“Ms. Stahl, Mr. Tyrell would like to speak with you…NOW.”
I won’t lie. After reading that line, I held my breath.
The Blade Runner comics have naturally played around with fan expectations. When there are so many nostalgic riffs in motion from its Syd Mead inspired artwork, to the neo-noir mystery, to functioning as a successful gap-filler between the movies, it would be naïve to believe that a crossover wouldn’t feature in some capacity. In past issues, Eldon Tyrell’s name is mentioned frequently, and Origins #3 continues to build up the speculation of an appearance. This time, that potential merge takes the shape of Ilora Stahl, summoned by her boss via video call in the aftermath of a rogue Replicant destroying her spinner.
But true to form, Origins #3 doesn’t cave into fans desires, and understandably, it’s easy to feel cheated. We don’t get to see THAT conversation unfold. We are left to imagine the possible scenario where everything is escalating out of control. But to give writers K. Perkins and Mellow Brown credit, the success of the franchise is indebted to how it forges ahead with the new stories crafted within its well-versed mythos. It understands that there has to be a healthy balance between the past and the new and that any notion of fan service has to be earned and not added for clout or validation. And while there is room for nostalgia, Blade Runner Origins accepted a difficult challenge where it can progress without heavily relying on it. By doing so, issue #3 positions itself to tackle some of the franchise’s most interesting questions, leaving a lot to unpack for its audiences.
Appearances can be deceiving. You sense it whenever artist Fernando Dagnino draws Ilora Stahl (for which he deserves praise). There’s always an unease that’s captured in the drawing. In one panel, it’s unsettlingly creepy, sinister even, verging on sadism as she watches the burning flames of the wreckage. The familiar warning signs of her being a Replicant is felt once again. How could she not when it touches upon the very nature that Tyrell has always alluded to with human evolution? Where Replicants can blend in effortlessly with society in a secret that hides in plain sight. Although, when that notion is applied to Lydia Kine, Perkins and Brown pull off a brilliant reveal.
Science fiction has always relied on its many defaults (e.g. protagonists being cis-white men), many of them tied to gatekeeping when it comes to diversity and gender identities. So, to see Blade Runner Origins enact a transgender narrative that brings us closer to reflecting the reality we live in is a welcomed change of pace. And such a move brings Kine’s story from some arbitrary murder into an emotional endeavour. Using Tyrell’s advanced technology and through the process of transference, Dr. Lydia Kine (now known as Asa) can live the life he has always wanted.
And of course, it’s complicated, especially for Marcus who has to deal with the surprise revelation and emotional fallout. But the transformation takes on a greater meaning when technology is involved. Is Asa really Marcus’s sister, or just an imitation, a poor binary copy of the real person? Is Asa capable of the violence that Marcus fears? Is there an ulterior reason at stake which is dependent on Marcus’ belief? Issue #3 spends considerable time in their company. The dialogue may not unearth those reasons just yet. Instead, it builds its investment on repairing damage from the hurt and mistrust, and arguably, it’s the issue’s strongest and most compelling selling point.
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In the wider context, Origins #3 strongly infers on the notion of the various masks we wear to survive. As humans, we do this all the time through relationships, friendships, social media, environments etc. – anything that helps us contextualise our existence. If Asa is to be believed, then the transformation of their reveal is one of liberation, breaking free of an identity lie when he was Lydia. Cal Moreaux’s story – the counterpoint to this story – is one of complicity in a corrupt system.
Cal’s POV is rooted in brute force realism, someone who’s dedicated to the job but knows the system is actively working against him. Even Effie calls him out for his lack of accountability, essentially labelling him as being part of the problem. There’s potential, but Cal’s involvement feels a little overshadowed by the other dynamics at play. Kine and Stahl are given their moments to shine. We’re still waiting to see Cal’s breaking point.
But given how it ends, you get the feeling this will be quickly resolved with the next issue. Blade Runner Origins took another step in the right direction, with every issue bringing growing anticipation. And that is something I look forward to.
Blade Runner Origins #3 is out now from Titan Comics.