Titan’s New Entry Into the Blade Runner Universe Is Gritty, Compelling, and Worthy of Its Name
by Patrick Greene, with input from Jaime Prater and Dan Ferlito
If you’ve seen Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner—you have, right?—you’ve undoubtedly been struck by the density of the world-building. The story focuses on a relatively small cast of characters, but the Los Angeles they inhabit is a phantasmagoric dystopia that seems at once incomprehensibly large and impossibly crowded.
Watching the film, you might’ve found yourself wondering: What’s happening just out of frame? What other stories are taking place behind those grimy windows, backlit by neon and underscored by an ocean of Cityspeak?
Lucky for you—and for us—David Leach, Senior Creative Editor at Titan Comics, wondered the same thing. And that’s where the vision behind Blade Runner 2019 emerged.
AS NOIR AS IT GETS
We’re quickly introduced to our protagonist, Aahna Ashina (“Ash”), an LAPD Blade Runner so good at her job she’s running out of work. While she waits for her next bounty assignment, she’s tasked with a missing persons case: a billionaire’s wife and daughter have vanished, and there are concerns Replicants might be involved.
Ash is a compelling character from the get-go. Almost preternaturally good at her job, she’s more of a Sherlock Holmes than a Rick Deckard. She’s full of quirks: she never takes her coat off, and her spinner almost never leaves the ground.
She also, we find out early on in a particularly gruesome (and thematically poetic) scene, has no moral reservations retiring Replicants.
One of the eternal debates in Blade Runner fandom centers around the use of voiceover in the early cuts of the film. Whether you love it or hate it (there might not be a middle ground on this), the voiceover adds significantly to the noir feel of the theatrical release. Blade Runner 2019 brings the voiceover back in a big way, and it works. It’s sparing, it’s beautiful, and it makes the comic feel like a classic noir tale.
MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN
From the very start, it’s clear that this is a comic created by people with tremendous reverence for the source material. The attention to detail, the tone, the Easter eggs—it’s all organically brought together in a way that feels made by fans. Fans who happen to be extremely talented.
Michael Green needs no introduction (he’s the Academy Award-nominated cowriter of Blade Runner 2049), but it’s worth pointing out what a masterful turn it was having him onboard for this story. There’s a real tonal continuity to the films. It’s more aesthetically aligned to the first Blade Runner film, but the language feels like a bridge between the two.
His writing partner, Mike Johnson, brings a wealth of comic-industry experience to the project (interesting factoid: he’s scripted more Star Trek comics than any other writer). I can’t emphasize how important this is: comics are a unique medium, and some of the best novelists and screenwriters have tried and failed to cross over in the past. Johnson and Green make a hell of a team.
Speaking of people who understand comics: Andres Guinaldo is a PERFECT fit for the artwork. He’s got a very analog, almost nineties style; hand-drawn (or at least looking like it), with tremendous detail and dynamic, confident inks. Paired with Marco Lesko’s vibrant colors, it feels beautifully uncommercial. It feels labored over. It feels loved. It feels very human, which is part of why we love Blade Runner in the first place.
It’s almost impossible to overstate how important these comics are for our fandom. They are canon sequels, just as 2049 is a canon sequel to Blade Runner. They’re co-written by the man who, with Hampton Fancher, gave us one of the great sequels of our time. They’re produced in direct collaboration with Alcon. They feature art (variant covers and design inspiration) by Syd Mead.
These are real, and they are permanent additions to our fandom. And if the rest of them are anything like issue one, we are very, very lucky.
Shoulder of Orion rating: 4.5/5