If issue #1 of Blade Runner Origins left an aura of doubt and scepticism over its need to tell the beginnings of the very first Blade Runner, then issue #2 comes out the gate swinging to dispel those thoughts.
To be fair, issue #1 had a tough task on its hands. There was a lot to encompass, and when laying down the necessary foundation that would carry its readers through the heart of its story, it had to introduce a brand-new protagonist (and his backstory), a new mystery and a new era of the Blade Runner mythology. Therefore, it could be forgiven for the expositional burden and heavy lifting. Issue #2 (thankfully) is a different beast altogether because now that the hard part is over, it has found its entertaining rhythm.
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At the heart of it, issue #2 is comfortably direct and straight to the point. And like the previous Blade Runner stories within this canonised universe, that clear shift in focus really hones the craft of the mystery that writers K. Perkins and Mellow Brown are building and meticulously executing. To quote music artist Aloe Blacc – “The whole world sitting on a ticking bomb” and that ‘silent war’ becomes the tone as it gears towards the issue’s eventual detonation.
There’s a beauty and a fear that’s simultaneously felt from its opening panel. It begins with the iconography of Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty, evoking memories of the famous ‘Tears in Rain’ speech. An unnamed Nexus 5 replicant examining his naked body under the heavy deluge of rain. He stands solemnly and alone, poetically and silently asking questions about itself, yet within this concrete jungle that artist Fernando Dagnino brings to life, you could argue it’s a replicant standing tall as a giant amongst men.
The idea of ‘playing God’ is no secret to the Blade Runner mythos. Tyrell’s obsession has not only defined the man, but in turn has defined the legacy of the franchise. And it’s that fascination with power that drives issue #2. That progressive right for human evolution to exist and to become ‘more human than human’ will always be intrinsically ingrained. But Origins almost takes a slight, different spin to this notion. Like the famous Jeff Goldblum quote from Jurassic Park, Origins continues to open up that Pandora’s Box and the deftness that runs through its veins is how it wrestles with that moral conscience of creation by the complicit people who are at the centre of it.
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The switch works, and that feeling is summarised by the character of Effie, a co-worker of the recently deceased bio-engineer Dr. Lydia Kine. There’s notable guilt that plays on her mind, a demeanour that grows heavier by the weight of her colleague’s death and that awakening of ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ that would inevitably re-shift the fabric of human society. It comes as no surprise that her involvement is under the scrutinising gaze of the ever-watchful Ilora Stahl. It’s a beautifully realised scene where Stahl actively questions their activities, including Kine destroying all the relevant data relating to the project. And it comes as no surprise when Effie turns towards Detective Cal Moreaux as her confessional.
By default, issue #2 hinges itself on these character dynamics at play. In Moreaux and Stahl, they conduct their own (but separate) investigations into the murder. It becomes a race towards the truth (or at least its containment). Moreaux does the grunt work of protecting Lydia’s brother Marcus yet knowing he’s being shaped into a scapegoat for the investigation. Stahl, on the other hand, embodies that HR vibe, protecting the interests of the company instead of the victim. That classic divide is paramount to the underpinning of Blade Runner’s nuanced commentary on the pyramid system and its essence of two worlds colliding. It’s why Blade Runner is so effective at what it does, showcasing the luxury and privilege of Stahl’s world versus the gritty underbelly that inhabits Moreaux.
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But the instrumental way Perkins and Brown evolve this story is by showcasing the fragility of those structures. Both Stahl and Moreaux operate under the guise of their respective institutions, along with the freedom and mutual understanding of what that control entitles you to within their realities. And if there’s a clear indication of its limitations, then before the episode comes to a dramatic conclusion, that illusion is systematically ripped apart, leaving issue #2 in an exciting and thrilling place.
If issue #1 can be considered ‘the prologue’, then issue #2 is where Blade Runner Origins truly begins. Questions remain about its direction, knowing that Lydia Kine left breadcrumbs to follow. The curiosity and fascination continue to grow for Moreuax and Stahl as characters. But there’s a recognisable depth and confidence in the work, and the reward is that journey heading towards something fulfilling.
Blade Runner Origins #2 is out now from Titan Comics.