"Blade Runner 2019 Vol. 1" spins out of control in neo-noir thriller

Writer: Michael Green & Mike Johnson, Art: Andres Guinaldo, Color: Marco Lesko, Lettering: Jim Campbell.

"Blade Runner 2019" cover art by Andres Guinaldo

On July 12, 2019, Titan Comics presented the world with a video trailer for Blade Runner 2019 #1 on its YouTube channel. This was a lead up to a new comic series set in the world of the Blade Runner movies, from Oscar nominated screenwriters Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049) and Mike Johnson (Star Trek), and artist Andres Guinaldo (Captain America, Justice League Dark). Issue #1 debuted on July 17, 2019 and since then 3 additional comics have been released through to October 9th, when the climactic end of the first volume went up for sale. Titan Comics have now combined the first 4 books into Blade Runner 2019 Vol. 1 - Welcome to Los Angeles which goes on sale tomorrow, Nov. 20. Side Note: There is a nice dedication to Blade Runner actor Rutger Hauer at the beginning.

Blade Runner 2019 sets the gritty, rainy, neon world director Ridley Scott created in the original Blade Runner. Detective Aahna Ashina, a.k.a. Ash, is a Blade Runner too good at her job, to the point where there is no other replicant case for her to take after she captures rogue replicant Benny. Ash meets with her only friend on the force, Captain Wojciech, who tells her there is a missing person case she has been exclusively handpicked to take, but the detective dismisses it. Ash is a mystery to her fellow police officers at the LAPD. She refuses to have a partner, drives her spinner on the ground rather than flying it, and never takes off her long camel colored trenchcoat. She also has the replicants she captures butchered for their parts as a secondary means of profit. Wojciech knows of Ash's secrets and has covered for her many a time, but she won't let Ash say no to this new case.

Canaan Corporation's Alexander Selwyn needs Ash to find his missing wife, Isobel, and 4 year old daughter, Cleo. Ash has no choice in the matter and heads off to meet Selwyn in Santa Barbara where the wealthy have created sea-locked estates. After their meeting, Ash doubts he had a hand in his wife and child's disappearance. She heads out on the search, which brings her to her people: the Urchin-born, prostitutes, grungy barbacks, and poor. She is one of them, always will be. It isn't long before Ash's people provide enough hot tips for her to make a big break in the case. She can't stick around to to see it through, though. Ash is suddenly in great pain and makes the call to Wojciech. Hopefully she can get home before she passes out.

"Blade Runner 2019" interior art by Andres Guinaldo

Green & Johnson have crafted a true Blade Runner neo-noir story here. The volume as a whole reads much more seamlessly and fluidly than the individual comics run. You really are drawn into the story and feel like you're Detective Ash. Her pain, instincts, uncertainty of others, and her at times sadistic methods, you truly feel and understand it all. Green & Johnson intentionally wanted Ash to be a woman of Indian descent in her late 20s, who has led an extremely difficult life since she was a little girl. This adds a really distinct difference to the Blade Runner history where there were white male protagonists in the ones we have come to know. Ash is a different kind of Blade Runner, which works out perfectly for this mystery. Additionally, I could audibly imagine the Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch score while reading this book which, honestly, is amazing and definitely adds another emotional layer.

Artist Andres Guinaldo and colorist Marco Lesko work hand in hand in creating a new version of Los Angeles in 2019. It is much more similar to the one Denis Villeneuve had designed for 2049, from the tightly cluttered neighborhoods of the city to the vast desolate fields speckled by factories. Guinaldo's stylistic artwork works so well with Green & Johnson's story, I couldn't imagine this drawn in another way. There is a natural harshness to the environment and people that is only emphasized by Lesko's coloring. Even the various light sources in the panels feel like they're genuinely shining. Jim Campbell's lettering also works well here. He makes a nicely subtle distinction between Ash's narration and the characters' dialogue.

I'm looking forward to the next issue release, but will certainly pickup Volume 2 as I believe the story works best as a whole.

Blade Runner 2019 Vol.1 - Welcome to Los Angeles is published by Titan Comics and is on sale November 20, 2019.

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