Saturday, July 9, 2016
Clean Room vol. 1 Review
Everyone’s Got Their Problems, and Everyone’s Problems Are Trying to Eat Them
Written By: Gail Simone
Art By: Jon Davis-Hunt, Quinton Winter
Lettered By: Todd Klein
Cover Price: $14.99
On Sale Date: June 21, 2016
Maybe you’ll recall that I reviewed the first three issues of Clean Room collected in this trade edition for this very website back…well, whenever those issues came out. Perhaps you are wondering why I didn’t review any issues after that, despite having given an average 8.15/10 score to them. Well I got busy, okay? Just like many best laid plans, I’d intended to review Vertigo titles more regularly, but found it difficult enough to keep up with the crushing deluge of comics from the regular DC line every week. But I did like the book, and wanted to see where it was going, so I committed to buying the trade when it came out. Well, it’s out, I read it, and here’s my review! No big spoilers, but I will be mentioning stuff like character names and the general plot of the book, so if you want to go in completely cold then you should probably skip this review.
Thanks to an old episode of South Park, the secrets worth six figures that are held by Scientology have been revealed: the belief that human anxiety was created when an intergalactic space lord (not Space Lord) named Xenu threw a bunch of frozen aliens into a volcano on prehistoric Earth, and then their ghosts infested cavemen and were passed down genetically through, uh, the ghost chromosome. Everyone except for Tom Cruise and his legion of sycophants had a good laugh at this information, because it’s so patently ridiculous. Space aliens? Anxiety ghosts? Pish tosh! Now let’s all return to the long wait for our zombie messiah and not eat cheeseburgers because it was advised against three thousand years ago. Once you scrutinize most closely-held beliefs, they seem a little…spurious. Except for the belief in Batman. That is the one true faith.
Gail Simone’s and Jon Davis-Hunt’s Clean Room appears to be a commentary on Scientology in specific, what with its beginnings as pulp fiction, celebrity adherents, and slick-looking infrastructure. But as I read and got to know the characters involved, I saw that the story has a broader scope than I’d assumed. Gail Simone is adept at writing characters and dialogue, and developing these across several issues takes sinister cult-like organization founder Astrid Mueller from a seemingly cold-hearted player of mind games to a sympathetic victim of the anxieties that plague the people who seek help from her Clean Room. For anxieties are not caused by ancient ghost residue in this book, like that silly Scientology. No, anxieties are caused by inter-dimensional potty-mouthed demons that only some people can see—among them, the story’s protagonist Tona Pierce.
The story is, thus far, interesting enough to keep me hooked. There’s a lot crammed into it—perhaps too much, though that will remain to be seen when the full story is concluded. All of the characters are fully-realized and total individuals, which is something I’ve come to expect of Gail Simone, though she has this habit of imbuing minor characters with perhaps too much personality. You ask a fan of Gail Simone’s work what is their favorite character she’s written, everyone will say something different and there would be people like “My favorite is the janitor of the library the Huntress used in that one issue.” Still, she writes characters that stay with people, and that’s the important thing. The art in this book is top notch, though perhaps a bit cartoony for a horror comic. But renderings of the Clean Room and the naughty beasts that talk dirty in front of Tona are excellent, and I don’t think could have been done any better. If you like creepy stories, some gore, and characters worth reading about, then give this a shot…IF YOU DARE!!! Too much? Shit. I always go too far.
Bits and Pieces:
What I first thought was commentary on Scientology turns out to be much more than that: an intriguing and spooky mystery with monsters in it. Every character has a lot of depth, particularly for having only started the story, and I found myself sympathizing for people I'd pegged as jerks from the beginning. The art is expertly-executed, perhaps a little too cute for a horror comic, but the actually horrific scenes are well done. Give this a look if you like looking over your shoulder a lot and jumping at shadows.