With the expectation-exploding success of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, the world of this legendary film has been opened up for further exploration in spin-off media. Titan Comics have jumped on this opportunity, and twelve-part series Blade Runner 2019 is their first of many promised forays into the dystopian universe.
Set in the same year as the original movie, 2019 follows Aahna Ashina – Ash for short – one of the LAPD’s best Blade Runners (that’s a replicant hunter for those who need the reminder). In this first issue, she’s given a case outside her usual territory; the billionaire owner of a mega-corporation tasks Ash to find his missing wife and daughter.
Titan have done well with their choice of writers, as Michael Green was one of the screenwriters of 2049; together with co-writer Mike Johnson, he’s also worked on Superman and Batman titles. It’s clear the pair know the world they’re working in here, as the Raymond Chandler-esque first instalment is a blend of hardboiled noir and grungy sci-fi that means 2019 instantly feels at home in the Blade Runner canon. It’s an engaging tale, with much mystery set up and a thrilling cliffhanger that’ll leave you eagerly awaiting the next issue.
Ash herself is an intriguing new character who embodies this style – very much the Bogart-style detective, she’s more at home among her informants in the bars and slums than in the office she avoids, and her introductory scene shows her self-serving, brutal side, but as the issue continues, we gets hints at a backstory that could only have taken place in the world of Blade Runner. She could well go on to be a lead as layered and fascinating as Deckard or K.
Andres Guinaldo’s moody art does a great job of capturing the dystopian Los Angeles; you can easily get lost in the detail of the street scenes. Marco Lesko’s colours are a big part of this, perfectly translating the rain-soaked, neon-lit aesthetic of the original film onto paper. The world is expanded upon when Ash visits the Santa Barbara mansion of her rich client, which Guinaldo and Lesko bring to life effectively – it’s a very different setting but one embedded into the same world by the same soft edge of despair. Lovely stuff.
This first issue has a number of variant covers; Guinaldo’s own reflects the look of the original Blade Runner movie poster, while Artgerm’s and John Royle’s focus on the character of Ash, but perhaps the standout is from Syd Mead, the concept artist who first designed this world; his colourful cityscape, in the style of that original art, is a thing of beauty.