Once again, Blade Runner Origins sets its ambitions very high. Its latest chapter has everything – love, loyalty, respect, revelation, and betrayal. And without skipping a beat, it pulls all those elements into a thoroughly engaging read with a few surprises along the way.
One of those surprises is the revelation that Cal’s sister – Nia Moreaux – is the Nexus 5 model who has been ‘awakening’ others from their place of servitude to their self-aware autonomy. But the most endearing thing about the surprise is how much its latest chapter re-focuses its perspective, focusing on her and her replicant family.
There’s a real emphasis in K. Perkins and Mellow Brown’s work on shaping Nia’s mindset and ethos for the Replicants. Building upon the previous issue where the anger, the distrust, the discontent, and the abandonment have been deeply sowed into the slums, they’re able to put its arguments into a physical and escalating context. And instead of Nia joining the chaos, amplifying its plight, it’s about maintaining a standard – not to kill.
That’s not to say that venture is all peace and love. That ‘eye for an eye’ violence is always at hand. After all, it’s Replicants re-establishing their place in the world. But even when that threshold is threatened, there’s restraint in the power. It’s particularly reflected with Isaac, confronting a rage-fuelled human who believes that Replicants are destroying his neighbourhood. Such lines can’t help but draw comparisons to the toxic commentary about foreign immigrants and how they’re blamed for every societal problem when the fault lines lie above that pyramid divide. And the takedown by Isaac is a remarkable sense of complex duality, becoming the literal fate between life and death with the palm of his hands.
It builds into the ‘Robin Hood’ mentality for the Replicants. With the neighbourhood left to fend for themselves, they’re the ones protecting it (at best), or in one panel, gifts for the children, supplies for themselves. It’s clear that not all Replicants agree with its direction. Every ‘awakening’ comes with consequences as they go through the gears of accountability and responsibility. But ultimately, they are there to break the rules. But the most compelling aspect of this issue is with Cal lurking in the shadows watching Nia’s actions unfold; it sums up its direction and intent. Cal is not the priority or focus. This is a female-driven episode exploring their present, but most noticeably, their origins.
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With Nia (knowing how much emphasis has been placed on her through the exploits of her brother), seeing the ‘flip side’ removes her from being a static object into something potentially enriching. While the connections feel too convenient and neatly tied together, the emotional catharsis it seeks, even at this basic level, is based on choice – a choice that was removed and denied to her. And in classic Blade Runner fashion, the ugliness of human nature rears its head, making the characters we think we know, come out shadier and duplicitous than ever. That revelation is placed into a further context that Nia was an experiment at the hands of Dr. Lydia Kine before she transitioned. The fact that the process worked, taps into real-life Black fears (see Tuskegee), knowing that the evolution and progress of humanity continue to come at the cost of Black bodies in the process.
And, of course, there will be an expectant reunion between Cal and his sister. Nia is forging a path of liberation which re-shapes her purpose to be better than what humanity expects Replicants to be. But the question is, how will Cal respond to the dynamic change when the very thing he has questioned, doubted, and feared against, has become personal, his worst fears? That will be a fascinating exploration in the coming issues.
That energy is indicative of what proceeds, building tensely and darkly towards its shocking reveals, and visually, this is where Fernando Dagnino shows off his class in the artwork. There’s no neatness – Dagnino adds so much dynamism within the scene, brimming with relentless chaos, but most importantly, adding important weight and context to Ilora Stahl’s character. No matter how many times we see Stahl, the creepiness in her smile never leaves you, and that is a tribute to the subtle depth and nuances that Brown and Perkins have instilled throughout her journey.
Reading an issue with so much verve and confidence is a treat. There is something special in how everything is shaping together. The hope is that the resulting payoff is not rushed, and like all good things, you just want to live in that world a little longer. Issue #7 is a testament to that feeling, and as it proclaims, “there is more to be earned”. This is a series operating at its best – and long may that continue.
Blade Runner Origins #7 is out now from Titan Comics.