The Surgeon Review

By | Thursday, December 08, 2022 Leave a Comment
This is the promo copy for The Surgeon #1...
News doesn’t travel as fast as it used to, but out in the South Dakota Black Hills, stories are starting to spread. Stories of the lonesome doctor on the painted Palomino, the healer whose skill with a saber is more legendary than her skill with the scalpel. Stories of the Hot Animal Machine death cult spreading west, into new territories that are unprepared for their savagery. Stories of the peaceful fort of Turtle Island, where the doctor came to work for a spell, and which the Hot Animals decided to attack.

Last anybody heard, the Hot Animals had Turtle Island choked down under siege. That’s not good news for anybody, because if Turtle Island can’t stop them, nobody can. The good people of the fort are overwhelmed in numbers and by the insanity and violence that has arrived outside their walls. But nobody said Dr. Hanover was “good people.”

When things look bleak, heroes arise. And antiheroes sometimes do good despite themselves. Innocent lives hang in the balance. And to survive, they will need to shed some of their innocence.
While specific to that one issue, it kind of sums up the entire first story arc from issues #1-5 as well. I was having trouble coming up with a good analogy to describe the series and haven't really managed anything. There's elements that remind me of the original Mad Max film, Seven Samurai, the old Kung Fu TV series, the legends of Doc Holliday, and maybe a bit of Sin City. Maybe writer John Pence or one of the series artists have a more concise/descriptive elevator pitch, but I find it difficult to nail down in relation to anything else.

(After writing the above, I found this: "The Surgeon is a post-apocalyptic samurai western. Set about 15 years after the world fell apart, a nomadic physician struggles to survive in a savage frontier of the poor and powerless, trying to balance her calling as a healer with the necessity of killing for survival. As a consequence, maybe she’s become more skilled with her saber than she is with a scalpel, and she’s trying to get out from under that reputation.")

The world of The Surgeon appears to be post-apocalyptic, but but it's not just a nuclear wasteland. But what's interesting is that everyone is so caught up in the basic survival that we don't get any real backstory on what happened. No one's moaning on about "the before times" or whatever. And I don't know that we need that. They paint of picture of the world as it is, and how exactly it got that way is irrelevant. Kudos to the creators here for showing restraint there; far too often, creators feel the need to throw all of the backstory they've created in their head onto the page, rather that simply let it inform their storytelling.

Interestingly, Hanover, the titular surgeon, also reveals little about her past. We see who she is today, and that's all that really matters. Why she has the scars she does doesn't matter; probably a sword fight given her weapon of choice, but we're never told. She refuses the used of some painkillers at one point, citing merely that she had been addicted once upon a time and simply leaves at that. Do we need more than that? Nope, that's sufficient reason to decline them. Yet she doesn't really come across as removed or enigmatic, just focused on who she is right now. Not who she was before.

That said, issue #4 includes a short prose story about an incident from before she went off on her own. It mostly showcases her thought process for dealing with an adversary, and what types of things she considers. It does go into why she's missing part of her right index finger, but that detail was so not focused on in the earlier stories, I didn't even realize that was a thing. But when I went back to look, sure enough, her right hand is consistently drawn with only a partial index finger. I might've spotted it if I were examining the story more closely to begin with, but it was frankly just plain enjoyable enough that I didn't want to spend time disecting the whole thing on my first read-through.

The overall story is good, the characters are all enjoyable and well-scripted, and while there's a few different artists (Zack Dolan on #1-2, Stan Yak on #3, Omar and Hedwin Zaldivar on #4-5), it's pretty solid work throughout. It's a fun read, and I'm curious to see where they might take a second story arc. The first five issues are available from UH Studios in both print and digital formats.
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