By Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Andres Guinaldo, Jim Campbell & Marco Lesko
Blade Runner is one of the most well-regarded science fiction movies ever made and Blade Runner 2049 was a more than worthy follow up to Ridley Scott’s epic. Returning to the rich dystopian world created in the first film and set in an alternate future, Blade Runner 2019 #1 is a brand new ongoing series that should flesh out the world even further and explore what was only hinted at in the films.
Michael Green and Mike Johnson share writing duties and introduce us to new protagonist Ash, full name – Aahna Ashina – who is one of the first Blade Runners. The book hits all the noir clichés in the first chapter and does a good job at plunging us back into a version of a world that audiences know yet at the same time aren’t familiar with. It’s set in the same year that the movie was set in and gives a room for a crossover if Green and Johnson are feeling ambitious, but by focusing on Ash first and foremost the pair do a good job at selling the audience on her character and testing her to see what works and what doesn’t, feeling right at home with a cinematic appeal that is more comparable to Blade Runner 2049 than the first film, as we are shown the chaotic urban decadence of Los Angeles that gives the book its unique atmosphere.
Ash is viewed as the best of the best and it doesn’t take long for the audience to find out why, Green and Johnson do a good job at showing rather than telling us her skills and what makes her so capable, and it’s entirely believable that she’s one of the first police officers chosen to become a Blade Runner. Ash having a darker side to her than one would initially expect makes a welcome change. There’s enough there for her to stand out from K and Deckard as previous characters in the universe, and even in the early stages of this series Ash makes a pretty compelling justification for readers to want to spend more in her world, bringing extra ambiguity to the table that feels like a perfect fit for this universe given its complex, multi-layered characters that it’s thrown at us in the past.
The atmosphere and near-perfect tone of Blade Runner 2019 #1 is provided in no small part due to the pencils of Andres Guinaldo and the colours of Marco Lesko who both help keep the familiar unfamiliar. The sci-fi elements of the book feel real and alive, and the flying cars that are a staple of the universe will never not be cool, the confrontation scenes given all the more agency thanks to Jim Campbell’s lettering. The noir/cyberpunk setting feels spot on and it’s always a pleasure to return to this universe no matter the format. Both Green and Johnson know what they’re doing and create a good starting point for the series to build off, showing clear knowledge and care of the source material. If anything the fact that it’s a starting point only means that it gets cut off as things are starting to become more interesting than they already were, creating the prospect of an agonising wait for issue number two.