If the latest issue of Blade Runner 2029 is anything to go by, then it is very much enjoying its mystery.
It’s always a good feeling when an issue can ‘up the ante’, building upon layers of intrigue, growing anticipation and imagination, yet never feels rushed with its style and execution. It’s a mark of confidence. I would include patience as well. But it is a substantial marker for a comic operating at the peak of its powers.
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What solidifies that feeling is its changed perspective. Issue #3 is all about Yotun, opening up in the best way possible for a Replicant – an existential crisis of the soul.
Is he any different from Tyrell? That’s the ideology at play in the opening panels, as Yotun watches new Replicants born into the new world. There’s a beautiful analogy that it evokes about parenthood with Tyrell being the ‘father’. Yotun (in which you can ‘hear’ the clouded thoughts of dilemma) compares the act of a ‘father’ not understanding their creations – bringing a ‘child’ into the world with limited imagination (for slavery, commerce, profit and short life span), and not realising their full potential. Yotun feels empowered to correct that balance, where newborn Replicants can create memories of their own and navigate the world in peace.
Yotun is essentially the ‘evolved’ encapsulation of Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer in the original film), and it’s an apt comparison to be made. They are both characters operating on the ‘sins of the father’ complex where the ‘child’ of Tyrell is hoping to change history without carrying on the broken, systemic legacy they were created from. The difference is, Yotun takes the application further by ‘playing God’ himself with the new replicant reproduction. But the formula, no matter how noble it is, is still benefiting the revolution and its ultimate goal. And that is the beauty that writer Mike Johnson crafts. There are still unanswered questions about Yotun’s existence, knowing he is an exception to the norm by relying upon the blood donation of other Replicants to rejuvenate his broken body. But to play that emotional dynamic with Kalia brings added depth and weight to its narrative.
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The Yotun scenes faithfully highlight how resiliently committed Blade Runner 2029 is to its philosophical edge. It’s not stagnated, static or even one-dimensional. He’s not your stereotypical antagonist or villain. But the more it invests in it, injecting empathy and reasoned conviction where possible, the more these characters begin to leap off the page with the same engaging qualities that Ash has embodied. And because of that investment, the readers are more inclined to jump on board with whatever the issue throws at them.
And it slowly becomes a convergent mystery, with Ash being re-assigned to investigate the deaths of Ruskin (a Blade Runner) and Hyman Bask (the murder that occurred in Issue #2). The gruesomeness is what’s immediately striking, with Ash being one of the few Blade Runners to know the true extent of their deaths.
Acknowledging the organic texture and tone of the issue, both Ash and Yotun – in their paralleled journey – are at a crossroad. Yotun is busy re-writing history with his robe-wearing, cult-style revolution while Ash is trying to repair it (her reputation, to be specific). While Issue #3 has larger questions at hand, it finds an occasional moment in its dialogue where their interlinked beliefs for the truth become personal.
This is where Johnson’s writing excels, powerfully comparing how society (still functioning on its pyramid structures of privilege and wealth) has ‘built’ their foundations and existence through “circumstance and intent”. It cleverly extends beyond the simple humans vs replicant conversation, and their impending reunion (you would feel) will be at least based on some common ground. And before this chapter ultimately concludes, not only will something be sacrificed, but you imagine sides will be chosen in the process that will set the course for future issues to come.
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But before it jumps ahead to imagine what that scenario looks like, Ash’s investigation leads her back home, where she comes face to face with Lelia, a standoff confrontation between two worlds caught in the web of a larger conspiracy. The limitations of the comic are evident, but the utilisation of that space is key to this scene. Because within a few panels, you feel the growing tension as it builds towards its climax.
Issue #3 gives the series a reason to feel excited. The satisfaction, the tease and the nostalgic respect to the craft, boosted by the cinematic artistry of Andres Guindalo’s work, continues its presence as a noteworthy addition to the franchise. The chapter hinges upon some well-defined and nuanced character development and a brilliantly executed conclusion. And when an issue operates with that kind of fluidity, you know that’s Blade Runner 2029 at its best.
Blade Runner 2029 #3 is out now from Titan Comics.