There’s a wave of excitement with Blade Runner 2039. As the series catches up to Denis Villeneuve’s masterpiece, the comic book entries have become essential reading. Not only do we experience its growth and evolution, connecting the dots to Blade Runner’s wider mythology, but the franchise never sacrifices the integrity of the story it wants to tell. The feat enhances the possibilities of where Blade Runner can venture, combining a multi-layered societal nuance with the nostalgic familiarity that has become so recognisable for fans of the original film and Syd Mead’s definitive dystopian vision. 2039 is no exception, and it’s off to a fantastic start!
The world has shifted since we last dipped our toes in the Blade Runner pool. In the wake of rebellions, uprisings, corporate takeovers and famine saviours, the seeds of distrust are already sowed within the opening panels.
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Outside of a Voight-Kampff test, how would someone know who was a Replicant or not? A casual conversation amongst friends in a food market is notable when the lines may have become so blurred. Such is the sophistication of the technology that it unsuspectedly hides one in plain sight. The commentary on wealth comes as no surprise, considering how Replicants are a commodity of the rich. With the added bonus of conformity and obedience from the new Replicant programming, society has slipped back (although it never left) into the acceptance of AI slavery. But that conversation comes to an abrupt end with the introduction of Luv.
The fascinating element about Luv is her evolving personality. Like her on-screen counterpart in 2049, Luv is a walking dichotomy. Her character is steeped in vicious violence and servitude to Wallace, yet her name contradicts it. The emotional suppression sets her apart from her future antagonist Agent K (Ryan Gosling). Where K was a replicant in search of a soul and to feel more human in a vitriolic world, Luv’s complexity is like watching a child being taught to hate, to be efficient in that hatred and almost powerless to evolve from it. Luv may represent the new generation of Replicants (Nexus 9 specifically), but everything in her dissonant nature is a constant struggle of Tyrell’s “more human than human” ethos.
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As a standout in 2049, seeing Luv’s story explored brings me great joy. It’s an opportunity for Blade Runner 2039 to re-establish another antagonist to duel against. In the comic’s humble beginnings, we saw glimpses of this through Hythe (2019) and the extremism with Yotun (2029). Issue #1 is essentially Luv’s origin story as the first Blade Runner under Niander Wallace’s new regime of Replicants. Artists Andres Guinaldo and colourist Marco Lesko brilliantly emphasise the emotion behind her brutality. There’s, of course, the added complication of seeing a Replicant hunt her own kind – something which 2049 weaves throughout its cinematic mythology. However, the story understands the hidden rage that boils within her and the relentlessness behind her cold actions. In an unaccepting society, its opening chapter states clearly that it is all about the efficacy of the Blade Runner programme, much to the chagrin of her colleagues who distrust a Replicant working amongst their ranks.
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Writers Mike Johnson and Mellow Brown (Blade Runner Origins) do an impeccable job of weaving this divide. Now, more than ever, Los Angeles 2039 feels more toxic and abrasive, where the weak are taken advantage of at any given notice. And in one distinct panel, ‘protect and serve’ continues the conversation about institutional lawlessness amongst officers.
And it speaks volumes on the lengths Replicants will go to survive. With eyes as the currency for the journey, we meet a mysterious stranger seeking salvation through the help of The Ferryman. As the name suggests, they travel by boat to Catalina – a haven for the Replicant movement. It says a lot when Johnson and Brown’s emblematic storytelling echoes the commentary on the migrant crisis with its subsequent dangers of the unknown. The mixture of real-world parallels and dystopian nuance is why Blade Runner resonates, propelling the comics into a league of their own.
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But ultimately, the series is about to come full circle. With the re-introduction of the Selwyn case, the tease doesn’t diminish any of its power by returning to its beginnings. You always sense the story would return in some capacity, and the revelation builds intrigue on how Luv and former Blade Runner Ash cross paths.
The series has come a long way since 2019, but make no mistake, this compelling saga has gone from strength to strength, forever enriched by the expert craft and ingenuity in its world-building that rewards loyal fans of the franchise. And while the story will conclude after this run, the incredible satisfaction is the appreciation and acknowledgement of reading something special – and that is one hell of a legacy to end on.
Blade Runner 2039 #1 is out now from Titan Comics.