery within the corporate world of profit and advancement. As a concept, it’s easy to grasp and understand. As an audience, whether consciously or unconsciously, we’re mentally taking a stand in the debate. But within issue #2 there’s a demonstrated confidence in Green’s writing that takes significant steps forward to evolve its argument and explore more of the complications and contextual layers of that divide.
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Its intent is demonstrated from its ‘cold open’ style opening panel – the murder of two elderly socialites, dwelling in luxury and opulence that replicants’ servitude (in this specific case Ducasse) matches the extravagance in their clothing. The divide speaks volumes 0n how they view each other; a chasm where one is based on dependency, the other out of necessity to the cause. As the issue makes clear, this was always going to end one way. It’s an uprising alright, but it’s not straightforward.
This is an investigative mystery that is willing to delve into the murkiness headfirst, and in Yotun it’s quietly challenging the underpinning of that replicant belief system. We know from past examples in the Blade Runner universe that replicants desire to live, not to feel the fear and terror that plague their lives with a constant target on their back. That is a unified goal across the board. But like a small print on a contract, it doesn’t say everyone will follow the same method, and with Yotun’s return, it simply asks ‘at what cost?’. Because however deep the ‘rabbit hole’ goes, revolutions are not as simple as black and white.
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When you have an issue based on dual and divided loyalties, that sentiment is always in a constant state of flux, backed by its committed essence to honour Blade Runner’s greatest asset in the franchise – Neo-Noir. Typical of Michael Green’s style and articulation, Ash once again takes centre stage, following that investigative ‘itch’ that refuses to go away. Her inner monologue and narration find a harmonic balance, bridging the gap between plot and the limitations of the comic book format. As a combined force, it only helps to deepen its story. The recent death/suicide at the Sea Wall doesn’t fit the pattern, made only more complicated because the deceased wasn’t a replicant – at least by official medical terms. Knowing Ash, she begs to differ.
But visually, it’s expressed in Ash’s stylised clothing as she manoeuvres within Los Angeles 2029. Andres Guinaldo’s artistry continues to excel, capturing the silhouettes and shadows of our protagonist as a distinct contrast to the city’s vibrancy. The Diamant (an underground night club for replicants) brings out the cinematic influences of The Great Gatsby and Casablanca, full of lavish decadence and high-life in each panel (a comparative contrast to the coldness experienced in its opening panel). Even Freysa, Ash’s lover, assumes the role of the ‘femme fatale’, dressed for the occasion and showing replicants are more than just the struggle that exists outside The Diamant’s doors. But it doesn’t take long before Ash is back on the right track again.
But issue #2’s greatest appeal is its patience: brilliantly low-key yet willing to stay in the moment in building its mystery without resorting to rushing. Characters – however small their presence – are given a moment to breathe. Freysa, for example, plays an active role in its conclusion by involving herself in the investigation. When action is deployed, it’s not a quick ‘get out of jail’ moment or a moment of convenience as experienced in Blade Runner’s previous entry 2019. There’s no dualling narrative this time around to compromise its balance. There’s no mistaking that this is Ash’s show to run, helping to drive these conversations along and tap into Blade Runner’s nuanced underpinnings that forever lives up to its signature mantra ‘more human than human’. And by not relying on such theatrics, but trusting the dynamics of its story, makes the second issue an enriched and rewarding read, and the franchise operating at its absolute peak best.
And judging by its final panel, this series continues to be right up my street.
Blade Runner 2029 #2 is out on 13th January from Titan Comics.