In the opening pages of Surgeon X we are introduced to a world littered with ads from a government that is apparently not ashamed to let its citizens die. This is a world filled with scare propaganda similar to the 1940’s “Loose lips sink ships” WWII posters, which can be both cautionary yet fear mongering. Surveillance drones are everywhere, autonomous taxis that talk too much fill the streets and technology seems to inflict itself almost forcefully, as though the programmer or engineer was a sadist.
One of the main political parties we are introduced to in a crumbling Britain is the Lionheart party, whose main platform is “for the greater good”. The people committing open rebellion in the streets don lamb masks. It’s Lion vs Lamb. There is a third party, the New Conservative Party, but we only get a glimpse of it in this issue.
The main protagonist is Rosa, a surgeon who is fed up with the ever encroaching government. You can see the ethical and moral dilemmas pile up and begin to mirror in Rosa and her growing resentment with the near-totalitarian government. The government begins to ration out antibiotics leading to a general discontent and belief that “the government is beginning to decide who lives and dies”. Rosa’s first big step down the road to conflict with the government is in a moment where she has to, you guessed it, decide whether someone lives or dies. It’s probably my only real “hurm” moment with the issue. The book is like a roller coaster where you get ratcheted up, there is a good drop, it has a twisty, curvy middle with JUST enough to keep you going and then ends with a good loop or two. A solid first issue.
The cast introduced is manageable with just enough shadowy figures and interesting characters popping in and out to make you wonder and want more. Rosa and her immediate family, a few friends, a few opposing forces, and some looming conglomerates to discover in the art.
The overall feel of the book was fascinating. As a fan of watercolors, I loved that the art is slightly watercolor looking, which adds texture and gives the book a more primal visual appeal. The lines and inking feel like they were pulled from the 70’s at times, which, combined with the watercolor texture, creates an interesting and unique look. It’s a book that looks forward 20-30 years in plot and ideas, yet looks backwards 20-30 years in visuals. If you insist on a comparison, get Frank Miller to push Sean Murphy’s hand around for line art, anyone who inked an 80’s X-Men comic can ink it, have David Mack watercolor it, then have Matt Hollingsworth lay some flats over THAT. I like it.
Clearly the creators went to great lengths to be well informed before launching this title, speaking with physicians, economists, historians and more, and it paid off in spades. Surgeon X has it all. Murder mystery, government conspiracies, nefarious uses for technology, global pharmacological companies, rebellions, basement ER’s, real life Surgeon Simulator in a moving van, and a detective with the itchiest looking coat ever. Seriously, who WAS that guy?!
The sheer number of plot threads cast out here feels like the creators are in this for the long haul and it is quite intriguing.
This is Science Fiction at it’s best. As Clarke said, “…science fiction is something that could happen – but usually you wouldn’t want it to.” The setting of Surgeon X is quite plausible and entirely undesirable.
In this world where Resistance has multiple meanings, the Hippocratic oath seems well and truly gone.