Bursting forth from the pages of 2000AD comes Counterfeit Girl, a hyper-coloured explosion of cyberpunk anarchy from veteran writer Peter Milligan and artist Rufus Dayglo . But is this new heroine the real deal, or just a faker?
Publisher: Rebellion / 2000 AD
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Rufus Dayglo, Dom Regan
Price: £9.99 from Amazon
As you would expect from a dystopian tale in 2000AD, Counterfeit Girl is based in a sprawling mega city in the near future, where giant corporations rule the world and thieves steal people’s identity for nefarious reasons. Step forward Libra Kelly (Or is it Lulu Fun, or Sybil Mann?) a ‘simmer’ or backstreet identify thief who steals the identity of others but also tries to fight the good fight against the all powerful Albion corporation. But when she gets one ID too many her world begins to unravel and she is infected by a sentient virus who is going to kill her if he doesn’t comply. With a target on her head and her life in the balance she begins to ask the ultimate question – just who am I?!.
As you would expect from 2000 AD veterans Milligan and Dayglo, Counterfeit Girl is set in a gloriously realised, anarchic dystopian world. It is one that feels both fresh and new, but also quintessentially 2000 AD at the same time. The world of ID theft and fake news brings a welcome 21st century twist to this classic style of story. Especially in an age where our whole lives are published online and theft and impersonation has never been easier, the idea that criminals could literally duplicate our presence in the world is both prescient and terrifying.
The story nips along at a fantastic pace, and even though it retains the prog structure of short chapters, there is still enough room for the story to twist and turn in unexpected directions and explore contemporary themes along with some old favourites. While some of the supporting characters feels a bit shallow, this is more than made up for with a fantastic heroine. Libra has that punk rock cool of Tank Girl (no shock considering Dayglo’s association with that title), but a vulnerability too, as her identity gets questioned and her world picked apart. As we learn more about her past and her reasons for doing what she does, then she becomes more than another identikit riot girl heroine and is a smart and capable lead who manages to outsmart all those who try to out manoeuvre her. (And of course always has a snarling quip and a acidic putdown ready at every turn!)
Visually, Dayglo is on top form, with every panel packed with intricate tech, outlandish characters and explosions of neon colour. While the cyberpunk aesthetic may evoke thoughts of The Matrix or Neuromancer, it has this technicolour vibrancy to it that is more acid house than dingy goth, and Dayglo is ably assisted by colourist Dom Regan to bring this futuristic melting post to life. The sense of design is classic 2000AD with many panels and characters feeling like they could have stepped out of a classic prog from the 70s or 80s, but it has that contemporary slickness to it at the same time, which marries perfectly with the high-tech storyline.
With it being designed to fit the episodic prog structure the story does feel quite cramped in a lot of places – a non-prog story would have made the most of more full page splashes to give the story room to breathe. However Dayglo is a master of the format and manages to make the most of this constraints, especially with the Eisner-esque chapter openers that weave the headline into the action.
At a time when everyone is looking for that next iconic female lead, then Counterfeit Girl, might just be the real deal for 2000 AD, and we can’t wait for more!