"Clean Room #14" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Vertigo Comics
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by Walter Geovani
Colored by Quinton Winter
2016, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on December 14th, 2016
Seeing a man blow his brains out right in front of you can be a traumatic event. Seeing that same man stand up jerkily and grin at you maniacally should be a one way ticket to the looney bin. Chloe has a calmer head as is able to compartmentalize her shock and rise to the occasion. Astrid Mueller needs her as she's the only other person who can manipulate the clean room, turning a person's memories into reality. When confronted with a serial killer who claims to have valuable information, Chloe jumps into action, accompanied by the now rookie-level Killian, only she quickly gets in over her head.
Every time I think that Clean Room has scared me as much as it possibly can, it delivers another issue and ups those stakes considerably. Last issue had a homicidal infant that was one of the creepiest things I've seen all year...then I get to the second page of this issue and see the unreal Hell that artist Walter Geovani has unleashed. It's a bridge literally paved with people. They're all sewn together with bits of mismatched flesh. You can just imagine the pain felt by all when the slightest movement pulls at all the seams, let alone what would happen if someone were to walk down this road.
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This issue is divided up into two parts. The first has to do with the aforementioned creepy baby, who happens to be Astrid's niece. The second is the serial killer, Artus Greenhand, who is seen on the cover. The baby leads us down a dark road where Geovani somehow raises the terror even more. There is one panel towards the end that contains perhaps the most monstrous creature ever imagined. It's humanoid in shape, although its features are extended or in the wrong place. It has four sets of nostrils. Its tongue comes out of its chin, but it still has a mouth above it. This is the kind of thing Lovecraft would talk about in his work.
Artus is a Buffalo Bill-level killer, butchering women partially due to his obsession with Astrid. You witness one such act through the clean room, although the more brutal tidbits are left to your imagination. For example, you see him pick up a wig and a staple gun. You know what he's going to do with that, but it's not shown. There are always dark circles around Artus' eyes, which is a nice touch from colorist Quinton Winter. It gives him a permanent crazed look, which works well for the character.
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While the baby plot thread is insanity-inducing horror, the Artus story is more...traditional, for lack of a better word. It pulls on the same feeling you get when watching Silence of the Lambs. This is a normal human being who is capable of heinous acts of violence and he's just as scary as the monsters spread throughout the book. The twist at the end amplifies the tension and keeps you guessing.
Clean Room never fails to deliver. It's a near-perfect horror comic that provides scares of all shapes and sizes. You can try to look away, but your eyes will always be drawn back. You just have to see what happens next...and then what happens after that...and so on. Every time you think you've seen it all, the book twists again and plunges you deeper into the abyss of terror.