Blade Runner: Black Lotus #3 – Comic Review

“I don’t want to harm either of you. I’ve had enough of killing. Leave now while you can.”

It’s somewhat of a long, overdue moment, an oversight when Black Lotus is endowed with so many characters to follow. But for once, in its overloaded capacity, it’s finally good to hear Elle’s voice. To quickly place into context, Elle’s story has always been a compromised negotiation for time and space, where agency and self-worth are unexplored territories for her evolving personality. The animated TV series struggled to articulate that balance. Its comic book counterpart has the opportunity to course correct. 

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Admittedly, issue #3 is far from perfect. One brief verbal and physical exchange issued to Kozlov and his men doesn’t override the feeling of Elle being a passenger within her own story. But it also says a lot about time. Like a 6-episode Marvel TV series on Disney+, has time been used effectively? This is the penultimate issue before this chapter concludes, yet progress feels scarce and hollow, especially around how Barnes and his men use misogyny and sexism as their currency. There are occasional glimpses of writer Nancy A. Collins’ dystopian vision, refusing to be weighed down by Blade Runner’s familiar architecture. But ultimately, the story still lacks dramatic sharpness and an emotional punch to fully engage in its social ramifications – an aspect its Blade Runner predecessors have a clear advantage on. The jury is still out, but like many things, at least issue #3 provides a much-needed catalyst to start finding its feet.

There’s still a long way to go before Black Lotus feels entirely comfortable with its premise, but what swings the tides in its favour is the inevitable reward of patience. Miguel assigns Elle to rescue the kidnapped commune of Fracktown (including his wife and daughter), and for good measure, put an end to Barnes’ reign of terror. Armed with explosives, a Katana sword, and her repaired bike (thanks to Junkett, the mechanic), Elle prepares herself for war. 

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Unexpectedly, if there’s a bit of whiplash humour to extract from Black Lotus, it’s how quickly its story has evolved. Elle has gone from being stranded, befriended, her Replicant secret revealed, and embarking on a rescue mission in the space of three issues! You could easily argue that Elle doesn’t owe anyone anything, yet the faith levels must be extraordinarily high when Miguel can entrust Elle completely, basing his opinion on his daughter being an “excellent judge of character”.

Nevertheless, as a turning point, Collins’ navigation of the story works best when Elle is left to her own devices. The independence she gains provides further insight into a world unmasked and full of unbridled violent tendencies laid bare on the table. Case in point, when she stumbles across a pit of unburied, murdered Replicants.

On the surface, it provides added incentive for Elle. The sheer brutality of their deaths only adds weight to the moral injustice and commodification of Replicant life where they’re disposable trash. However, Collins doesn’t quite place it in a position to capitalise on its ample material, and frustratingly, it moves on to the next challenge without letting its implications sink in.

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Missed opportunities aside, Elle’s significance resides in the mission. Bit’s impressive artwork and Marco Lesko’s colouring emphasise the swiftness behind her graceful movement as she moves in the shadows planting explosives and disarming men. Collins doesn’t shy away from clever juxtaposition at play, presenting another opportunity for Elle to showcase her physical, badass capabilities amid others who doubt her particular set of skills. But its most striking conversation is how she enacts this battle without (for the most part) shedding any blood from her opponents, using the hilt or scabbard of her Katana as her offence. It’s a quiet, subtle nod to a character determined to change her fate, an aspect we desperately need to see more of as this series continues to grow. And the sentiment will be needed with war on the horizon.

Quietly emerging with confidence, Black Lotus has something to look forward to. Ending with a vengeful bang, the momentum heads in the right direction.

Blade Runner: Black Lotus #3 is out on 5th October from Titan Comics.

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