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Clean Room Vol. 1: Immaculate Conception Paperback – June 21, 2016
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“CLEAN ROOM gives horror a fresh, new sheen. Twisted thrills guaranteed.”
—Ian Rankin, author of the Inspector Rebus novels
“A haunting tale of the lethal power of the human heart—as well as the danger, mystery, and horror that hides just at the edge of sight.”
—Marjorie M. Liu, creator/writer of Monstress
“Simone creates an effectively eerie atmosphere as well as a intense, compelling antagonism among her characters, making for the beginnings of an absorbing psychological (and maybe supernatural) thriller.” – PopMatters
“…Simone and Davis-Hunt at their unhinged best.” – IGN
About the Author
A multiple award-winning, critically acclaimed writer of comics and animation, Gail Simone began writing as a columnist for comicbookresources.com, producing the comics parody column "You'll All Be Sorry." She has since had fan favorite runs on such books as BATGIRL, WONDER WOMAN, SUPERMAN, SECRET SIX, BIRDS OF PREY and the creator-owned WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY. She currently writes CLEAN ROOM for Vertigo.
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On the plus side of the ledger: Ms. Simone has talked about how female character deaths are often used to help develop/explain male hero/protagonist behavior. She has turned that upside down with this series. It's well done and appreciated.
I have no strong feelings for or against nudity, sex, violence, or obscenities in comics or other forms of entertainment. I do have strong feelings about their application. If they are there to enhance the story and they work well, then I am in their favor. If they are there for cheap titillation and shock value, then it's just a lazy attempt to win over an immature audience.
The bigger flaw is in the writing. The concept is simple: a journalist fails at suicide after her fiance killed himself. She decides to investigate the cult/self-help guru that he had been studying right before his death. The cult is modeled very much after Scientology, so far as having clean rooms in which to do their work (in Scientology, practitioners hope to "go clear"...the word similarity is certainly intentional). The bits about the celebrities involved with the guru's program is absolutely modeled on Scientology and are the best part of this book. But those are simple to do. Ms. Simone could have made this more interesting and eminently more readable if this were a direct take down of Scientology. Instead, there are demons and spirits and a variety of other creatures that appear of out nowhere in a plot that Ms. Simone hopes we stick around long enough for her to eventually explain. One gets the idea that she is making this up as she goes along, rather than having carefully thought and plotted it out (to be fair, most comic writers are not doing this, hence the high percentage of terrible books on the market).
It's all a bit confusing and a lot of work and not a fun ride.
The story stars Chloe Pierce, a reporter with a lot to deal with. When her fiance kills himself, Chloe turns first to despair, then to revenge. Her fiance had become involved with a group that borders between self-help classes and a scientology-level cult, led by Astrid Mueller. The series features plenty of great art and good horror, both of the psychological kind and...not the psychological kind.
Now, for flaws, the series does a lot to keep the reader in suspense as to what is actually going on, to the point where you don't really get to know a lot of the characters, or even be sure what's going on. But I don't expect this to last throught the next volume. Also, Astrid's dialogue doesn't come off quite as charismatic as the other characters seem to think it is. Hopefully, that changes.
All in all, I'm optimistic about this series.