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Clean Room

Clean Room
Writer Gail Simone
Artist/Colorist Jon Davis-Hunt
DC Comics (Vertigo imprint)

Gail Simone is a familiar creator to North Carolina Comicon fans. Two years ago, she sat on panels to discuss women in comics and the representation of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender characters. Huge crowds showed up to see her, and her unmistakeable warmth and wit infused even her most pointed critiques of the industry. She has written some of the biggest characters for a variety of publishers, including Deadpool, Batgirl, the Birds Of Prey, Red Sonja, and villain team The Secret Six. So when Alan suggested I review her new horror comic, I kind of stopped listening after her name came up.

This issue is very much a set-up for the main series rather than a story all to itself. After a frightening opening scene involving the traumatic injury of a young girl, the book devotes itself to exploring its main character, Chloe. Chloe attempts suicide after her fiance shoots himself, but when she survives, she decides to dedicate her life to avenging Philip’s death. See, before he went for his gun, he read a bizarre self-help book by Astrid Mueller, charismatic leader of something between a cult and a psychology movement. It’s not quite Scientology, but readers of Going Clear will find plenty of unpleasant reminders. As Chloe jumps a series of hurdles to reach her meeting with Mueller, she develops some startling horrific hallucinations, and these seem connected to a mysterious part of the cult involving the Clean Room.

Readers of Gail Simone’s work are going to love this book, even though it’s unlike anything she’s written before. It’s a marvel of restraint and tone, a seventies-style slow-burn thriller with connections to some of the more frightening quasi-religious excesses of the modern world. Characters are nailed in a page or two, becoming unforgettably distinct, and I am genuinely afraid for Chloe as she prepares to move her vendetta forward. This is going to make a great Halloween treat.

Come on down to Ultimate Comics in Chapel Hill or Raleigh to pick this book up, and make sure you get your tickets to next month’s North Carolina Comicon to see who your next favorite writer’s going to be.

Matt Conner for Ultimate Comics