AUTHOR: PETER MILLIGAN | ARTIST: RUFUS DAYGLO, DOM REGAN | PUBLISHER: 2000 AD | RELEASE DATE: JUNE 27TH
Libra Kelly is a simmer, a forger who can create artificial personalities by duplicating official IDs of other people to allow her customers to hide who they are while living in a cesspit city of the future where omnipresent surveillance makes it impossible to do anything without being identified. When Libra is found by old enemies and infected by a terminally diseased ID, she must track down those responsible while she still can.
First published in the pages of 2000 AD, Counterfeit Girl is a cyberpunk tale that hits all the standard tropes of the subgenre. An outlaw protagonist staying one step ahead of those hunting them, outlandish personal styles, corrupt and violent police, even more corrupt and violent corporations, and the advance of technology realising the dreams and nightmares of transhumanism, all drenched in layers of multicoloured neon. The technologically overloaded world is rendered in all its fractured cybernetic glory by busy artwork that crams detail into every panel, with even a few deliberately referential images such as a giant holographic head of a judge that represents the broken legal system drawn to look like the Spitting Image caricature of Margaret Thatcher.
Libra is a compelling heroine, and not just because of her specialised career that empowers the downtrodden. Her tenacity in the face of the obstacles constantly thrown at her means she is never fazed for more than a few moments, while her stubborn will to hold on to who she is reverberates with the themes of the comic, most specifically those that pose existential questions on the nature of identity and what exactly defines humanity.
It’s a crapsack world that everyone lives in, but that doesn’t prevent splashes of humour such as countless background signs advertising illicit thrills and services, or the virus Libra is infected with being sentient and Glaswegian, and also takes great delight in providing regular updates of her deteriorating health along with the unpleasant developments and excruciating death she can look forward to.
As mentioned above, the story was first a 2000 AD strip and, at times, this becomes highly apparent when every few pages there is a dramatic or cliffhanger moment that would have ended its corresponding week’s instalment. They aren’t particularly natural stopping points, but rather a holdover from the requirement of something to keep readers wanting to come back for more. Likewise, there are regular recap and introduction captions that would have begun each week’s strip, but are somewhat redundant for something you’ll read in a single sitting.
Counterfeit Girl is a fast-paced and fun cyberpunk tale but also one with themes running deeper than a throwaway story, and leaves you considering the nature of what it truly means to be human.