Writers: Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Artist: Andres Guinaldo
Colorist: Marco Lesko
Letters: Jim Campbell
Cover Art: Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Editor: David Leach
Publisher: Titan Comics/Alcon Publishing
Break out your origami unicorns. The Blade Runner universe returns in Blade Runner 2019 #1.
The franchise, kicked off by Ridley Scott’s original film in 1982, has rarely ventured off-screen. Outside the films, we have a few poorly-received novels (which Blade Runner 2049 retconned) and a handful of internet shorts. While concurrent sci-fi properties like Terminator and Scott’s own Alien yielded rich mythologies, Blade Runner remained film-bound.
But both Blade Runner films stand as exemplars of sci-fi cinema. Together, they form an ongoing dialogue on human nature and the influence of technology. If the forgotten novels prove anything, it’s that mere techno-noir pulp can’t carry this legacy.
So does Blade Runner 2019 rise to the challenge?
Right up top, the comic avoids the most notable flaw of the novels. Where the novels buried themselves in returning characters, the comic places an entirely new cast on the iconic neon streets.
The opening text—reproduced in the classic white-and-red scrawl of the films—introduces our new protagonist. Like Harrison Ford’s Deckard, Aahna Ashina (or “Ash” for short) plays the classic noir lead. She’s a loner. She doesn’t play by the book. She often falls more on the “anti” side of “anti-hero.”
But unlike Deckard, she doesn’t stand aloof from the world around her. The fantastical futuristic denizens of Los Angeles aren’t simply her backdrop—they’re her people. Where Deckard surveys the streets from above, Ash prefers a boots-on-the-ground approach. And she has secrets—some of which we learn by the end of this issue.
The plot follows the expected opening-chapter beats of noir mystery. It’s a tad predictable but with enough twists to keep things interesting. Writers Michael Green (who co-wrote Blade Runner 2049) and Mike Johnson open several fascinating doors; the story sets itself up to comment on Big Food, healthcare, and society’s treatment of the disabled. Whether the story will commit and walk through any of these doors has yet to be seen.
The Blade Runner films leave much to the imagination. We’re told of off-world colonies, and yet we never leave Los Angeles. Thus the films capture our imagination. Blade Runner 2019 gently pushes this boundary—even if only so far as Santa Barbara, where for the first time we glimpse the wealthy communities of this world.
As a rule, The issue errs on the side of restraint, at the danger of lacking freshness. But little moments, like the trip to Santa Barbara and a few other surprises, keep the story from stagnation. All in all, I would trust this creative team to push the boundaries even further.
As for art, Andres Guinaldo’s pencils evoke the film’s angles and lighting with a hectic grit. The art carries the story with confidence and brings a good load of nostalgia along with it. And yet, it’s hard not to feel a missed opportunity. It’s hard not to imagine this story rendered with bright neon colors in a more impressionistic, more cyberpunk style. I find myself wishing for art that grabs the spirit of Blade Runner, not merely an accurate rendering of the film’s aesthetic. But this is a small complaint. What the art strives to do, it achieves.
Here’s my biggest question after this first issue: Will Blade Runner 2019 meaningfully continue the dialogue of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049? Or will it simply reproduce the Blade Runner vibe on the page—a sort of paper-and-staples replicant?
Either way, I’m along for the ride.
Blade Runner 2019 #1
Classic Blade Runner vibes9.0/10
Freshness of story7.5/10
- Takes you right back to the Blade Runner nostalgia
- Intriguing new protagonist
- Just look at that cover
- Some more insight on the Blade Runner universe
- Somewhat predictable plot
- A little too aesthetically safe
- Not enough origami