Blade Runner Origins #5 – Comic Review

As we veer ever closer towards a co-habited, technological society (if you’ve seen the latest advancements coming out of Boston Dynamics, this reality is inevitable), Blade Runner Origins #5 unlocks a common fear within us about the future. What happens when a product malfunctions? Or, in the case of Blade Runner, what happens when a Replicant suddenly grows a consciousness, developing into an existential crisis of the soul? Is this the true cost of progression when it can ultimately threaten our existence?

It’s a question posed in its opening scene. Arnault (a Replicant last seen in issue #3) is preparing dinner for his human owners. He quickly degrades into a ticking time bomb, unable to shake out of his loop, triggered by one word – why. Artist Fernando Dagnino does some impressive work here, shifting its opening passage into a slow burn balance between tension and the emerging threat of violent chaos. On one page, it’s nothing but rage as the colour red seeps onto the panels. This is, of course, is not The Terminator (because this scene would have ended differently), and in the nick of time, the family are saved from impending harm by former Detective Cal Moreaux and Asa.

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True to Blade Runner’s philosophical nuances, writers K. Perkins and Mellow Brown don’t let that define Arnault’s story. Asa and Moreaux – the unconventional double act bounded by an inescapable ultimatum – are forced to understand Arnault’s escalating condition that will eventually kill him.

You could never accuse the issue of losing its humanity, certainly not with how Arnault is handled. Despite the complicated discourse between progression and advancement, within its written depths are characters coming face to face with the implications of change. And true to form, it forces its characters to confront their beliefs, revealing more about themselves to others. Moreaux stubbornly refuses to accept that a replicant can develop consciousness and feel ‘alive’ (which continues to sow the seeds about his distrust over Tyrell’s handiwork).

Marcus still cannot comprehend his sister’s new existence as a Replicant man (still angry at the pain caused), while Davina wrestles with past traumas. But it’s Asa’s arc that is the notable standout, venturing on a path of understanding, healing, and atonement.

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The emotional results are predictably mixed; thankfully, the conversations are not resolved quickly or brushed aside just to muster the next phase of storytelling. But the exploration is surprisingly and empathetically poetic for a character whose in-built emotions weren’t programmed and implemented. In an issue looking for heart – when all the twists and turns suggest otherwise about the cruelty of the world – another picture is conveyed. And it can be a joy to read when an issue is willing to be an exercise on shifting power dynamics. It’s never a one-sided affair, with Perkins and Brown using the opportunity to pair its characters to reconcile with the stakes being raised.

It’s particularly highlighted in a brilliant exchange between Stahl and Moreaux – the strongest anchors throughout this series. In the previous review, I mentioned they were an antagonistic pair, operating on the opposite sites of the loyalty spectrum. The beauty behind that statement is how Dagnino’s artwork translates that as a visual metaphor – two characters whose faces are split down the middle, knowing there is a fine line between life and death in their goals. They are practically the same, growing more into a psychological litmus test with every acidic exchange.

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With a rogue Replicant on the loose, the natural distrust acknowledged wouldn’t surprise me that somehow Stahl was it. Call it a hunch or a feeling, but Origins still continues that tradition of unease, giving readers something to ponder when she expresses a surprising look of concern on her face.

There’s ample scope for this reveal. The original 1982 film had Rachael (Sean Young) given that reveal of not knowing she wasn’t real (yet fulling Tyrell’s greatest mission of being ‘more human than human’). Even if this vision doesn’t pan out (unsuspectedly, it could be Cal for all we know), you can almost imagine the barrage of emotions waiting to be unleashed. Each issue feels like a peek behind that curtain, and it poses interesting dilemmas for what else she’s hiding – and that’s a testament to Perkins and Brown for the continued nuances that keep her brilliantly complicated and second-guessing her intentions at every stage.

Issue #5 may be considered as ‘the calm before the storm’, but it possesses great poise in how it understands human nature – what drives it, what compels it, what context it provides and what invaluable lesson it surfaces. In a world that wants to treat such exploration as binary and simplistic, the series continues to be thought-provoking and engaging for doing the opposite, leaving a rewarding conclusion that leaves its readers wanting more.

Blade Runner Origins #5 is out now from Titan Comics.

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