In Surgeon X, protagonist Rosa's point-of-view is amusingly simplistic, causing her friction among her lightly characterized colleagues. She's a renegade doctor in a waking anxiety dream of a near-future England. It's a future where vaccines are working less and less, so the world's authorities are rationing antivirals to an alarming extreme. We know these things because they are explicitly stated in ways that defy casual conversation. There's an unnaturally stiff quality to character speech. Too much of the writing is awkward, repetitive exposition. And the breathless pacing doesn't help. Nothing is allowed to sit. There's no room for your emotional response to the presented events. A plot point scrambles across the page, and the book moves on. Rosa quits her job and becomes a vigilante in such a swift smattering of panels that it barely registers as an important moment. And yet much of Surgeon X is overly dramatic, gesticulating wildly to get you to care about its events. Rosa's crusade is easy to empathize with, but her attitude is hard to get behind. She really is the definition of self-righteous. She becomes a vigilante doctor in a very Silver Age call to action. Her morality is tested. Her relationship to authority is less than cooperative. She even has a secret lair. It's an all too familiar and too neat foundation for a book about the troubling intersection of medicine, business, and politics.
Rosa's supporting cast is far more subtlety and believably written. Lewis, her brother, seems to be struggle to not be defined by his mental illness. Her sister, Martha, is part of the establishment, honing young doctors into weapons against the bacterial threat facing humanity. Both siblings are far more grounded than our protagonist. Maybe that's intentional, but I'm doubtful.
The art is messy and, at times, hard to parse. A victim of heavy inking, the line work kind of disappears into itself at times. It mostly serves its function, but occasionally gets in the way of the narrative.
Surgeon X presumably has a message. To some, this book might come across as manipulative scare-mongering. And I'm not convinced that's an inaccurate appraisal. That really remains to be seen. What's obvious is that Sara Kenney knows the subject matter and wants to say something, but this issue fumbles a bit in the delivery of that message.
[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Surgeon X #1 Writer: Sara Kenney Artist: John Watkiss Colorist: James Delvin Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital