Blade Runner: Black Lotus - Leaving L.A.

My review of Blade Runner: Black Lotus - Leaving L.A. was originally posted at Bloody Good Screen.

Released in 2021, Blade Runner: Black Lotus was an anime series co-produced by Crunchyroll and Adult Swim set in-between the two feature films. The story followed replicant Elle’s journey to discover her identity, and her story continues in this graphic novel from writer Nancy A. Collins. After being used as an unwitting assassin for Niander Wallace Jr’s machinations, the replicant escapes Los Angeles while trying to leave behind her violent past.

She arrives in a desert town where the main source of income is a fracking plant, ruled by the ill-tempered Boss Barnes. He’s introduced showing an interest in Elle’s spinner bike, declaring “everything is for sale” in a word balloon that’s practically dripping with entitlement. His attempts are upstaged by Miguel, the leader of a clean-living commune that offers refuge to anybody who can contribute.

Woven in are timely themes about how these rival leaders run towns with diametrically opposing resources, yet keep the peace due to a reliance on each other provisions. That is shattered when Barnes’ men launch a slaughter on the eco-city and kidnap Miguel’s family, thrusting Elle back into the violent life she tried leaving behind.

In the style of Mad Max or The Man With No Name, the story follows a stranger who utilises their violent past to aid whoever needs help. This regularly used narrative is effectively utilised here, although one wishes it stood out more in the franchise. From Elle being gifted another katana to a former Blade Runner appearing, the story relies on past formulas in ways that one wishes were lessened.

Standing in Elle’s way are the villainous forces who unfortunately feel underwritten due to how they’re handled. Despite being made up of interesting elements, they feel like a fusion of antagonistic cliches given life. They make up this new corner of the universe, brought alive rather well thanks to Enid Balam’s pencil work. There are some missteps, with some characters faces looking odd and battles appearing bizarrely staged, although these are not regular problems. A more regular issue is over-expository dialogue, such as how Elle reacts to the savage treatment of replicants.

While the anime series was an interesting addition to the Blade Runner series, it prioritised action sequences to themes of humanity which were vital to the films. This story may have an action focus, yet it doesn’t forget Elle’s desire to live life on her own terms, starting with her desire to fight against her programming without killing. It’s a worthy follow-up to the anime series, and is a good inclusion into this ever-expanding universe.