Blade Runner 2019 Vol. 1 Los Angeles is the first volume of the successful award-winning series by Titan Publishing. It is by Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and illustrated by Andres Guinaldo. As a long-time fan of cyberpunk in general and Blade Runner specifically, I really should have bought this when it first came out in November, 2019 but I think we can all understand how the end of that year lead to a year that was “lost” soon after. I’m glad to have picked it up, though, because I am absolutely blown away by the work here.
The premise is the same as in the movies: Earth is devastated by pollution and the majority of the human race has fled to the offworld colonies. All that are left are the destitute, sickly, and unwanted by society. Replacing the labor of the working class in the future are Replicants: extremely human-like slaves who are illegal on Earth. Hunting down these superhuman specimens are specialized police officers called Blade Runners.
Aahna ‘Ash’ Ashina is the best Blade Runner who ever lived, with the possible exception of Rick Deckard, and thoroughly hates Replicants. She even runs a side business of selling their remains to collectors who think of robot parts as interesting conversation pieces. Unfortunately, her side job gets her in trouble and to get out of it, she has to do a favor for a billionaire named Alexander Selwyn. Selwyn’s daughter, Cleo, has been kidnapped and he wants the world’s best tracker to find her.
The book has a lot of similarities to Chinatown with plenty of double-crosses, twists, turns, and conspiracy going on. Alexandrer Selwyn is creepy enough that you know he wants no good for his daughter and soon we have groups like the Tyrell Corporation involved. What is going on and how is it related to the Replicant Underground? I was genuinely surprised they didn’t go with the fact the daughter was a Replicant or hybrid, which shows the writers were smart enough to avoid the obvious path.
Ash is a fascinating and well-designed character that I quickly took a shine to both because and in spite of the fact she’s an objectively terrible person with grossly bigoted views (towards intelligent machines at least). Ash is a corrupt cop and has a lot of issues but, like many noir protagonists, draws the line at involving children. Seeing her deal with the people sacrificing their lives for Replicants and how the Replicants, themselves, are people is an interesting journey that doesn’t go in a straight line.
In conclusion, this is an absolutely great comic and one of the rare ones worthy of the title graphic novel. The story continues in subsequent installments but actually has a beginning, middle, and end that works well.