11th Dec2020

‘Blade Runner 2029 #1’ Review (Titan Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Mike Johnson | Art by Andres Guinaldo | Published by Titan Comics

The ‘jump ahead in time’ storytelling technique is an oldie but goodie. By taking your already established characters and stories and then moving them forward you open up storyline possibilities moving both forwards and backwards. What’s the world like now? What’s happened to character X? Who died 2 years ago? It doubles the possibilities you have, a creative goldmine. DC did it quite recently with their ‘One Year Later’ slate of books, and it is an idea that works especially well in a medium where continuity is still very important. Writer Johnson trumps that here, with a whole ten year jump, but not just for creative reasons. These Blade Runner books plug the gap between the original Blade Runner film, set in 2019, and the sequel, set in 2049. Each defined multi issue arc it seems will take place in those ten year jumps. Which means, you never quite know what’s coming at you.

Luckily for us, the good creative folk on the book always provide an intro text piece to get us up to speed, something some other books could do. Most of it recaps what we already knew, that Replicants are officially banned on Earth, and that the Tyrell Corporation has collapsed. Without the Nexus database, which tracks them, Replicants have been able to sneak back and settle on Earth. Come 2027, Ash has rejoined the Blade Runner team to hunt down fugitive Replicants, which is a surprise to anyone who saw the conclusion to the last run. I suspect there may be more in play here than seems at first glance. Let’s re-visit our favourite dystopian Los Angeles, and find out just what is going on.

We start with a flashback to 2017, with a Replicant confrontation that didn’t go well for Ash. She was beaten by a Replicant, Youtun, who even though he had her at his mercy chose to let her live, before escaping. Back to 2029, and we see a more mature Ash in action. Yes, she’s a Blade Runner, but one juggling responsibilities. She still takes out ‘bad’ Replicants, keeping her LAPD bosses happy, but also helps ‘good’ Replicants disappear to start new lives. Her bosses don’t need to know about those ones, as they just assume gone means dead. Professionally, Ash has it all worked out. Personally, things are doing ok, too, as she is still with Freysa, though her ageing back brace is starting to fail. No back brace of course, she’s wheelchair bound. She’s also lied to her bosses that her back is fixed, so she’s having to hide the pain to maintain the lie she’s living. The more things change…

A new case has come up, suspected Replicant labour on a building project, and Ash has been assigned. As it’s building a massive wall in toxic rain, it’s amazing any of the builders are human. Ash checks out the site, and soon enough finds a Replicant. No detective work needed, he was working, in acidic rain, without a helmet. A quick chase ensues, with obligatory back pain from the failing brace, and the Replicant is boxed in. As Ash prepares for the fight, a strange thing happens. He mutters about redemption, and throws himself off the building, killing himself. He mentioned a name, one that sticks in Ash’s mind, and she spends all night trying to place it. She finally does, in the old cases archives. Yotun. The one who let her live, and the one who got away. Seems he’s back, and it seems helping Replicants just got a whole lot more complicated.

This was, as you would expect, like slipping on a reliable, comfortable jumper. Same creative team means the same authentic feel, the same cyberpunk/noir vibe, and, most importantly, the same Blade Runner world that exists in the movies. Johnson nicely sets up the new status quo, and sets the ball in motion for the new actors and situations. The degree of subtlety is always noticeable, no great storytelling sledgehammers here. Guinaldo’s art is as perfect for this book as always, I really couldn’t imagine this world any differently. I especially like all the background effort, how grim everything is, how dirty, and how these characters are defined by their environment. This only works with great visuals and the book has those for sure.

So, Ash is back in the game. On her terms. Or at least she was. I imagine the blocks of her life she has been steadily building back up, both personally and professionally, may be starting to wobble.

A lot.

**** 4/5


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