It has been an interesting few weeks in the Blade Runner Universe. Not only is there the growing anticipation between issues, with 2029 and Origins in their stride, but the recent announcement of Blade Runner: Black Lotus – a brand new animated adventure set to debut later this year. Judging by this evidence, you could argue that the franchise is undergoing a new lease of life – a rebirth.
And that is the energy evoked here in issue #6. Under the familiar guise of nostalgic callbacks and the new, ‘rebirth’ doesn’t just pertain to rejuvenation. Its application here is skewed and twisted. “Creation begins in darkness”, and if beauty is in the eye of the beholder (as the saying goes), then for Yotun, it’s just another exercise to reshape the world in his own image. This is his world, and we’re simply living in it.
As expected, Issue #6 heavily focuses on Yotun. Writer Mike Johnson uses the opportunity to twist more of his character’s entrenched and militant mindset. And there’s no escaping from the chilling read that Johnson imparts on his readers.
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In the issue’s opening scene, the city’s power systems go offline. As the city plunges into darkness, Yotun questions humanity and their “simple minds”. He gestures at our inability to handle the overwhelming sea of complexity. Make no mistake, this is Yotun openly mocking us. Undoubtedly, the superiority complex reigns supreme behind that menace. The militancy provokes so much anxiety that some of Johnson’s dialogue becomes ironic. The city is sick – crumbling in fact – and needs to be put out of its misery. Yotun’s way of solving the crisis is to apply pressure to the infrastructures that the city depends on. Johnson depicts this as an unrelenting siege, and Yotun – as this unstoppable force – is on a mission to shift the paradigm.
Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much opposition to Yotun’s cause. The powers that be are largely incapacitated or dead. Even Ash is helpless, entrapped in a healing rejuvenation tank. And the obvious chartered course is a rescue mission for the only person who could stop him.
With so many stakes on the agenda, it doesn’t leave much room for anything else. If there is a criticism to take note of, then it is the use of Freysa, leader of the Replicant Underground. She may have orchestrated the plan to get close to Yotun and rescue her lover, but she also ends up as the sacrificial lamb as a consequence.
It’s symptomatic of how the character has slowly regressed within this chapter. Her introduction in Blade Runner 2019 was a phenomenal contrast in belief systems against Ash’s regimented stance. Her resolution had such a commanding agency that it broke down the subsequent barriers of mistrust and past experiences within their evolving relationship. And she left a distinct impression, being a rare opportunity as a reader to indulge in characterisation so beautifully constructed. 2029 almost leaves her voiceless and sidelined. And the key part she’s about to play, (such as the encompassing nature of the story), means we haven’t spent much time with her, once again, highlighting the limitations of the format.
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It’s normal to feel that disappointment when the franchise has set such an incredibly high bar. Do I believe this will be rectified by the next issue? Yes. Writer Mike Johnson teases the mind games of its deceptive ploy. With Freysa and Yotun heading towards the chapter’s endgame, there’s potential for a fascinating discourse, an opportunity to pit two Replicant ideologies against each other. It would be an effective reminiscence of X-Men if it ventured down that path, mirroring the same spirit and dynamism as Professor X and Magneto. And depending on its outcome, it may shape the true cost of this new world. The future of the Replicant race is on the line. Time will tell whether these choices will be justified. But for now, it’s a wait to get to that resolution.
Yet, despite the slight misfire, Blade Runner still retains that ‘cusp of change’ aura. It’s an omnipresent feeling, reaching more into the psychological than the familiar societal pyramid we’re used to, and that sentiment is channelled into Ash. What do her new circumstances entail? Her back brace was a signature part of her character. It’s important to note that it didn’t define her, but with so many hurdles endured, symbolised the struggle as well as the perseverance. Yet, like Jesus curing the blind man in Bethsaida, Yotun has given her a ‘new life’. The untapped ramifications on how Ash emotionally reconciles with this will no doubt change the fabric of Blade Runner‘s future.
It sets up an intriguing next instalment. The series continues to ride that benefit of the doubt because of the exciting undercurrent that fuels it. And with the city on fire, it’s all to play for.
Blade Runner 2029 #6 is out now from Titan Comics.