24 December 2015

"Clean Room" #3 by Gail Simone

Clean Room #3
"Good Things and Celebrity Deaths"

Gail Simone - Writer
Jon Davis-Hunt - Artist
Quinton Winter - Colorist
Todd Klein - Letterer
Jenny Frison - Cover Art
Rowena Yow - Associate Editor
Shelly Bond - Editor
Clean Room is created by Gail Simone
32 pages/$3.99
Date of Publication: 16 December 2015
Suggested for mature readers

It occurs to me that the last time I've written anything for this blog that wasn't about an issue of Clean Room was my 4 October post about George Strait's Cold Beer Conversation album. I've had thoughts for numerous other blog posts; just little focus and commitment to writing about them. I mention this partly because I think it's a testament to how interested I've been in this book.

Chloe leaves Astrid Mueller's headquarters and runs afoul a despicable gas station attendant when her credit card is declined for being reported stolen (from a dead woman, no less). She's surprisingly rescued by Astrid's bodyguard, Killian Reed. Simultaneously, someone has broken into Chloe's home and is confronted by three of her protective neighbors. That, unsurprisingly, does not end well for the neighbors.

Gail Simone justly takes pride in the creepiness of her stories, and this is probably the creepiest of the first three issues of this book. Someone trying to open a door into the restroom is disconcerting enough anyway, at least for me. I become instantly defensive if I hear someone trying to open the door. I associate a locked door with security and someone trying to get through that locked door represents a threat to that security. I suppose there's something to the contrast between a clean room and restroom, but I suspect chiefly this sequence was set where it was simply because Simone understands how vulnerable many of us feel in a restroom.

[Side note: During Tuesday night's Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance meeting, someone talked about how important it was to her to have windows in every room, to let in sunlight, including bathrooms. I didn't voice my dissent, as I'd already done that with someone else a few times, but just for the record: NOPE. Windows have no business in a bathroom. None whatsoever. I identify as hypervigilant (as opposed to paranoid), and the last thing I want when I'm indisposed to react to something is a point of access someone or something else could use.]

Later, on story page 16, Joe Wei's Clean Room vision is about some kind of "Abduction. Possession. I don't know." At the bottom of that page, we see some thing erupt violently from inside a woman's abdomen. I haven't checked with Simone to confirm, but I'm choosing to believe this is her sadistic way of acknowledging me and my experiences with Crohn's disease, just as Dan O'Bannon wrote the famed chest-bursting sequence in Alien as an allegory to his own experience with the disease.

Aside from preying on themes that scare me related to my guts, one story device that I've always been a sucker for is when someone's allegiance is called into question. For that, Killian Reed is the most interesting character in "Good Things and Celebrity Deaths". She clearly wasn't after Chloe to harm her (or at least, only to cause incidental harm, per her proposal on story page 18, anyway), yet she also does nothing to indicate that she's even contemplating betraying Astrid in any way. On the contrary, she makes clear on story page 19, panel 2: "Astrid thinks you have potential. Maybe she's right. But if you try to hurt her, well...then you get the tire iron." Admittedly, I may also be fascinated by Killian because I can't imagine sitting across the table from someone saying to me what she said to Chloe on the previous pages!

I'm only half-kidding about believing myself responsible for this restroom/bloody abdomen business, but I feel more confident guessing that Killian's surname Reed is a nod to Twitter user Natalie Reed, another fan of Simone's who I like to think of as a pal of mine, too. Natalie doesn't strike me as having a whole lot in common with Killian so far, though it's not as though I've gotten to know either all that well so far.

I'm glad that I took the chance on issue #2 after issue #1 left me with trepidation, because I'm growing increasingly interested in the mystery of the Clean Room as well as in its characters. Right now, I think I'm more interested to learn more about Killian than Astrid, but both fascinate me.

This was the first issue of the book in which Jon Davis-Hunt's art was colored by someone else; Quinton Winter. Coloring is a more delicate matter than I think is generally realized until you've gotten used to a specific collaboration and then encounter a new colorist's work. To Winter's credit, this issue not only remains consistent with the aesthetic that Davis-Hunt established on his own, but it looks terrific, period. This book has a clean look to it, with panels and pages having enough detail that they conjure our real world but not so much detail that they feel cluttered. I don't often find myself going back through an issue of anything just to sort of take in the artwork, but I did that with this issue. Davis-Hunt's facial expressions are pitch perfect for this story, and I credit him with a lot of the humanity that comes through...because God knows, Gail Simone is doing everything she can think of to cloud that humanity!

Clean Room, you're off probation. I'm officially committed to reading you.