I learned about this intriguing comic book via Twitter. Written by Sara Kenney – a documentary producer with a masters in science communication – and drawn by John Watkiss, this series about a young brash female surgeon and how she navigates a dystopian future U.K. where antibiotic resistance is rife and where antibiotics are kept under lock and key (distributed only to the “deserving” via a quota system) is edited by Karen Berger of DC Vertigo fame. Initially, Ms Kenney had wanted to write a story about a surgeon’s choices at a time when technology enabled many possibilities but people could not afford them, but realized that the specter of a post-antibiotic future was even more compelling and fearful for a surgeon.

Screenshot from the Surgeon X comic – a concise graphical summary of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance.

The first two chapters of the monthly series are out, and are available either as hardcopy or digital editions. There is even an app which I have not tried, but which promises more background information on the characters and setting (the iOS link is here). Remarkably, this work (or at least the first 6 months) is funded by the Wellcome Trust’s Public Engagement programme.

I have read the first two chapters and enjoyed them, even if I did find the story and scenarios overly dramatic (Dr Rosa Scott the surgeon has a twin sister who’s a microbiologist, a father who owns a private hospital, a mother who was murdered while searching for new sources of antibiotics, and a half-brother who is a schizophrenic tech genius). The scientific research has been thorough, with only the very occasional lapse (like when Dr Scott chooses ceftriaxone and discards ertapenem as not being potent enough – but perhaps that’s a mistake some surgeons might make).

Most importantly, I am glad that there are efforts such as these to raise the public awareness of antibiotic resistance. The reach of comics, movies and celebrities is far greater than that of science, academics or public health officials, although both must go hand in hand.