Thursday, April 21, 2016

Clean Room #7 - A Review

The character of Astrid Mueller has been one of the most intriguing aspects of Clean Room since the first issue. I'd go so far as to say that she's a far more interesting character than protagonist Chloe Pierce. This is partly because our picture of who Astrid Mueller is and what her precise motivations are was so incomplete that it was unclear, based on what we did know, if she could be classified as an antagonist.

Journalist Chloe Pierce certainly thought of Astrid as an enemy, blaming self-help guru Mueller for her fiancee's suicide as she threw herself into investigating the chain of people who died after getting deeply involved with Mueller's organization. But we saw just enough of Mueller's tragic past and her responses to the events of the first issue to see that she wasn't precisely a villain. She isn't motivated by God or Gold but is possessed of a certain ruthless efficiency and a tendency to view people as objects to be manipulated.

This stand-alone issue clarifies a little bit more of Astrid Mueller's past and motivations. We still don't know everything, thank goodness. (Everyone loves a good mystery!)  Enough is revealed, however, to firmly establish Astrid as an ally of humanity at large, if not necessarily a friendly or helpful character to Chloe Pierce.

Recently, Clean Room has drawn comparison to Grant Morrison's Invisibles from other critics. I respectfully disagree. While both comics broadly deal with the concept of alien invaders from beyond reality, there's a clear structure to what Gail Simone has crafted and a sense that the picture is slowly being unveiled in contrast to Morrison's anarchic style of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. Personally, I find Simone's approach more effective.

Simone's excellent script is well-matched by the artwork of Jon Davis-Hunt. There is a clarity to his work here that seems more appropriate to a traditional superhero comic than the sort of artwork we usually associate with a Vertigo title. That makes it all the more shocking when we get violent scenes such as the one in this issue where a teenage girl is dissected while still alive. The color art by Quinton Winter completes these images perfectly.

If you have yet to experience Clean Room, this issue is a fine place to start reading. This series is easily the best original series to come out of Vertigo in years. I'd track down the back-issues if I could but this is the perfect catch-up issue for new readers.

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