Review: The Cleaners #1

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Tilt head, put on sun glasses

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Pick the worst job in the world.  Sewer repair man, attack dog trainer, college professor, nothing can compare to those who clean up crime scenes following grisly murders. In Dark Horse’s The Cleaners, Mark Wheaton and Joshua Hale Fialkov spin a tale of murder and mayhem, and the people that do a bit more than run a vacuum cleaner.

cleaners1cover.jpgWhat do I know about crime scene cleaners?  I saw an episode of CSI once where the clean up crew did their job and ended up assisting the police in the process.  Other than that, I couldn’t tell you what gets blood out of carpet, or how to remove that foul smell of the deceased.  I hear OxyClean and bleach do wonders, but not having committed a large scale murder (that I’m aware of) I’ve yet to test the claims.

So, when Wheaton and Fialkov go through the motions, spouting the techno-babble, and legalese of medical waste removal, I’m going to go with the flow.  And the duo, along with artist Rahsan Ekedal do spend a fair amount of time explaining to the reader what everything is.  I don’t know how right they are, but they do it in a way that makes me believe they’ve done their research. I just hope certain people don’t interpret this issue wrong and use it as a manual instead of a piece of fictional writing.

The story centers around Dr. Robert Bellarmine and his crew as they take a job cleaning up a site that might be animal blood, or it might be human.  Once all the rigamarole and small talk is out of the way, a 40 hour job turns into something more bizarre when the blood on the scene turns out to be from 100 donors.  It seems excessive and the crew believe it is probably from some illegal medical waste dumping.  However, the intercut scenes of Robert cleaning the site and a mysterious stranger draining the blood of a teenager let us in on the greater crime – a serial killer is out and about.

And cue the Who music.

This first issue barely introduces us to the central characters and his supporting cast.  Readers do get to see glimpses at Robert’s personal life, but it is unclear if the woman he talks with is his wife or a love interest with a kid who has some kind of serious illness.  It’s not spelled out, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the kid had AIDS as an ironic twist/counter balance to the bravado Robert shows when first walking through a job site. Then there is the supporting cast.  His main “science” guy is Knut and except for one page appearance, he’s only referred to by name throughout the issue.  Everyone seems to float through the scenes, play their part, before exiting stage right.

The story isn’t a bad one, I’m not a fan of blood and guts – I don’t even like watching the medical channel with my wife, but slap some hard core science on top of the horrific sights and smells, and that queasy feeling goes away.  I like the build up in this issue, but for a four issue mini-series, things better slam into high gear in the next issue, or the final chapter will seem rushed and squeezed to make a tidy package.

The art doesn’t move me that much, and seems better suited for an indie title.  Considering the story is a huge departure for most mainstream companies, the art fits the nature of the story, and I just went with it.  I will be getting the rest of this series, simply because I want to see if the central character is put in a life or death situation, if there are more cleaning tips, or to see if this story devolves into some type of vampire book.  I like The Cleaners enough to give it 3 Stars out of 5.

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40/40