25 January 2016

"Clean Room" #4 by Gail Simone

Clean Room #4 by Gail Simone
"Turn That Frown Upside Down"

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: 22 January 2016
Suggested for mature readers

I spent this past weekend with three of my friends holed up at a cabin in Somewhere, KY (I didn't care enough to bother finding out just where we were). Knowing we were likely to be snowed in and not even leave, I decided to take along some reading material, including all four issues of Clean Room, partly because I had just bought issue #4 the night before we left and hadn't yet read it and partly because I'd hoped at least one of the others might pick it up so we could talk about it. That may have been the perfect setting for reading this issue!

Issue #3 made clear that Astrid Mueller isn't just turning her clients' demons against them. She's searching for something or someone, and now she's found it. Her interrogation with this "entity" is only partially illuminating; we learn that this is the same thing that struck Astrid with a car when she was a child (shown in issue #1), but not much else. I had previously surmised that Astrid's Clean Room operation was constructed for the purpose of engaging these demons, so at least that's confirmed.

I had also previously theorized that her followers who had committed suicide did so by being goaded into it by demons released after their Clean Room experiences, and the end of this issue also seems to confirm that. Although, there's something about that demon's wording ("I'm supposed to help you kill yourself!") that suggests issue #5 may reveal some disharmony between the demons. One would expect Chloe not to be killed off five issues into this book. though it's admittedly hard to guess along with Gail Simone!

I got a laugh out of story page 9, panels 5 & 6. Chloe rejects Killian Reed's attempt to recruit her for spin control:
Killian - "Chloe? Please pick up. This is childish."
Chloe - "Dear Ms. Reed...fuck you, fuck your favor, and fuck Astrid fucking Mueller! How's that for childish?"
Killian, to Capone - "She's thinking it over."
It's an old gag, but when used properly it's still a good one. Killian Reed's no-nonsense persona so far makes the moment very nearly "warm" in its way, giving us a glimpse into the human being beneath the ruthless bodyguard. She continues to be the character who intrigues me the most in this book.

When I read Simone's run on Batgirl, I periodically made mention of how that book read as a monthly, rather than as a graphic novel serialized over several issues. That storytelling sensibility is just as present here with Clean Room. I haven't yet felt that any issue has been padded with filler to stretch out a simple story. Instead, each issue has been engrossing and interesting all on its own, and left me piqued for the next.

As for Jon Davis-Hunt's art, Simone gave him quite a lot to handle this time. There's the sex mural on story page 3, panel 3, which is repeated all over story page 4. Story page 7, page 2 has what is a simple shot of just a TV newscaster's talking head against a backdrop of a skyline, but what makes it such an impressive work is that we see a champagne flute smashing into the screen. There are several layers here: the flute, the cracking screen, the telecaster's face, and the backdrop, including station logo. It's a deceptively complex image, the kind that no one is going to approach Davis-Hunt at a show and request he sketch for them, but it's a testament to the skill he's developed so far.

Speaking of art, one of my friends has developed his skills and talent in that area over the course of his entire life and showed me on Saturday what I could do with the wash element of my sketching pencils. He recreated Chloe's face from Jenny Frison's cover to issue #3 and then had me brush over it in places. He gets all the credit for this image; at best, I just get credit for not ruining it!