The year is 2054. Georgia has transformed into a sprawling metropolis and nearly everyone lives their life through a Surrogate: a fully-functional android that the user controls via virtual linkup from the safety and comfort of their own home. More than just a popular fad, people live their whole lives through their Surrogates twenty-four hours a day, making it the driving force for this world’s technology, economy and culture.
But not everyone agrees that Surrogates are such a good idea. The biggest protestor: a techno-terrorist that uses a modified android to hunt down and destroy other Surrogates with powerful electric blasts. Detective Greer becomes the lead investigator on this dangerous case, taking readers on a tour of this dark future as he tries to uncover the terrorist’s identity and stop him before he causes more damage.
The first suspect is the Prophet Zaire. The Prophet has managed to create an enclave where he and his followers live in freedom from the “unholy” technology of the Surrogates. Unfortunately, since 92% of the U.S. uses Surrogates that means their enclave works as little more than a future-world ghetto, forcing them to live in shacks built out of scrap while the rest of the world thrives in virtual luxury.
When the Prophet proves himself innocent, Greer follows the terrorist’s trail to the corporate world. Greer discovers the terrorist’s ultimate goal: the theft of a powerful Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) device powerful enough to disable every Surrogate in the Central George Metropolis. In desperation, Greer and the rest of the Georgia police use the EMP as bait for a dangerous trap that will either lead to the terrorist’s capture or hand him the perfect weapon.
Volume two, subtitled Flesh and Bone, begins in 2039 and works as a prequel to the original series. Venditti uses the opportunity to explore many of the key events that led up to the happenings in volume one. While Surrogate technology is popular it is not a widespread a cultural norm—at least not yet.
The volume opens with a group of wealthy teens joyriding with their parents’ Surrogates when they find and beat an all-to-real homeless man to death. The incident sparks a legal battle that leads to wide-scale social unrest, fueled largely by the anti-technology doctrine of the newly self-proclaimed Prophet Zaire. Greer sits at the center of this story, although this time he is a young patrolman making his first strides towards becoming a detective. Embroiled a bit more in the legal system, there’s a bit less action here but fans of the first volume will find many of their questions answered.
While some picky readers might not enjoy the look Weldele’s created, those with an open mind will find it works very well with the gritty, hard-boiled nature of the story. His linework throughout both volumes is thick but sketchy, giving the overall look a loose and dynamic feel. Each page is nearly monochromatic, mixing layers and tones of the same color—dark blues, grimy yellows, dingy oranges—-to enhance the mood.
Although The Surrogates holds some definite ties to sci-fi classics like Philip K. Dick’s We Can Build You and William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Venditti’s created a hyper-detailed world that’s completely original. Like all good sci-fi it takes fragments of contemporary life—especially the online culture of platforms like Second Life, World of Warcraft and even Facebook—-magnifies them and then uses the fictional world to explore both the good and bad possibilities.
Yes, Surrogates are creepy. They drastically limit the way flesh-and-blood humans interact and feel for one another and they open the door to all sorts of bizarre recreational pursuits. But they also provide a new level of safety for anyone—cops, firemen, etc.—whose job puts them into constant danger. This level of thought and detail makes Surrogates an ideal read for sci-fi fans who don’t normally explore comics. But more than that, it’s also an exceptional title for readers exploring some of the more challenging and mature stories comics have to offer.