There’s a tendency for franchises to ‘look back’. It’s partly down to creating something familiar, something that audiences can easily latch onto like a reassuring bond that creates comfort. But most often, it’s used to validate those experiences, one that hopes to reward rather than detract.
It’s worth bearing in mind that there’s nothing wrong with ‘looking back’. Nostalgia can often feel like a ‘dirty word’ considering how protective we can be in the fear that something will be ‘ruined’ by a new iteration. But when used effectively, the nuances can unite the conflicting, emotional divide between the euphoria of the past and the present of the new. But that is the operative word – effectively. Otherwise, it becomes a piece of content that doesn’t fully justify its existence.
It’s the same conundrum that Blade Runner Origins faces – a prequel story looking (as the title aptly states) at the origin story of the very first Blade Runner. This iteration is undoubtedly a risk; the strength of the previous Blade Runner chapters so far under Titan Comics has been the franchise looking forward, complementary gap-fillers to the world established by Ridley Scott and Denis Villeneuve’s films. Would an origin prequel hold the same interest without sacrificing its self-contained uniqueness by turning everything into a ‘cinematic universe’ for comics? After all, that is the driving culture we’re living in right now, where every breadcrumb is tied together.
Issue #1 certainly runs that gamut of questions. From first observations, it takes a while to ‘bed in’. It’s hard to judge something when the first issue is assembling all the important chess pieces onto the board. It’s a story that doesn’t immediately pull you in, rather it’s a slow-burn weaving of information and expositional setup. And that settling in period is true to the aesthetics with Fernando Dagnino taking over the artwork duties from Andres Guinaldo, bringing a different texture and feel to the comic.
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The writing torch has been passed down to K. Perkins and Mellow Brown (alongside regular Blade Runner scribe Mike Johnson). But the unifying familiarity of Blade Runner is that there is always an investigation to solve. And what drives most of those cynical questions away is the curiosity, re-introducing the mythology in a world on the brink of societal and technological change with the growing advancement of the Tyrell Corporation.
There’s an element of opening ‘Pandora’s Box’ in its first issue as it begins with the Siege of Kalanthia. For fans, the ‘wink and nod’ reference to the off-world colony will be familiar – the sandbox, replicant testing ground for their ‘toy soldiers’ as previously mentioned in Black Out 2022. And in the midst of that battle, we find our new protagonist – Cal Moreaux. It’s as cinematic as you can get from an opening; the soldier in the thick of the warzone alongside his injured Captain with Tyrell’s innovation staring back as the ‘break glass in case of an emergency’ moment.
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Fast forward to the year 2009, and our protagonist is an LAPD Detective, watching over his sister Nia who lies in a comatose state in hospital. And with the emotional crux of his story established, Origins wastes no time in pulling Cal Moreaux into his ‘career-ending’ assignment – the death of a female engineer at the Tyrell Corporation in an apparent suicide.
Already Moreaux is a fascinating character to invest in. He’s a throwback, a mirrored archetype to the character that defined it – Harrison Ford’s Deckard, recognisable from the shadowy looks (right down to the iconic clothing) to the poise and stature of his movements. But not only does his character continue the ethos of diversifying its lead protagonists in the genre (this time as a Black man), but it’s how he operates within this world. There’s a notable distinction between Origins and Blade Runner’s other chapters. There’s no internal monologue, that extra feature that forms an insight into how they process the world. There’s an inescapable ‘face value’ approach that issue #1 adopts, relying on the visual artistry of Dagnino’s work to build up his personality. It feels different, but in a good way, meaning that readers have to pay close attention to the conversations at play.
That intricacy is felt when Moreaux visits the Tyrell Corporation and encounters Ilora Stahl. There’s a chilling, unsettling look with Stahl that writers Perkins and Brown capture, going beyond the typical formalities and dominance of corporate control. It bills itself to become an engaging dynamic in the weeks ahead, knowing there’s more to her story.
And as it concludes its subtle momentum, Origins #1 is a solid introduction, holding its own with the potential to grow. While it hasn’t answered the prominent question at hand, as the saying goes, time is on its side, and it can only get better from here.
Blade Runner Origins #1 is out on 3rd March from Titan Comics.