Saturday, October 29, 2016

Surgeon X #1 Review

"Surgeon X" #1 from Image Comics -

     Since the discovery of penicillin, and its implementation in World War II, antibiotics have become  the foundation of modern medicine. Before antibiotics, a huge percentage of patients were lost to infection, but antibiotics have saved billions of lives. However, no new classes of antibiotics have been discovered since 1987, and by 2010 the overuse of antibiotics was rampant - they were even used to treat livestock. Soon, the bacteria had begun to fight back, developing resistances to our most powerful antibiotics, and by 2036 over nine million people per year were dying due to infection by antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. London of 2036 is on the brink of chaos because of fear, and the wildly unpopular Antibiotic Preservation Act which seeks to stem the flow of the use of antibiotics until new classes can be found. The problem is that the Antibiotic Preservation Act is based upon a mysterious Productivity Contribution Index - an ambiguous guideline which denies "less productive" members of society any access of life-saving antibiotics, even in the direst situations. One surgeon, Dr. Rosa Scott, is willing to stand up to this monstrous proposal, and the powers behind it. Rosa's mother was a renowned microbiologist with a heart as big as London itself; and like her mother before her, Rosa is willing to go to extremes to save human lives...Even if it costs her her own. The mysterious death of her mother still haunts Rosa. But what she doesn't know is that her mother's death and the Antibiotic Preservation Act that she hates may be linked. How can a masked surgeon and her small team of rebels hope to fight back against big pharma, backed by the power of a state quickly devolving into fascism?

   Sara Kenney writes this absolutely brilliant, well-informed, and quite relevant dystopian science-fiction tale set in London of 2036. We have all heard the rumblings in the news about the growing threat of strains of bacteria becoming resistant to out best antibiotics brought on by our overuse of them and our addiction to antibacterial soaps; however, Kenney uses the comic-book medium to present the problem powerfully, and sound the alarm before it is too late. And it is quite obvious that Kenney is sounding the alarm - "Surgeon X" can be a bit preachy at times. Dr. Rosa Scott, the protagonist, is clearly a burgeoning revolutionary, and revolutionaries can indeed be a bit preachy. But Scott is indefatigable, bold and loyal. That loyalty shines through in her relationships with her mother, her siblings, and her patients - she is a true protagonist, a person who has advanced into the highest stage of Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development, a person willing to break unjust laws to do what is morally right, even at the cost of her own life. This makes her infinitely attractive to me. She is surrounded by a great cast: a schizophrenic brother, and twin sister, both brilliant and loyal to Rosa, and a father who is equally brilliant, but estranged from his daughter...And quite possibly a part of the problematic system Rosa is fighting. John Watkiss' art works great in this book - sure, his pencils can be a bit stiff at times, and a bit cartoony for a story with such weight, but it is evident that Watkiss is working hard in each panel. Kenney's dialogue-heavy writing makes this book informative and enthralling, but Watkiss's artwork takes the edge off and makes it enjoyable. This book has something to say. I can dig it.

RATING: 10 out of 10.

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