As a natural successor to the legendary Syd Mead, the work of artist Andres Guinaldo on the Blade Runner comic series should not be underestimated. It’s a real joy and treat seeing Guinaldo’s faithful recreation of a neon-lit Los Angeles, filled with colour (thanks to colourist Marco Lesko), muted tones and plenty of that iconic rain. With personal touches, there’s a poetic art and vision that Guinaldo elicits and how it complements the thematic direction of the story. Characters are defined through panels of nuance, and their environments accentuate mood and texture into a reality that always feels like a cautionary tale away from happening. In its latest chapter, the artistry is deliberately simple: as Blade Runner’s world becomes more grandeur and all-encompassing, it is a reminder of how much the world shifts on the actions of a few.
The opening panels would make Blade Runner 2049’s cinematographer Roger Deakins proud, just for how Guinaldo builds scale and magnitude between panels. As we are introduced to Lexi, the enclosed space of the spinner serves as a contrast of emotions and fraught conversations she has with our favourite former Blade Runner, Ash. But as the panels begin to pull back, revealing rural California (ten years away from 2049’s opening scene), it’s hard not to look past the metaphor at how much Lexi’s world will undoubtedly change from now on.
When a series is at the top of its game, there’s so much enjoyment to be had. In some ways, we’ve barely scratched the surface of 2039’s objectives. After all, we are only two issues in! The shift towards Denis Villeneuve’s film is inevitable. As Lexi and Ash arrive at the hideout, they find Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista in the film version) – an old friend of Freysa. For fans, we already know his significance: he witnessed the birth of a miracle – Deckard (Harrison Ford) and Rachael’s (Sean Young) daughter. Alongside Freysa, they protected the child from scientific discovery. But you could argue that its latest entry is taking a page out of Blade Runner Origins’ book or Sony’s Better Call Saul. As prequels, the outcome is not just fuelled by nostalgia and connecting every jigsaw piece, but on the emotional anchors to tell a definitive and merited story. If there was ever an example of why the series has remained so compelling, then it has been the continued development of Ash and Freysa’s relationship.
There’s a tragic wave of sadness about the couple now. Their causes have remained the same in fighting for the future of Replicants. Their love and devotion for each other are undeniable. But the years have been unkind to them, coming at a personal cost towards their emotional feelings.
They have new visitors at their hideout, the Replicant crisis deepens, and their broken bodies require physical repair, relying on each other’s assistance to install their brand-new eyes. Paraphrasing Freysa, there’s no escaping the irony: a couple who can’t see ‘eye to eye’ on decisions, yet writers Mike Johnson and Mellow Brown use the moment to blur the differences between humans and Replicants when functional upgrades gradually dissipate between kind.
But whenever a new threat is posed, the striking element is Ash’s resolve to take it upon herself to stop it. It’s somewhat routine at this point to not see Ash include her combat medic partner in the field with her (a missed opportunity in the series). Yet, it’s the weight and burden of time that Johnson and Brown acknowledge here and how it has become Ash and Freysa’s enemy. They’re not getting any younger. The fight has left them scarred, the war outshadows a wishful life, and once again, we find the couple going their separate ways.
At the heart of issue #2 is a generational conflict, be it with age or with technology. It’s symbolic of Johnson and Brown’s confident writing in pushing Blade Runner’s mythology to its capacity. The core social context remains, this time showcased in a new character of Ms Penelope, who assists Luv’s enquiry about Alexander Selwyn. She represents a wealth and class privilege where there are different rules for the rich, turning a blind eye to Replicant extermination, providing they still serve her purpose and interests (e.g. her butler is a Replicant). But its exploration reveals a brilliant surprise that manages to bring another relic of the past into its endgame.
Blade Runner 2039 refuses to disappoint. With all the pieces merging together, the depth and craft of its storytelling continues to excite and satisfy and remind its audience why it ranks as one of the best franchises within science fiction.
Blade Runner 2039 #2 is out now from Titan Comics.