Thursday, December 29, 2016
Surgeon X #4 SPOILER REVIEW
Issue #4, “Blood, Sweat and Fears,” opens with the front page of “The Daily Londoner” dated December 20, 2036. Here we learn the Nuella Powell has been elected Mayor of London, bringing the conservative Lionheart Party into power. We also learn that a British taxicab driver has been arrested for the bombing that killed Nuella’s husband in the Issue #1, and that Rosa is making headlines as “Surgeon X.”
The chapter begins with Lewis speaking to a friend who threatens to expose Rosa unless she examines his infection. Rosa diagnoses the friend with necrotizing fasciitis and saves his life by amputating his leg. The man awakens to one less limb and proclaims that he wishes he had died instead. Rosa agrees that she, too, wishes the “blackmailing wanker” were dead. Her snarky response triggers the same 3D hologram of Hippocrates that we have seen in previous issues. The hologram recites the Hippocratic Oath binding physicians to do no harm and ends by warning Rosa to take care of her patients (and to “remember your mother’s teachings”). Rosa brushes off the projection as a glitch in her computer.
As night falls we find Lewis on a rooftop speaking to messenger pigeons. He tells the pigeons not to worry; although someone is out to “exterminate” them (“them” seeming to mean both Lewis and the pigeons) the Shepherd is amassing an army to save them. Lewis sends a pigeon to tell the Shepherd who will join his army, urging the pigeon to hurry because time is running out.
Meanwhile Rosa receives a frantic call from Martha telling her to meet up immediately. It turns out their mother’s best friend, Dana Cassidy, has information about their mother’s murder. The twins arrive to find Dana already dead, with a beetle placed in her mouth. Fortunately, Rosa discovers a secret message that leads them to Dana’s secret: a hologram from their mother. The hologram reveals that their mother was followed for weeks before her death, and that she sent all of her data to Dana the night after her hotel was ransacked. She urges the daughters to complete her research if Dana cannot because she is confident that it will lead to a powerful antibiotic. Rosa also finds a drawer full of beetles that she resolves to study for clues.
The next day Detective Inspector Caspar Moss stops by to question Rosa about Dana’s death, citing a hunch that Rosa was involved. He notes that the security tapes in Dana’s building had been wiped, requiring skills on par with the hacking offenses in Lewis’s history. Caspar knows that Rosa is hiding something, but Rosa denies any connection with Dana’s death.
The story shifts to Martha, who is visiting her son’s class for career day. Among the visiting parents is a man old man who gives Martha a package to deliver to Rosa. The package leads Rosa to Elias Glaser, who reveals that he has been sending her the Hippocrates holograms. Elias tells Rosa that he worked with her mother in secret for many years and that they were being targeted because she was close discovering something important. He claims that bacteria have been blinding scientists to the “real” diseases they should be fighting, and that Rosa will find answers on a different path. After leading Rosa to the basement of a temple where he has been preparing for the antibiotic apocalypse since 1945, Elias gives Rosa a wooden mask that used to belong to her mother. He says that Rosa will need it, but we’ll have to wait to find out why.
With the previous three comics focusing on world building, this issue finally adds intrigue to the plot. We learn that Rosa’s mother was targeted for her research, which we’re told was very close to delivering a super powerful antibiotic. It’s starting to seem that Rosa’s mother was murdered for her role in curing disease, suggesting that society’s ultimate problem is something much darker than disease itself. Who killed her mother and why don’t they want a cure?
We also learn a little more about Lewis this issue. He speaks of a Shepherd who is building an army to save everyone from “extermination.” If we consider that this “extermination” refers to the diseases threatening to destroy humanity, we must also consider the possibility that the antibiotic apocalypse is not accidental, but has been engineered for a purpose--to exterminate. We also can’t help but wonder if the Shepherd is the leader of the rioters in lamb masks seen in earlier issues. Is Lewis is secretly involved in the civil unrest?
A persistent theme in the series has been the ethical responsibilities of physicians, who take an oath to save lives without playing God. We know from Issue #1 that Rosa breaks this oath: she plays God when she decides right-wing candidate Jim Powell’s life isn’t worth saving. This issue we learn that the newly elected mayor is Nuella Powell, who we know will also play God: she only intends to give antibiotics to citizens with lives worth saving. The difference between Rosa and Nuella is that Nuella never took an oath to “tread with care in matters of life and death.” This begs the question: what are the ethical responsibilities of politicians? Is it actually doctors who we should fear playing God?
The only downside to this comic is that it tries to do a little too much. We have issues of science, politics, ethics, social justice, mental illness, sci-fi, and a murder mystery, while the end of this Issue #4 hints towards mysticism and lore. It’s hard to do fair credence to all of these things in a single comic and the result is that you’re never really sure what this comic is actually supposed to be about. That being said, I’m looking forward to seeing how things come together as the series continues to grow.
High Blessing: ★★★★★★✩✩✩✩
K. Spasaro | NCR