Cyberpunk 2077: Blackout is another of Dark Horse Comics’ adaptations of CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 universe (well, technically, Mike Pondsmith’s Cyberpunk universe). I had mixed feelings on the comics with Trauma Team and Your Voice not really doing it for me but really enjoying You Have My Word and Big City Dreams. This is the best of the comics by far, in my opinion, and I really enjoyed You Have My Word.
The premise of the setting is that the United States has fallen but there are many city states with advanced technology but tremendous divides between the rich and poor. The chief of these is Night City and it is a hellhole of crime as well as violence. It is also a place of tremendous opportunity, at least for criminals, and the tabletop RPG (as well as video game) is all about achieving that Big Score that will make your dreams come true.
In Blackout, Arturo is a braindance editor that repairs equipment for people to live out their virtual fantasies as an escape from the harshness of the quote-unquote “real world.” Arturo lives with an Edgerunner named AI-Beta, who has been driven out of the business for reasons unknown but are implied to be an untrustworthy nature regarding money. Arturo has an alcoholic police officer named Dinesh living at the foot of his stairs and bosses who do not appreciate him.
Arturo dreams of using braindances to help people and cure them of their vices. However, this is something his company has no interest in pursuing. Addiction to braindances is part of their business model after all, as is keeping people buying things to distract them from their crushing problems. After Arturo tries to help a prisoner from suffering horrific torture in prison by reliving his execution over and over, he’s fired from his job. Which leads him to decide that he needs to pursue his dream by any means necessary: robbing a bank.
If this sounds like a lot more character development than is typical with these comics then you are correct. This has a lot more “character” than the majority and I absolutely love the oddball cast of characters. There’s a lighter, more “fun” tone to the story despite dealing with a lot of very dark themes. It helps that Arturo is also one of the very few “good” characters in Night City even if he’s still a criminal trying to rob a bank.
One of the problems with the Cyberpunk 2077 spin offs is the fact they tend to be overly depressing. While I understand bittersweet or outright downer endings are common with the film noir influences, it should be noted that things like Blade Runner and Neuromancer usually had some small level of hope for our protagonists. That’s not even bringing up works like Hardwired or Ghost in the Shell that usually have our heroes triumph. Here, the ending is significantly more upbeat, and I feel it says something about how bad the other ones were given it still has some darkness.
The art is pretty good and the storytelling pretty darn engaging. As such, I would definitely recommend Cyberpunk 2077: Blackout and You Have My Word as the best of the Cyberpunk 2077 comics. I don’t dislike any of them, but I feel if you’re going to visit Night City, these are the two you would enjoy most for a visit.