Whereas other big science fiction franchises have introduced less than stellar installments within their respective franchises (Alien, Star Wars), Blade Runner has remained an untarnished gold standard of the genre. From its humble beginnings as the Philip K. Dick novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, to the 1982 Ridley Scott feature film, to its subsequent sequel starring Ryan Gosling, the Blade Runner IP has been a stamp of quality sci-fi storytelling. Still, the question remains: will new Blade Runner EU, namely Titan Comics’ new Blade Runner: Origins Vol. 1, maintain the same high degree of quality control? Writers K. Perkins (Batwoman, Injustice 2), Mellow Brown (the Starz network adaptation of American Gods) and Mike Johnson (Star Trek, Blade Runner 2019) aim to answer this very question.
The year is 2009, two years after a bloody siege on the off-world colony of Kalanthia. Cal Moreaux, an LAPD detective concerned for the the personal wellbeing of his catatonic sister Nia, is assigned to investigate the alleged suicide of a Tyrell Corporation engineer, Dr. Lydia Kine, on company grounds. Both his superiors within the department as well as the nefariously attentive Tyrell employee, Ilora Stahl, appear to push Detective Moreaux toward a quick, quiet and extremely discretionary closing of the case. The investigation complicates, however, when Moreaux learns that the same night his victim was found hung, a new advancement in synthetic human, a prototype Nexus 5, had escaped the facility. As Moreaux must now pursue the nefarious Nexus, he is soon to become the franchise’s first Blade Runner.
Perkins, Brown, Johnson take on a bold and ambitious approach with regard to this particular story, combining trans identity in the LGBTQ sense with transhumanism (the theoretical notion that humans will one day merge with their technology). We soon learn that the brilliant Dr. Lydia Kine, now going by the name Asa, is not quite as dead (or dead named) as many may have previously believed. Rather, Asa has managed to achieve “transference” within the body of a male replicant (a replicant of Asa’s own design). Asa’s brother Marcus and lab assistant Effie Koropey also enter the fray as Detective Moreaux continues his ongoing search for answers.
As when one watches Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in the modern day, we have to imagine alt-reality, a historical science fiction if you will, where the space race of the 1960s never stopped and we were colonizing other planets by the early aughts. Such is the tact taken within the pages of Blade Runner: Origins. We the reader get to further explore the transitional 2009 L.A. world of Blade Runner. There are spinners, but many cars (including that of out protagonist) are still grounded. There are still some trees, however they’re encased in protective glass. We see a fight featuring Tyrell goons disguised in Predator like cloaking tech. We even get to see some of those nifty digital panels beginning to go up to presumably advertise Atari, Pan Am and several other now defunct companies shy of Coca-Cola. All this and more is lovingly splashed across each page courtesy of illustrator Fernando Dagnino (Suicide Squad, Captain Midnight) and colorist Marco Lesko (Rat Queens, Robotech).
It’s probably hard for some readers to grasp that replicants were being manufactured as early as 2009 when in reality all we had in 2009 was ASIMO the dancing Honda robot, however much akin to the aforementioned feature 2001 or the alt-2015 represented in Back to the Future 2, such would be the futures predicted four to five decades ago. It’s a 2009 L.A. that’s not too dissimilar to how the city is represented in the original film (set a decade later in the now past of 2019) and Perkins, Brown and Johnson stand firm in sticking to this fixed timeline, to the continuity of the feature films. While the plot features a couple narrative redundancies (not one but two overly protective brother characters concerned for their respective siblings), Blade Runner: Origins opens up the universe in a variety of welcoming ways. Much like attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion or C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate, Blade Runner: Origins features a variety of moments that ought not be lost, like tears in the rain.
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