Blade Runner Origins #12 – Comic Review

“We have our roles to play.”

There’s a sadness and inevitability in Cal’s statement. As much as Blade Runner Origins #12 speaks about the future, that hope is scarred by the traumas of a very familiar reality. Two months have passed. The Blade Runner Unit is operational. Replicants seek refuge and safety where possible without fear of reprisals. There is a rebellion, but the residing emotion asked is, at what cost?

It’s a credit to the storyline to not deliver an open and shut conclusion. Nothing is wrapped up in a bow and packaged away for easy consumption. If there were any expectations for Blade Runner Origins to go out on a rapturous bang, then K. Perkins and Mellow Brown – writers of the series – have other ideas. This emotionally driven introspection reminded its audience of the painful truth in its concluding chapter. The world will continue to move whenever power is upheld, and we have to somehow ‘make sense out of the nonsense’ in reconciling the aftermath.

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The current post-truth culture war highlights how it manifests a revisionist history, a story weaved and manipulated to suit the status quo. We’ve witnessed this recently: the insurrection riots on January 6th; the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas; my beloved Star Wars, and the racial abuse suffered by actress Moses Ingram where the argument has spun from ‘her bad acting and writing’ to ‘we can’t be racist when these POC characters exist in the franchise’ (John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran would like to have a word). The unsettling reality is how normalised this feeling is. Even when the truth stares at you, somehow, a dangerous alternative and precedent lays in motion. In Origins’ case, it’s the swift justification for Replicants to be hunted while giving licence for the Tyrell Corporation to expand its Nexus programme.

It’s evident in the opening panels where Divina scans through the radio channels. Lydia and Effie are labelled “deranged” for the experimental nightmares of their Nexus work by the news (nothing like good old-fashion sexism). Nexus 3 deaths refused to be reported as genocidal, while legal compensation is available for clients with ‘awakened’ Replicants. As always, it’s the news not reported, and from the get-go highlights the commodification of the truth where the real atrocities have been buried away. For people of colour, this is an everyday reality, forced to carry torches for the voiceless.

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It speaks volumes of Perkins and Brown’s approach in issue #12. Reading through the pages, you feel that haunting presence as it lingers at the story’s lack of accountability and justice. And where it revels in its exploits are characters now facing the toughest journey ahead in living with the consequences.

For Cal and Asa, that statement is equally pertinent – two fractured yet complex characters emotionally anchored by the mistakes, decisions, and traumas of their pasts that they cannot outrun. Artist Fernando Dagnino and colourist Marco Lesko effortlessly evoke Vangelis’ ‘Tears in Rain’ with a rain-soaked deluge of a panel and an Easter Egg homage to Blade Runner 2049. The solemn looks they share are the inescapable navigation at how to best shape a perilous future in their designated roles as a Blade Runner and a Replicant freedom activist, respectively.

Perkins and Brown could have gone further with their development (if time allowed for it). There’s a lot to cover in Cal and Asa’s relationship! Roads not travelled and speeches left unsaid. Cal, more so than ever. At the final wish of his sister Nia, his painful sacrifice left him to become the poster child for the Blade Runner programme. But perhaps that’s the beauty of how the co-writing team have shaped this final chapter – an open-ended finale with the potential for more. Given how closely it evokes its real-life references, every day is just an ongoing saga in this game called life.

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But by going through the motions, Perkins and Brown’s poetic resonance shine through. Cal and Asa weigh up the next moves and new threats (including the introduction of the Voight-Kampff test). In mutually agreeing to construct an alternative device that measures the efficacy of a Blade Runner instead of a Replicant, so is the will to continue fighting. As long as they’re willing to endure the ‘little fires’ that manifest, both Cal and Asa are ready to burn it down. We already know the outcome of Blade Runner’s path, but the legacy that’s left dangling in Origins’ conclusion is the possibility of hope of that dream coming true.

It has been a thrilling ride, and Blade Runner Origins has proven to be a phenomenal entry in the mythology, encapsulating a socially conscious heartbeat that’s poignant, soulful, and engaging. And if there’s hope for the future, then it’s for more stories to be told like this.

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