Counterfeit Girl (Prog 2000 to 2009)
by Peter Milligan, Rufus Dayglo, and Dom Regan
Written by Peter Milligan, whose career spans decades working on comics, television, and movies, Counterfeit Girl tells a cyberpunk tale complete with evil corporations, apps as lawyers, cybernetic henchmen, and sentient diseases. Brought vividly and often garishly to life by artist Rufus Dayglo and colourist Dom Regan, the art is bold and stylish, matching the themes created by Milligan with often breath-taking detail.
The story is centred round a professional “ID thief” and self-proclaimed freedom fighter by the name of Libra Kelly, or Lulu Fun, or Sybil Mann, or maybe even Mary Hair. She is on the run and in order to survive and changes her identity frequently to avoid detection. This can involve trailing an individual to better establish their facial expressions, muscle memory, and even buttock ticks – as her father said to her, “you can tell a lot about a person from their buttocks” – which gets uploaded and digitally manipulated to change an individual’s ID. As a result, automated robots, doors, taxis, henchmen and banks will be fooled (depending on the quality of the ID).
Whilst the action doesn’t focus on elaborate gunplay, swords, sorcery or combat, Counterfeit Girl demonstrates a desperate will to survive and keep going, with a strong female protagonist that is refreshingly un-stereotypic for a female lead. In so many comics you find female characters with scantily clad or shapely outfit, but in this case, we have a character whose attention is always drawn to who she is, was, and will be, as well as the events that befall her. A monologue runs over the story that explains her history and her goals while you soak up the impressive character visuals and backdrops created by Dayglo and Reagan. It is a character story with a fast pace and dialogue that rarely stops for our character to take a breath. One minute she’s in her apartment, the next she’s evading goons by ducking into sewers infested with mutated rats, all depicted in grimy and ugly detail.
There are themes running in this story which feel dated, yet are still relevant to today. If you take 80s cyberpunk novels written by Williams Gibson or 90s novels written by Neal Stephenson, you will find these same themes; evil corporations and technology augmenting human lifestyles, often dictating them. You only need to read the news and look around you to suddenly realise that these are important to today – more and more exposure of malpractices in big companies are unearthed which often reach into politics. Technology is shaping our behavior with smartphones, watches, and tablets. We aren’t quite in the dystopian future that the above authors and Milligan have created respectively, but the undercurrent of themes are very much contemporary regardless of the somewhat dated feel.
It’s difficult to explain the plot without posing spoilers, so suffice to say you will follow our protagonist on a journey of survival, self-discovery, revenge and re-birth. The vehicle you’ll be travelling in is bright, beautiful, yet often dirty and repulsive. It is a crazy psycho-technological ride unlike many you’re likely to experience, while retaining a strong sense of humour throughout. There are ideas at play which present fantastic inspiration for some truly mad artwork and the lettering adapts to the style wonderfully by Ellie De Ville who does a great job drawing you into the scene and presenting different characters with their own ‘voice’.
The destination is worth the journey and leaves you feeling as though there is a lot more that can be done. So far, 2000AD has not confirmed future stories which would be a real shame if there aren’t. The story gets wrapped up nicely, but when you turn the last page and see the final spread you’ll likely be wanting a lot more.
The only downside to this is that it wasn’t long enough. Things moved fast and didn’t stop to give you sufficient insight into the world around you. That in itself is unfortunate because the world that is presented is fascinating to see and the character has a lot of potential for future stories.
Counterfeit Girl runs from 2000AD Prog 2000 to 2009, available in digital from www.2000adonline.com