It was inevitable that Ash would eventually come face to face with her Replicant doppelganger. As chilling conclusions go, issue #8 can’t come soon enough! But thankfully, its latest chapter offers its readers plenty of thought and character development before the episode reaches its apex. The past and present collide as writer Mike Johnson uses issue #7 to build the connective tissues to explain the history between Mack and Ash.
The story begins in Los Angeles in 2018. Mack is on the run, hiding amongst the shadows and climbing rooftops to avoid attention. However, the effort is in vain. Ash arrives in her designated spinner, ready to retire the former construction worker who went missing in action for three months on Titan. But before he can plead his innocence, he is shot through the chest and falls from a great height. Unknown to Ash (who quickly submits her Blade Running invoice for immediate cash payment), Mack survives the encounter.
The continued amazement with the franchise is how delightfully simple it is, yet it finds new inventive levels to tackle our evolving relationship with technology. Its opening scene naturally grabs your attention as Johnson nails down the mythology’s moral ethics, always seeking an empathetic compass with Replicants and their journey for freedom. Mack describes himself as a person. Ash – a vicious and relentless whiplash back to her former self – views him as parts waiting to be chopped up and disposed of. In a chilling reminder of Replicant bloodshed and the horrible acts committed in the name of human preservation, she executes him with extreme prejudice.
Despite feeling like familiar territory, Johnson switches gears for something more poignant. I like the idea he uses the medium to explore reconciliation (albeit briefly). The characters know they can’t change what happened, yet the chapter poses an interesting question on whether people can change from their past lives. Ash has reaped those benefits and evolved throughout the series. The mere thought of her former self roaming around feels like a horror movie villain and is a terrifying realisation. And it’s that traumatic mindset where Mack fears the worst, believing Ash is there to “finish the job”. The shift happens rapidly, but at least it gets the characters on the same page for a welcome change of pace.
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So far, the adventure has been action-packed, so to see the story channel its heart into an emotional two-hander was a necessary reset. Mack agrees to accompany Ash to San Francisco to find Isobel, the Replicant who changed Ash from Blade Runner to protector of Replicants. On their road trip, Mack shares his survival story, finding refuge on a farm where “no questions were asked” about his circumstances and living unnoticed until now.
By any means, the exploration is not perfect. Aside from being limited by pages, Ash and Mack suffer no distractions or disturbances on the road, which were a feature in previous issues. On the surface, these revelations come to a conclusion quickly. We know Ash can be a closed book, but getting Mack to ask questions about her circumstances would have deepened their newfound partnership. Nevertheless, Andres Guinaldo’s superb artwork surrounds the honest heart-to-heart, and his continuation to world-build outside the familiar world of Los Angeles, showcases San Francisco as a shade of its former iconic past; the city, including the Golden Gate Bridge, burned beyond recognition.
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With such heavy emphasis on Ash and Mack’s interaction, it leaves no space for other characters. Cleo is still wounded while Lexi guards her company. As the series deepens, Ash has become 2039‘s primary focus. But in fear of sounding like a broken record, Freysa not getting that level of attention with Ash is frustrating. As the lovers have gotten older, their missions have always remained separated, only left to the reader’s imagination of what possible adventures they could have been on in the off-years between issues. It’s a minor observation where one can hope there’s more to come before the series concludes.
But the dramatic finale means such desires will have to wait. Ash’s legacy and reputation are being called into question in the most chilling way possible. Even if I were to guess what could happen, it wouldn’t come close to the imagination of what Johnson has in store next.
Blade Runner 2039 #7 is out now from Titan Comics.