BOOK REVIEW – Blade Runner 2019: Volume 1 by Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Andres Guinaldo (Graphic Novel)

By Marty Mulrooney

Blade Runner 2019: Volume 1

Blade Runner 2019 is the first official comic book series set in the rain soaked, neo-noir world of Blade Runner. Volume 1 collects issues #1-4 and introduces detective Aahna Ashina, a veteran Blade Runner in the retro-futuristic Los Angeles of 2019, whose latest case might end up being her last…

Written by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049, Logan) in collaboration with his longtime co-writer Mike Johnson (Batman/Superman, Star Trek) and illustrated by Andres Guinaldo (Captain America, Justice League Dark), Blade Runner 2019 doesn’t just try to emulate the films that inspired it; from the very first panel, it feels like an effortless, organic extension of the pre-established cinematic universe.

Detective Aahna Ashina of the Los Angeles Police Department – Ash to her colleagues, ‘the butcher’ to the replicants she hunts – was one of the first to qualify for the Blade Runner assignment. As the first issue begins, she sits in front of a tranquillised replicant called Benny who has killed five people. Pricing up his organs – lungs, kidneys, heart – she gives him a choice: she can deliver him ‘as is’, or he can use the blade in his hand. She wants to see if they gave him the gall. It turns out they did.

It’s a dark opening that immediately lets the reader know that Ash – even more so than Rick Deckard in the original Blade Runner – doesn’t view replicants as real people. Not long after Benny’s demise, a colleague let’s Ash know about a ‘request from on high’ for her to meet with Alexander Selywn, billionaire employee of the Canaan Corporation. His wife and daughter are missing and he wants Ash to track them down.

What follows is a highly dangerous assignment that will push Ash to her absolute limit. The Tyrell Corporation is involved – of course – but despite the story being somewhat predictable at times, it’s told with enough enthusiasm and style to get away with it. The hardboiled dialogue is zippy and memorable, while the beautiful artwork by Andres Guinaldo is grimy and textured; it all comes together to successfully channel the enduring, unforgettable mise-en-scène of the original film.

The main attraction here is Ash; she’s a different kind of Blade Runner than fans of the films will be used to. Beyond the authority afforded her by a badge and gun, it feels like she truly belongs to the dark and dangerous streets where she hunts, rather than flying high above them in her Spinner. She’s street-smart and plenty tough, but beneath the bravado there’s a secret that could end it all in an instant.

Despite issues #1-4 being bundled into a single volume, the story being told here is far from complete. Whether this series will be remembered in years to come – or forgotten, like tears in rain – will very much depend on what happens next. However, these initial issues have proved that Blade Runner in comic book form not only makes sense; it offers an exciting opportunity for new stories to be told within the universe that don’t rely on multi-million dollar budgets.

Blade Runner 2019: Volume 1 is a must-read for fans of the films. The artwork is gorgeous, the writing is strong and the story – while only just getting started – shows serious potential. Combining the first four issues of the series into a graphic novel has worked extremely well. Everyone involved in this project has done a man’s job sir, but they’re far from through. Only one thing is certain… wherever the next few issues take Ash – beyond Los Angeles, perhaps even to the off-world colonies – this reviewer will be going along for the ride.

9 OUT OF 10

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