Thanks to Netflix and Marvel’s “Night Nurse” series from the ’70s, we know where superheroes go to get patched up. But what about the villains? And what of the people who do that patching? Do they also feel like they’re doing good? Even if they’re forced into it? Medisin #1 addresses all those questions and more. Is it good?
Writer: Jeff Dyer, Mark McKeon
Artist: David Brame
Publisher: Action Lab
When he graduated medical school, Ethan Sharp took an oath — “First, do no harm.” But he may have made a more important promise, posthumously, to his grandfather. He was one of the world’s first super-villains, the Quick Thinker, but his speedy wit couldn’t save him from being brutally murdered by a strangely overzealous hero. After all, what hospital would treat a bad guy and NOT narc him out?
Now, with similar powers of his own, Ethan works to make sure even the worst people will get the care they need, even if their wounds are earned through nefarious endeavors. But his co-workers aren’t so altruistic — most of them are being extorted by the evil manipulator Malady, who will hurt your family or cause your proteins to fold improperly if you try to escape.
Yes, you read that right. The specific, biologic method the nasty mastermind uses to kill insubordinates is a plot point in Medisin #1. That’s likely due to actual doctor Mark McKeon being a co-writer. McKeon was brought on by lead author Jeff Dyer to spot-check his science, and Dyer liked his contributions so much that there’s more actual medical terminology in here than you might expect. So you get a little physiologic schooling while pondering the philosophical questions.
Though the philosophy in Medisin #1 is kind of odds with itself. The book’s promoted as an exploration of the question, “Is more harm done when helping villains?” but the most vile acts are committed in the first few pages by the so-called hero. The villains are immediately made out to be more caring and victimized, yet it’s a supervillain’s comparatively meager attack, later on, that triggers dissent among their medical staff. Both of these are interesting stories — 1) Should you care for supervillains? 2) Are heroes as bad as the villains they fight? — but they actively detract from each other when sandwiched together.
Otherwise, Dyer proves himself to be a pretty smart and snappy writer. The dialogue is crisp and yet complex, but not unnecessarily so, and is capable of eliciting genuine emotion — even if those emotions are in undesired competition. Some of the peripheral characters are a little cookie-cutter, but there’s a huge cast here already, and most feel distinct enough for that to be considered a feat.
The art of Medisin #1 is more cohesive, but not as compelling. David Brame’s pencils are not as polished as what you’d see from a larger publisher, and his attempts at depicting internal biology are rather dreadful. Joaquin Pereyra’s colors are a decent fit, though, adding just enough vibrancy to evoke the superhero theme, but not so much that the grit of the serious questions is lost.
Medisin #1 is an interesting analysis of ethical questions in a superhero world — or, rather, two separate analyses smushed together, when focusing on one may have been more engaging. The writing on each side is well-crafted, maybe apart from an extended info dump from the protagonist, so there’s enough to bite into here and still get some satisfying food for thought. The attention to medical detail is a nice bonus for this book’s intended audience, one that likes to think about its entertainment.