If Blade Runner borrowed the mantra from the Fast and Furious franchise, then issue #10 of Blade Runner 2029 is all about family! Joking aside, the vast playground writer Mike Johnson continues to craft is a fascinating journey. Because, in the game between life and death, everything is becoming personal.
Without divulging spoilers, that sentiment resonates from its poetic opening. Yotun – the Replicant vampire – is up to his old tricks again, sucking the life out of other Replicants so he can rejuvenate. His latest victim is Ambrose, and thanks to his “gift”, Yotun rewards him by placing him in a catatonic state. It’s the brutality behind the exchange which is striking.
In rationalising Ambrose’s condition, Yotun believes it’s a consequence of not being part of his followers. Therefore, as a non-believer, Ambrose suffers a ‘non-believer’s fate’. But for a character that has been relentless in his ambitions (infused with the intoxicating belief that he’s saving the world), Yotun’s attitude comes as no surprise. It’s a reminder that he will never change (although the last few panels suggest an emotional reckoning he’s about to face).
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While issue #10 offers more of the same, Blade Runner’s latest chapter feels like a significant pause. It’s a rudimentary, straightforward tale. Sure, the mystery evolves once again with new revelations sprinkled in. But in moving the plot forward, there’s a trade-off to its impact.
The case in point comes when Ash is sent to investigate a reported Replicant activity in a clock tower. A few choice words (where Ash openly tries to convince the replicant to join the Underground Replicant movement), and suddenly everything kicks into gear. A chase, a showdown with an arch-nemesis, only for that character to be killed off by Marlowe.
As introductions go, Marlowe entering the scene to be that antagonistic disruptor in Ash’s life brings a new dynamic to the conversation. It’s reminiscent of Hythe from Blade Runner 2019 – with the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach as a Blade Runner. And it’s a chance to bring in the conflicting divides of being a Blade Runner to the forefront once again. But with a character’s abrupt death (bringing both Ash and Marlowe together albeit briefly before telling him she works alone) it is somewhat rushed.
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The dissatisfaction partly comes from the reader not getting to spend adequate time with certain characters, and therefore feeling like they’re a means to an ends instead of the nuanced individuals they threaten to be. And as if it’s balancing the odds, we lose one character and gain a new one. The hope here is that Marlowe is given ample time to make an impact.
Overall, issue #10 masters the art of the tease. Be it Ash’s twinge in her spine (and realising that Yotun’s “miracle” might be wearing off) or the sickly appearance of replicants (which suggests a possible infection), these are breadcrumbs for the eventual payoff. But for now, you have to sit through filler to get to the good stuff.
It’s the second half of the comic where it finds its feet again, reminding its reader where Johnson’s strength lies. Its intimacy is found between Ash and Freysa – still in hiding, finding a home from home, in keeping their relationship secret. And, however brief it is, it’s another opportune moment for the couple to come to terms with reality. But it’s not what’s being said that leaps off the page. Ash – cleaning out Freysa’s eye socket – still has a driving compulsion to solve the latest discovery from the clock tower. Freysa asks whether it could wait until the morning before her concern is tenderly rejected.
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With the exception of Marlowe’s presence (who lurks around in the shadows), Johnson’s foreboding aura in his writing is a tell-tale sign that time is running out. It’s also a credit to Andres Guinaldo, a reminder of the emotional poignancy through his artwork whenever characters face tough choices. And collectively, it understands that Freysa and Ash are determined individuals with plenty of stories to tell. It’s a cliché notion to witness a relationship tested, but it’s curious to see how that will be realised, because Ash and Freysa have yet to confront the impact of their journey. What readers are offered are glimpses but not total reconciliation.
That’s why it will be interesting come the next issue to see where the story eventually ends up. It hinges upon a new (yet fan service) revelation that poses a fresh element in the Blade Runner mythology. As always, there’s curiosity about where Yotun sees his plan progressing to. But for now, this episode fills in the gaps where possible, but recognisably, it is the calm before the storm.
Blade Runner 2029 #10 is out now from Titan Comics.