Clean Room Reviewed (Week of October 24th)
Gail Simone’s new Vertigo series ‘Clean Room’ is focused on a somewhat horrific take on the self-help movement. As it happens, I have read a lot of self-help books. They generally contain ‘feel-good’ concepts and ideas about life that at the very least provide new perspectives on otherwise mundane everyday life experiences. “Change your perspective, change your life” is a common theme. In the ‘Clean Room’, Simone introduces us to a self-help guru whose ‘perspective’ appears to not only change one’s life, but horrifyingly end it. Protagonist Chloe Pierce is a woman who is convinced that self-help author Astrid Mueller’s book is responsible for untold misery, including her own. Armed with a newly minted degree in journalism, Chloe embarks on a mission to confront Ms. Mueller and find out why so many bad things happen to people within mere months of reading her publication.
The above summary is oversimplified and fails to convey the fact that this narrative feels cinematic in scope. The story is made all the more dramatic and visceral by artist Jon Davis-Hunt who also doubles as colorist. Davis-Hunt’s visuals are clear and crisp which surround his deft choice of colors that pop off the page. The interplay of colors has the effect of luring the reader into a false sense of security. After a dramatic opening sequence which, I believe, introduces us to the formative trauma that lay at the roots of the mysterious future author, the pages go black, introducing us to Chloe as she attempts a desperate escape from her misery. The setting then transitions to the bright environment of a hospital room where the reader experiences the same surprise as Chloe in realizing that her horrors are not restricted to darkness. It’s very obvious that the full potential of Simone’s script is being illustratively maximized by Davis-Hunt. This comic represents a perfect melding of writer and artist.
The tension kicks into even higher gear in the middle of the issue as Chloe puts her journalistic instincts into practice and begins investigating her fiancé’s death by visiting a friend of his whom, it turns out, has some unpleasant memories regarding a ‘Clean Room’. Apparently, “it’s worse than hell” and Ms. Mueller herself is more feared than the devil. Inevitably, Chloe finds herself with an opportunity to interview the self-help powerhouse herself, but encounters more obstacles along the way. When the elusive and mysterious Astrid Mueller (and her imposing and attractive entourage) finally make an appearance on the last page, the reader cannot help but feel simultaneously intimidated yet uncomfortably eager to pick up the next issue.
I give full compliments to Simone and Davis-Hunt. Their combined efforts create more than pretty pictures centered on a story. They create a myriad of emotions with added doses of intrigue and horror. Their success in this area is enhanced through the lettering of Todd Klein whose carefully chosen fonts and styles enhance the utterances of characters within different settings, dreams and hallucinations.
DC Vertigo line has thus far proven to be very impressive. The premier of last week’s The Twilight Children by Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke makes it two weeks in a row that Vertigo is on the rise. I for one could not be happier. I still don’t know for certain exactly what the Clean Room is but I can guarantee you that I will stay tuned until I find out. I can only hope that the same fate does not await fans of ‘Clean Room’ that befall the fictional readers of Astrid Mueller’s best-selling book “An Honest World: Unlocking the Explosive Potential Inside”.
I award this Vertigo comic a very clean and pristine 8.8/10.