For a universe set in a dystopian future, there’s a lot to be excited about with Blade Runner. Blade Runner 2029 ended with a miracle as it embarks on a new chapter. Ridley Scott recently announced a new, live-action TV series with Blade Runner 2099, set fifty years after 2049. The franchise went animated with Black Lotus, and its prequel series – Titan Comics‘ Blade Runner Origins – continues to exceed expectations and reach new levels within the sci-fi genre.
That gleeful sentiment is helped by the conclusion of Blade Runner Origins #8, an unapologetic reckoning of an episode of confronting past truths. The battle between Asa and Nia, Cal’s sister, is a visceral and brutal slugfest analogy for Black resilience and empowerment versus how others re-invent themselves while erasing the emotional consequences of their previous life. It’s a poignant reminder of how history is written by the victors, writing themselves as the heroes, free to shape their story without dealing, or better yet, reconcile with their past. For Asa, it’s a full-frontal assault. For Nia, she lives with the consequences every day, embodying the mental and physical scars, and that thrilling, duelling, and unresolved conflict only amplifies what transpires in #9.
The chapter opens with Llora Stahl – unhinged, vengeful with an aptitude for destruction – bringing her arsenal of weapons and Replicant toy soldiers into the slums of Sector 6B. Whether you’re a Replicant or a human resident, she has deemed the area surplus to requirements, issuing an order to burn it to the ground.
There’s no subtlety or sugar-coating to be found in K. Perkins and Mellow Brown’s words. In blunt fashion, they showcase exactly what this is – a weaponised war on the poor. We’re no stranger to this. When Blade Runner draws active parallels, it’s feeding into a well-versed commentary on societal classism where the working class are deemed inconsequential and irrelevant. And the engagement is so deliberate, it paints an honest truth about the value of people – no one cares if an entire sector is erased from existence, especially when it is enacted by those who have everything they need. There’s a dispassionate essence in that feeling, which is why the subsequent fightback proves to be the best in the series. Welcome to the war.
Special mention must be made to artist Fernando Dagnino and colourist Marcos Lesko. Taking a page out of Roger Deakins Blade Runner 2049’s playbook, the cinematic composition behind each panel is stunning. It brilliantly enhances every nuanced word and action in Perkins and Brown’s script in an issue dripping with rage and intensity from its ferocious colour palette. The stops were pulled out for this jam-packed edition. It encompasses everything – the drama, the action, the occasional bouts of humour, all culminating in an emotional payoff that’s not afraid to drive home the repercussions and reminds us of the stakes of the bigger picture.
READ MORE: Uncharted – Film Review
It’s worth noting how much issue #9 benefits from being one long arc story. Not relying on the action alone, Perkins and Brown acknowledge the weight and impact of those relationships. Nia and Asa team up as “the muscle”, putting aside their differences until this battle is won. Cal – in full big brother mode – comically ascertains Isaac’s dating relationship with his Replicant sister in the middle of battle. Even during moments of sacrifice, the poignancy behind their sacrifice adds another sublime dynamic. You feel for the suffering, the rampant fear, and the chaos behind the destruction unfolding when an entire sector is escaping its fate. You feel it because it’s human, and the depth and craft behind this underpinning place its audience right in the middle of it.
The poignancy further continues with Marcus’s betrayal. Divina’s speech places into context why her space, La Plume Sauvage, benefitted the community, only for the rich and powerful elite to weaponise their feelings and destroy its heart. But the resonating power behind the speech is how it directly calls out individuals who pretend to be allies and supporters in the fight against social injustice, but they only serve themselves.
And the added weight given to the conversation enhances the cultural argument about placement and belonging, where something as prevalent and topical as gentrification operates on the same potent level at the non-value of establishments and their community service. Stahl did not care and made sure Divina saw the evidence. Even if Marcus shows regret, Perkins and Brown remind their audience that actions have consequences. The damage has been done. They make zero apologies for him, ensuring Marcus knows who’s accountable for the destruction and he’s rightly shown the door.
Even when it reaches its climax, you can’t escape the levels of satisfaction to be had. The success behind this chapter delivers a pulsating and engaging entry that continues to define its mark on the franchise.
Blade Runner Origins #9 is out now from Titan Comics.