by Matt Puddy
Image titles always raise an eyebrow for me as, more often than not, they will come out of left field with something different. This is exactly the case with Surgeon X.
As with most visages of the future, this one is bleak - but not for the typical post nuclear, zombie infested, broken society wasteland. In fact it’s quite the opposite, and a lot of every day life is continuing as normal. It’s only when you are sick or injured that things are taking a massive turn for the worse. For years the evolution of disease has run rife in comparison to that of the human body, and now antibiotics are mostly useless. There are just a few that still actually work, and the government reacted by instigating the Antibiotic Preservation Act. Poverty and hunger are no longer the deadliest threats to human life. Now a simple scratch or cut could signal the end of your life. So what is a doctor to do?
Rosa Scott, our heroine, is faced with this dilemma. The situation has become dominated by politics, leaving her to struggle with her belief in the preservation of all life and the restrictions of bureaucracy. All of this is set to the back drop of a campaign for the new London Mayor, which comes with its own hazards as the candidates' public propositions draw out protestors and secret organisations with their own plans.
In the ensuing riot Rosa is left to confront face her personal feelings on who to save and why. In the carnage Surgeon X is born: a masked physician saving lives with experimental technology and procedures, but the conscience to evaluate all around. The Hippocratic oath is stretched and tested to well beyond its limits and pushes Rosa further down a dark and deadly rabbit hole.
The story, written by Sara Kenney, is a really good take on a dystopian staple. Yes, there is chaos and uprising, but on this occasion the focus is on Rosa. Paying attention to her unique position and ethical conundrum is opening a whole new aspect. I really like how they have narrowed a huge idea down to the perspective of an individual whilst also keeping the life and death struggle constant. There is the generic get-out clause of the “new experimental fangled procedures” but these too are essential. Without them there is no hope, no positive solution to hunt for.
Artistically speaking I find John Watkiss' style kind of divisive. It’s very akin to Charlie Adlard’s work on The Walking Dead, but with a vivid colour palette. While this type of pencil work can be off putting for some readers, the colour does create a new and different dimension to it all.
You can see a great deal of work and effort went into this comic and everything around it. There is even a fully supported website with information on the whole team both inside the covers and those responsible for filling them too (though be aware, the advertised link in the comic doesn't quite work; the one flaw I've found).
This title is showing itself as one of the good ones. It’s far from capes and supers but holds its own on an intellectual level by challenging moralistic views while offering plenty of page turners. It may not take everyone’s fancy, but I think that those who do pick it up and like the style will love it.
Matt is spending the week considering right and wrong….which is more fun?