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Was Deckard a replicant? Does a Marvel comic hold the answer? – Marvel Super Special #22, “Blade Runner”

March 30, 2013


Saying Blade Runner was a visionary take on the future (or some similar verbiage) has become so cliché, even calling it out as cliché is cliché. But, as with all clichés, there’s some truth in its origin. Blade Runner set the benchmark for futurey cinematic cityscapes upon release in 1982, and its moving megalopolis tapestries were so definitive, all that have followed, from The Fifth Element to Coruscant, are just trailing in their wake. Along with Alien, they cemented director Ridley Scott’s reputation to such a degree, he can fling out undercooked tripe like Prometheus and still retain his auteur luster. Blade Runner is one half of Scott’s two-prong Hollywood Teflon, a protective treatment that has mediocrity slide right off.

The film itself has a degree of resilience, having survived an ambivalent critical reception during its initial release and the muddle of the various editions that have been marketed over the years. Scott’s 1992 director’s cut excised Harrison Ford’s soporific, studio-mandated narration and the road trip footage from The Shining, but apparently wasn’t quite the cut it was — HAHA — cut out to be, since in 2007 there was a “Final Cut” where Scott had full control. Only time will tell whether there will be any more versions, whether this supposedly ultimate edition will fall by the wayside — much like many of the once-dominant companies whose advertising litters the incandescent billboards of the film’s 2019 Los Angeles.

I first experienced Blade Runner as the middle director’s cut, which, through the inclusion of one little Unicorn dream, suggested that Deckard, the eponymous android-hunter, was himself a replicant. This was a surprise to Ford, Deckard himself, who stated numerous times in interviews that such interpretations were hogwash. But the dream was there, and so was Scott’s insistence that yes, Deckard, who ran off with replicant Sean Young at movie’s end, was just like the nigh-human machines he hunted down. Did this add to the cerebral drama? Detract? I don’t know. I never really thought that it was all that clear he was a replicant, and to me it always sounded like Sir Ridley was trying to retrofit something that the story just couldn’t hold. (Kind of like how post-Prometheus interviews have suggested that the event which made the Engineers want to kill humans on sight was that we crucified Jesus, who was himself an Engineer. WHAT?)

There’s still he is/he isn’t debate surrounding Deckard, and no, the Marvel Super Special offers no indications one way or the other. There are no CASE CLOSED clues to be found in its pages. (Speaking of pages, this Super Special is, like Rock & Rule, comic-sized, and not the usual magazine dimensions.) Adapted by Archie Goodwin, with pencils by Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon, and inks by Al Williamson, it’s a bit too heavy on the dark noir of the film’s dystopian palette. The heavy shadows render the colors flat and uninvolving, and the presence of Deckard’s narration makes reading simple scenes like this extraordinarily claustrophobic:


It’s all the rainy nighttime scenes, and none of the brilliant, lingering sunsets that would make you hear the Vangelis score even if you’re watching a DVD with the TV on mute. You get the feeling that the art would look a whole lot better in simple black and white, even though iconic establishing shots like the next one are replicated (no pun intended) rather well:


The Asian babe on the Jumbotron may be the most memorable character in the entire film.

For whatever it’s worth, the art is very much suited to Edward James Olmos’ Gaff, the creepy LAPD apparatchik who hovers around the story as a origami-loving ghoul. That rough face of his translates well. And one of the few human/replicant scenes that matches the success of the cityscapes comes at the end, as Rutger Hauer’s super-soldier android calmly laments, then meets, his doom:


The back of the book has the usual cast bios and production photos, but a nice addition is a behind-the-scenes on the making of the comic itself. It’s interesting not so much for the inside dope on the bullpen staff, but for the nice shot of Archie Goodwin’s workspace, which looks a whole hell of a lot like the home office:


Blade Runner: good movie, okay comic book. This concludes 2013’s Marvel Super Special March. Will it return next year? Are there more Super Specials to be examined? The answer to the latter is yes, so it’s ditto for the former. THE HUMAN ADVENTURE CONTINUES…


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