Our train of new Vertigo Comics is continuing on through with the release of Clean Room. Created by Gail Simone, this book was announced way back in 2014 but disappeared shortly after that for some reason. However, over a year later, the comic has finally arrived! Is it good?
Clean Room #1 (Vertigo Comics)
The first issue of Clean Room has a lot of interesting elements going for it. Premise-wise, it’s about a woman who is on the hunt for the connection between her fiancé’s death and a self-book written by someone called Astrid Mueller, an individual who has been growing in power due to her “help.” It’s a good setup for a thriller, but then it also has these creepy and mysterious elements involving visions that the characters have that seem all too real. These are all neat ideas and help give this new series some unique creepiness. However, there are problems with its storytelling that take away from the story.
Clean Room unfortunately sufers from the same problem that Survivors’ Club does: It’s moving too fast. In the first issue, we are barely introduced to Chloe, our main character. She has a dead fiancé and a baby (only ever mentioned once as well) and she is determined to connect his death to Mueller somehow. While it’s a decent motivation and drive for a character, the comic doesn’t develop her much beyond that (other than briefly mentioning that she is a journalist at the end) and is just pushing the story forward quickly. We get brief tidbits of info that Mueller is a powerful individual, but we never see that or she how far her influence stretches. The titular Clean Room is mentioned out of nowhere and we never get much of an idea about what it is other than it’s bad. The comic just never seems to spend time letting a scene, idea, or character develop for long before rushing to the next plot point. Admittedly, it keeps the story going, but it’s at the cost of giving the audience incentive or reason to stay or grow attached to anything.
HEY! That book she is reading has typos in it! It’s not “i chopped”; it’s “I chopped”. Demand your money back lady.
The writing is a bit disappointing as well. The characterization comes across as limited due to the comic rushing forward all of the time. Characters say what they or others are like, but we don’t see it in action. The dialogue and narration has a bit of that rushed feeling as well, since conversations don’t flow or sound natural (like in the ending where Chloe is talking to a woman who works for Mueller for instance). The transitioning and cuts between the scenes are half and half, with some that flow well and others that abruptly cut. There are some good scenes to the comic though, like the opening sequence that feels creepy and shocking, and the book does know how to build an atmosphere and unnerving tone rather well (like the combination of the guy Chloe talks to discussing his experience with the Clean Room and the artwork itself). There are good things and ideas in this comic, but the writing needed some more smoothing out.
However, the strongest thing going for the comic is the artwork by Jon Davis-Hunt. The man does a terrific job with his line work. The characters are drawn very well and are easily distinguishable from one another (even the women characters, which a lot of artists seem to struggle with at times). A lot of the scenes and imagery in the book are drawn very well, from Chloe’s introduction to the terrifying visions and monsters that keep appearing throughout the book. Heck, the majority of the panels in the comic even have backgrounds in them and the ones that don’t are excusable given the events happening in them. Hunt’s work is fantastic here and if the writing improves, this could easily be a must-read comic.
Is It Good?
Clean Room #1 has a lot of good ideas going for it and there are things to like, especially the unsettling vibes the story is emanating. The problem lies solely in the execution of the story and writing due to how unnatural and fast everything comes across. This is another Vertigo book I and many others were excited about reading, especially after it got put off for so long. However, the first issue is a disappointment despite the gold that lies underneath all of its problems. Maybe come back if it improves and hopefully, it will.