Review by Jamie McNeil
At the close of Vol. 1 Blade Runner (a cop who tracks down renegade replicants) Aahna “Ash” Ashina rescued Cleo Selwyn, daughter of Agribusiness tycoon Alexander Selwyn, from a plot to trade her to the Tyrell Corporation for genetic experimentation. Seven years later they are eking out an existence on the mining colonies, hiding from people still hunting them. When rogue synths attack the mining colonies and Cleo is taken, both have to do what it takes to survive. For Cleo it’s using all her accumulated street smarts, for Ash it’s returning to the life she left behind in order to rescue Cleo.
From page one Off-World looks set to be a thriller. Series artist Andres Guinaldo has developed considerably with the previous little flaws in his work gone and the character Ash engaging. Panel transitions are silky smooth, full of vivid detail from the crowded markets to an intricate medical procedure. Marko Lesko’s colours accentuate the wonder of space and the cramped slum conditions the Synth miners live in. Flashbacks to Ash’s past are illustrated to resemble a hazy memory that separates it from the present, yet gives it a feel of authenticity. Artistically Off-World is excellent!
Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson tell their tale with a time-lapse between Cleo’s and Ash’s stories, a device that works well for building tension. They expand on facets introduced in the films, something Green, as Blade Runner 2049’s screenwriter, is well placed to do. Simple things like explaining why replicants are more prolific in the off-world colonies and what motivates rogue militaristic factions add to series’ texture. Their cast is also well developed, especially young Cleo, but towards the end of the book they make decisions for the sake of progressing the plot that threaten to undermine that development. It is a decision that will appeal differently to each reader, with some finding it works well, while others might find it unsatisfactory. If Off-World were a film the execution of those latter ideas would likely go unnoticed but in a graphic novel they stand out.
That is a minor irritation. Blade Runner 2019: Off-World is a thrilling story, marvellously illustrated and accessible to both fans of the franchise and the average reader. As a series it is always improving in every way. With Titan Comics already giving the green light to the same creative team to work on a new series in 2021 tentatively titled Blade Runner 2029, it’s not presumptuous to expect more of the same magic.