Wanna see something REALLY scary? Your Major Spoilers review of Clean Room #1 awaits!
Previously in Clean Room: Vertigo Comics used to be a hotbed of strange, disturbing horror-themed stories, where even old-school heroes like Animal Man would have to face the darkest parts of the human condition and maybe eat a tiger in front of a crowd of reporters or something. As time has gone one, the imprint has changed its focus to embrace stories of all stripes, but there’s always a part of me that thinks “Vertigo = Paranormal Terror.”
That’s where writer Gail Simone comes in…
AN UNNERVING START
My first impression of this book was incredibly positive, as the art of Jon Davis-Hunt is incredibly attractive from the very first panel. We open with a sequence that turns out to be a flashback, as a young family makes their way to church on a windy fall day in Germany. There’s nothing overtly malicious about these first 7 pages, but the tension that they build is impressive, ending with one of the most horrifying single lines of dialogue in recent memory. Cut to the present day, as a young woman named Chloe Pierce tries to end it all…
I have to tell you, the real treat of this issue is the way things unfold, slowly and methodically, with moments of sudden screaming terror every few pages. We discover that Chloe’s loss of faith is related to the loss of her fiance, who got tied up with a strange self-help author’s work, and ending with Chloe making her way to that author’s home for an interview. The last page of the issue ties both strings of the narrative together (and gives me the heebie-jeebies from top to bottom), as well as making me wish that this was a double-sized opening issue.
WHAT IS THE CLEAN ROOM?
The mystery in these pages is laid out expertly, not giving away too much, but also making it clear that something awful and probably otherworldly is going on, and Davis-Hunt does an amazing job with the art. The panel where Chloe’s late fiance appears to her is flat-out unspeakable, while also being weirdly beautiful, but the most chilling image in the issue is the sight of a blood-spattered teddy bear lying in the middle of the street. Davis-Hunt transitions back and forth from mundane to horrific at will, and the subtlety of the coloring is much appreciated, using the color pink to underline the most unsettling moments. It’s not a book that you can skim through, though, and you will need to pay attention to both the visuals and the plotting in order to follow everything that happens in this issue, but that’s really not all that much of a downside, as every page is lovely to look at and contains something to make you terribly afraid of Gail Simone.
THE BOTTOM LINE: CHAPTER ONE IS A WINNER
All in all, this is a really solid first issue, drawing us into a complex and terrible world, and the fact that this is a Mature Readers Vertigo title means that she won’t be pulling any story punches, something we’ll probably all regret sooner or later. Clean Room #1 has beautiful art throughout, and tells the beginning of a story that reminds me of the best of old-school Vertigo horror, and makes me really eager to find out what happens next, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. There’s a lot here that will freak out the faint of heart, but it’s absolutely worth the palpitations in the service of a story this good…