When deciding between the extremes of “going big or going home”, Blade Runner 2029 issue #4 goes for the jugular and goes big.
Issue #3 left its readers on a pulsating cliffhanger, and by its own admittance there was only one direction as to where its latest issue was heading – revolution. There’s no last-minute dash of prevention. No race against the clock to change hearts and minds. Not even a ‘one last stand’ fight in the trenches. This issue accepted the inevitable. That may sound incredibly nihilistic, but issue #4 is not about comfort zones or shielding us from terror. If anything, writer Mike Johnson showcases the fragility of such a thought – no amount of privilege, decadence, wealth, or status can protect you from the realities of the outside world. And Yotun goes far enough to prove that truth when he dramatically appears at their doorstep.
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In recent years, we’ve seen the increase of protest movements based on racial, gender, socio-economic, political and environmental issues. Issue #4 benefits from good timing where pop culture has mirrored these cultural events in the media. Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier peels back the layers of America’s soul, upending the sanitised images behind the romanticised ideals and righteous status symbols to reveal a reckoning of its own making.
The latest issue finds synergy in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, with Yotun acting as a replicant embodiment of Bane (Tom Hardy), masterminding a revengeful societal warfare by bringing an entire city to its knees. Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar-winning film Parasite is a social commentary on class disparity, as seen through the lens of a Korean family. The undisputed king – Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, is as relevant today as it was on its first release in 1989, showcasing the neverending cycle when it comes to Black lives, racism and police brutality. As far as Blade Runner 2029 is concerned, the core principle is still the same. These are fights based on injustice and inequality, and just like its counterparts, it confronts the various sins which these power structures were built on.
Blade Runner has always positioned itself on the cusp of change, rooted between the technological and the societal. So, to see it being followed through with an act of violence, it hits closer to home when the hijacking of an airship reminds you of the destructive terror of 9/11.
It’s a powerful image to evoke considering how that moment changed the fabric of our world forever, ushering in the global response as ‘The War on Terror’. But the connection is not taken lightly. This is more potent than Black Out 2022. In wading through the complex sphere of revolutions, Yotun’s subsequent act hopes to reset the balance. He’s there to teach the ruling elite (who have profited at the expense of replicant innovation through slavery, division, entitlement and corruption) a lesson. Yotun’s paradigm shift is through punishment, and what better way to showcase that wrath than by blowing up the Sepulveda Sea Wall (which featured in Blade Runner 2049). In a ‘checkmate’ moment for the series, it’s unquestionably a dark path. However, the issue is not focused on the act itself. Johnson’s writing leans into the ideology behind those entrenched beliefs.
You sense Johnson would have loved to explore more of the ‘deep dive’ dynamics he’s presenting if the luxury of time was provided to him. The issue almost doesn’t do it justice for the direction it’s heading, knowing there’s more beneath the surface to imply. Yotun’s complexity means he could never be chalked up as a traditional archetypal villain. There’s justification to his cause – pointing out the flaws and hypocrisy of humanity’s arrogance of power. But Johnson looks at this as an ‘eye for an eye’ retribution.
If the previous issue viewed him as a replicant going through an existential crisis of the soul to understand the power of creation (or, in this case, a regeneration process for discarded replicants from the Black Out), the parallel is how that power is geared towards taking away life. Johnson’s writing explores this extremity as a religious allegory. Yotun may see himself as a God, but his actions are very much the opposite – an Antichrist figure who sarcastically refers to the elite as “angels”, floods the city with a “baptism” of destruction, while his followers see him as a “miracle” to their salvation.
The curiosity will be how Johnson and co. will reconcile with the aftermath. Ash’s involvement is brief, coming face-to-face with the unshakable resolve of Kalia and Yotun’s ultimate goal. However, a new world is coming, but the question it leaves us is what ‘world’ will take its place? There’s a price to pay, and to Johnson’s credit, he leaves his readers with plenty to chew on.
Blade Runner 2029 #4 is out now from Titan Comics.