First comic book issue of ‘Blade Runner 2019’ is a story that’s good enough so far despite its flaws
By Jonathan Pabico, Senior Columnist
Fans of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 will probably know Michael Green for writing the film’s screenplay that was nominated for and won many awards. Now, Green teams up with fellow writer Mike Johnson and artist Andres Guinaldo for the 12-issue comic book spin-off Blade Runner 2019. The first installment of this collection provides a refreshing take for followers of dystopian fiction with its new lead and simple premise. The story follows LAPD detective Ash as she begins her journey to solve a missing persons case.
What really makes this comic an easy read is that it’s completely accessible for everyone. Readers don’t need to be familiar with the Blade Runner films to remain engaged with the story. The graphic novel sets up the stakes with straightforward storytelling to satisfy hardcore fans of the movies and more casual sci-fi enthusiasts.
The first issue portrays Ash as a stoic Blade Runner often appearing alone in close-ups or positioned on one side of her panels to evoke how lonely the life of a detective can really be. This simple approach—combined with her pessimistic narrations, murky locations, and subdued colour palette—convey Ash’s moral apathy with her city’s rapid descent into crime.
We also see a different side to Ash as she shows slight hints of sympathy towards her case that’s emotionally antithetical to her more violent run-ins with criminals. This plot choice humanizes Ash and emphasizes how important it is to be understanding towards people’s circumstances. As a result, she starts becoming more self-aware of who she can be for others beyond just being a ruthless agent.
The comic also comprises mostly of small or narrow panels mixed with very few large sections that make the simple dialogue transfixing enough for good pacing and tone. This aesthetic allows Ash’s perspective to be foregrounded rather than rely on enormous imagery to carry her story.
However, character dynamics are not that strong, since the plot abruptly shifts from one encounter to the other. The first issue could have explored a little bit of Ash’s past to set her arc better—even though readers will most likely learn more about that history in subsequent issues. The comic instead creates an imbalance between the beginning of her investigation with a subplot.
Thematically, Blade Runner devotees won’t find significant surprises with the series so far. The comic barely breaks any ground with the philosophical subjects of the films about existentialism, consumerism, and artificial intelligence.
Overall though, the first issue of Blade Runner 2019 is a decent start to what will most likely be a compelling collection. Despite some storytelling problems, the comic will satisfy readers seeking to be immersed once again in a bleak future first envisioned by Ridley Scott’s 1982 movie. The series is scheduled to finish by November 2020. Issues may be found on Hoopla Digital, a free public library streaming service.