COMIC REVIEW: Clean Room #7 – Torn Away
By Buddy Beaudoin
Writer: Gail Simone
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of sitting with Clean Room’s artist, Jon Davis-Hunt. During our chat, he assured me that fans of the series had only seen the tip of the iceberg, and that things were going to get much darker and much bigger in a hurry. Having just finished reading through this most current issue, I can attest to the fact that Jon sure was not saying these things in jest.
Starting with the art, there is a whole lot in this issue that inspired a wealth of cringing. Some of it may even be too graphic to put into words. It is clear, however, that the entire art department has a firm grasp on human anatomy. Human beings aren’t the only horrors to be seen, though, as the story also kicks it into high gear, featuring more of the entities that have been waiting in the wings. What is lovely about them, is that they aren’t drawn like something you’d expect. Sure, there are some inspirations for them, but for the most part, they’re pretty unique looking beings. They’re full of jagged lines and colored with soft, near pastel, pinks and purples that make you wonder what they really are.
And to that, finally, we get some insight. This issue is centered on Astrid Mueller, and fills in bits and pieces of her backstory. One thing Simone has been careful about, is not revealing too much about Astrid, so this issue gives us just enough to get more of a sense for her, but we still don’t learn enough to spoil what may be coming down the road. We are introduced to Anika, a young woman that Astrid interrogates in a series of panels depicting her as a teenager. We find out a lot of gruesome truths about Anika, but what these pages really do, is introduce the idea that maybe these entities are alien in nature. They abduct Anika. They perform terrifying experiments on her. They turn her into a broken person. Maybe it’s too obvious to classify them as aliens, but for now, that’s how it seems.
Throughout these pages, and in later scenes as Anika makes another appearance, we see a softer side of Astrid. Surely, she is still methodical and calculated, as well as she’s fairly devoid of any kind of bedside manner, but for a moment, we’re given a glimpse of her humanity. She’s keeps Anika close. She guards her. But, more than that, she uses her for the strength she needs to do the things she needs to do. Right now, that includes finding answers.
To that end, Astrid enters the Clean Room on a solo voyage. She takes the journey to her own childhood, right before the accident. Her family sits in church, the children listlessly awaiting the precise moment when they can escape. Here, something very big happens. Astrid’s current self, inside the Clean Room, is paid a visit by The Surgeon. He reveals some more hard truths about Astrid, but also reveals that the technology that she uses – the Clean Room itself – was stolen from the entities. The Surgeon is thorough enough to threaten her before he takes his leave, and that’s where the issue ends.
Woven into the issue are small chunks of Chloe’s story. She’s visited by Detective Demakos, and they talk in an enigmatic way about Astrid. While we don’t learn much about Chloe in these scenes, it does feel like there’s a lot building here. Alone, Chloe may not have not been able to do much damage to Astrid. However, with a cop on her side, that could spell trouble. It also brings the detective characters more into the limelight, which is interesting, as they’ve mostly been left in the backbeats so far.
This issue does a great job of explaining Astrid’s duality. For much of the series, it has seemed like she’s been the bad guy. As we get ramped up into arc two, it’s already starting to feel like maybe she’s just someone that’s willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish something good, even if she leaves a lot of bad in her wake. She’s becoming likeable, and that in itself is a scary thought.
The “Best There Is:” In terms of the art that we’ve seen in Clean Room, this issue takes the cake as the most disturbingly graphic. In a series where a lot can happen in the exposition, those pages wake you right up and remind you that you’re reading a horror comic. Sometimes, they also make you throw up in your mouth a little, but that’s kind of exciting.
The “Not Very Nice:” While the pages with Chloe serve to build to something, and the panel breakouts in those pages are awesome, the pages do feel a bit flat. Detective Demakos is a character that hasn’t had much representation, and because of that, he has also not had much development. These pages seemed like key opportunities for that to happen, but sadly, those opportunities were missed.
FBI Score: 9 out of 10. Clean Room is impressive. It has a way of keeping its horror elements in the background, and then slapping you across the face with them. This issue caused some gasps, some queasyness, and some downright uncomfortable feelings, and that’s damn cool.