Blade Runner, based on the Philip K Dick short story ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep‘ is one of the greatest science fiction films from director Ridley Scott; it’s a perfect moment of wonder, dystopian dreams, grand ideas, spectacularly realised on the screen.
Now, with Blade Runner 2019, we have a new Blade Runner tale, a comic version that’s set in the now, with one of the first Blade Runners as its star. Thing is, with such a stellar setup, the comic needed to be far more than it ends up being. Oh, it should have been so much more…
(Cover by Stanley ‘Artgerm’ Lau)
First of all, just in case you really don’t know anything about the whole Blade Runner mythos, it started as a story by Philip K. Dick, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’.
Ridley Scott took that short story and created a visually spectacular science-fiction movie of a future where androids, Replicants, were real, superior to us in every possible way, and almost imperceptibly the same as humans. As such, they were seen as a threat and exiled to anywhere but Earth.
To police this Earth for humans police a specially trained group of cops, the Blade Runners, were put in place to detect any Replicants who risked coming to Earth.
In the movie (and you really should watch the movie, directed by Ridley Scott, one of my favourites), you get a tale of true vision and wonder, something thoughtful, contemplative, epic in scale, truly spectacular.
Oh yes, there’s that sense of spectacular all the way through Blade Runner the movie. And it’s something that was always deeply rooted in visual imagination of comics, with Moebius being a singular influence (in fact, he was offered the role of concept artist and turned it down, something that, reportedly, he always regretted).
Everything came together on Blade Runner to create something that always looked like a perfect vision of our future, realised so perfectly, the dreams of a future we would imagine and the future we might dread, mixing and flowing together to craft something we might not want to happen but can definitely imagine would be our future.
All of which leads us here, to Blade Runner 2019, a prequel comic, featuring one of the earliest Blade Runners. If you want a summary of the plot, I’ll simply give you the PR from Titan Comics…
Early in the 21st Century, the Tyrell Corporation advanced robot evolution to the Nexus phase – creating artificial beings virtually identical to humans – known as Replicants. Superior in strength and agility, the Replicants functioned primarily as Off-world slave labor or in hazardous, high-collateral combat situations. After Replicants were declared illegal on Earth, special police operatives – called Blade Runners – had orders to kill or ‘RETIRE’ any trespassers upon detection. Detective Aahna Ashina of the Los Angeles Police Department was one of the first to qualify for the assignment. Her colleagues called her Ash. She was the best of them.
So… we’re in pre-Blade Runner territory, the present day, albeit one that doesn’t look much like the present day you or I can see outside our windows.
In many ways, the story here is almost immaterial, as the experience of Blade Runner, for the majority of those coming to it with an awareness of the concept, is all about the movie, all about the visuals.
The fact that the story here, by Michael Green and Mike Johnson, is a really good, thing, a detective tale set to sci-fi, just as it should be, moody voiceover captions setting the scene, providing all the exposition needed. A tale of that first Blade Runner investigating the things she needs to be investigating.
No, the issue here is with those visuals. And heaven knows, this is a comic that any artist should have thought long and hard about taking on. That Andres Guinaldo’s art doesn’t deliver what it needed to is hardly a criticism on the artist himself. In fact, what he does is good, with a nice style, nice flow, good storytelling all the way through. But, without any insult intended, this is a tale that would sit well inside any issue of 2000 AD and would still be eclipsed by the better artists and visual storytellers there.
To be honest, there’s practically no-one I can imagine creating a Blade Runner comic that lives up to the visual invention of the movie apart from Moebius himself.
I’ve always maintained that comics are the premier visual medium, bar none. I always thought that the comic medium was one of pure imagination, multi-million, even multi-billion dollar special effects delivered in the imagination of the greatest artists. Movies couldn’t hold a torch to the imagination that comics could provide. Comics could do everything movies could do and then take it to the next level of imagination, delivering effects and visuals that the greatest special effects departments in the world could merely dream of creating.
However, Blade Runner 2019 might be the exception that proves the rule. Frankly, if you’re going to do a Blade Runner comic you need to produce something that screams visual invention. And that’s where Blade Runner 2019 really falls down.
Blade Runner 2019 simply isn’t enough of a visual spectacle. It should be a thing of neon-drenched visuals, dirty streets awash with rain while the promise of a brighter tomorrow that is as unobtainable as a lotto win. Instead, we get something that simply doesn’t deliver everything we imagine it should.
This is not to say that Guinaldo’s art isn’t good, but it simply doesn’t work for what it needed to be, the expectation the name of the comic creates in your head simply makes this a comic that just doesn’t live up to the images you already had in your head.
It should have been so much better.
But it possibly could never have been as good as you imagined it should be.
Blade Runner 2019 Issue #1 – written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson, art by Andres Guinaldo, colors by Marco Lesko, letters by Jim Campbell.
Now, just because they look so lovely… the variant covers… starting off with Syd Mead, “visual futurist” on Blade Runner…