"Clean Room #9" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Vertigo
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by Jon Davis-Hunt
Colored by Quinton Winter
2016, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on June 15th, 2016
Astrid Mueller is bleeding out from a gunshot wound. She's fading fast and calls Chloe Pierce in to hear her last words. Chloe has other ideas though, as she brought along a friend. It's tough to talk about Clean Room without either spoiling something or spending way too much time explaining it. The book has many moving pieces and they all work so well together. Each scene works to reveal more of the story and pull you deeper and deeper in.
The level of tension is up to eleven in this issue. Astrid's life is hanging in the balance. Killian is swinging her gun around. There's a creepy alien monster looming nearby. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that, huh? Although this creature (aka Spark) has been friendly with Chloe, it's not on the best of terms with Astrid. Additionally, everything about it is terrifying.
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Artist Jon Davis-Hunt's design for this thing is completely unnatural. It's like a person that's been turned inside out. It has no skin, just muscly sinew stretched over its elongated body. There are far too many teeth, spread out in a long row across its face. There are four nostrils. At least I think those are nostrils. The eyes are what bring everything together. At first glance, they're almost all black and filled with hatred. Then Spark turns to Chloe and its peepers soften a bit. It's so subtle and it works so well.
Spark is capable of merging or inhabiting people. He basically slides out of a man's body to make his appearance. That's just the beginning. He touches someone's face and the skin ripples and flows. It's almost like he's digging his hands into wet sand. The human body is not supposed to do that. Everything about this is so uncomfortable.
The whole scene within the hermetically sealed clean room has this haze around it. Quinton Winter's colors show just how bright the lights are in there, giving it a heavenly quality. This works well against the juxtaposition of Spark's unholy appearance.
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Also, how creepy is Jenny Frison's cover? It would be disturbing enough with Astrid peering out at the reader, but add all those hands and it's something else entirely. Two would have been brutal. That third one brings in so many questions. Meanwhile, Astrid is unfazed by this. She stares forward with a smirk on her face.
We get a bit more of Astrid's backstory with this issue and with it comes more questions. She is such an enigmatic, strong-willed person. She takes command of a room, even if she's lying there half-dead. I can't wait to further explore her character and see what she's really capable of. With her around, almost anything could happen.
Clean Room is a damn satisfying read. This is a book that will grip you from the first page and never let go. It helps that it's scary as hell. This is a horror fan's dream comic. Instead of yelling “Don't go into the basement!” you want to warn whatever is lurking down there to be wary of Astrid Mueller.