Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.
Clean Room #15 by Gail Simone, Sanya Anwar, Quinton Winter, Todd Klein, Maggie Howell, Molly Mahan, and Jenny Frison (cover)
“All the Pretty Edges”
Clean Room was a wonderful series that began in 2015 but ended all too quickly. This issue is an interlude from the main story, but it’s still a wonderful tale of loss, grief, and the lies we tell each other and ourselves. But first, a bit about the series from DC Comics’ website:
Astrid Mueller is the enigmatic and compelling guru of a giant self-help organization—a devastatingly powerful figure in the industry between psychology and religion. Journalist Chloe Pierce’s fiancé decided to pick up Astrid’s book, and within three months he was dead. Something in Astrid Mueller’s book made Philip blow his brains out all over Chloe’s new kitchen.
Now Chloe is on a mission to find out who Astrid Mueller really is. What is this Clean Room she’s been hearing about where your deepest fear and worst moments are revealed? Chloe intends to immerse herself in the Clean Room and wreak havoc on Astrid’s empire.
In this issue, the story is told from the point of view of one of Astrid’s converts, Mary Carmody. She lost her husband in a suicide pact that she didn’t complete, and later she thinks she’s going crazy because she keeps seeing her husband’s broken and bloody corpse. This leads her to the An Honest World organization and Astrid herself. After she learns the truth about why she is there, she reaches a breaking point. Astrid helps her by having Mary relive her “bereft day” (think Star Trek‘s holodeck) and gifting Mary a final goodbye to her husband, apparently leading her down the path of recovery.
Putting the haunting aspect aside, this story is about grief and acceptance, and the storytelling team do a good job at conveying those facets — I feel I know this woman and what she’s going through. I could quibble about the art not being “spooky” enough, but I like that the somewhat “cartoony” style sufficiently navigates between the horror and slice of life elements. The one thing artistically that doesn’t fit as well to me is the Frison cover. While well done, it doesn’t really have much to do with either the story or Mary’s journey.
Clean Room was one of my favorite Vertigo titles of the last several years, and I hope I see an eventual return of the book. There was a trade released that contains this issue, but it would be easier to it and the entire series on Comixology.