by Arpad Okay. Surgeon X is a beautifully handled work of paranoid distress. Please don’t confuse the bold actions of Dr. Rosa Scott with heroics. She is a ronin surgeon without hospital or master in the midst of a dystopian future pandemic. This book is about struggle. The doctor and disease, classic rivals. Scott’s spinning moral compass is a fascinating take for a book so stylized. Her master skill set and bleeding heart, her cool costume and surreal medical supplies, all signs point towards a superhero. But her quitting the establishment and stepping up to meet the severity of the times is by no means an act of altruism. Rosa Scott is complex and real.
The world of Surgeon X itself is complex and real. The page reads “London, 2036” and resembles our London of 2016, but it also reads like London, 1941. As the complexity of sickness begins to overtake the defenses of advanced society, you can feel deeper echoes of great ancient cultures who raised temples we could never duplicate. Our purchase on this world is frail and Surgeon X isn’t afraid to explore uncomfortable areas like that. When the end times come around, health becomes an issue of supply and demand. Do the rules of the Hippocratic Oath need apply when the only certainty is not everyone gets to survive?
This book is an intellectual’s struggle with humanity’s collapse. There is a Mary Roach scrupulousness (and black humor) at work in Sara Kenney’s writing, nerds will find several delights beyond survival drama here. There will be the practice of medicine and its philosophy. There will be swift, captivating dialog and powerful women flippantly smashing the patriarchy. There will be gravitas.
There will be beauty, and that beauty is John Watkiss and James Devlin working together. Watkiss spreads an entire inkpot across every page, his style so saturated that it passes beyond an initial resemblance to the sure linework of the Romitas into something positively block printed. Stark as Andy Warhol screening a film noir still onto wallpaper, brought to glorious, glowing life by James Devlin’s Monterey magic hour color palette. There are no finer colors in comics today than the pages of Surgeon X. This book has the look. It has good ideas and hard questions. A wealth of imagination that is highly infectious. Depth. Wit. Promise.
Image Comics / $3.99
Written by Sara Kenney.
Art by John Watkiss.
Colored by James Devlin.
Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher.
Edited by Karen Berger.
9 out of 10