Ah once again apologies for a late posting, been tech apocalypse for me lately. Got the scanner working again, the laptop remains at the menders, anyway we wrap up this ladies month with a story by Gail Simone the final six isues of what promised to be season one of Clean Room, so apparently it's not gone for good except nothing bar a single tweet from Jan 2017 said Clean Room would be back. This is a complex tale which revolves around two very different women. The first is Astrid Mueller, when she was a young girl she had an accident that ever since has allowed her to see monsters that are disguised as people or living inside them or attached to them. When she grew up she formed a Scientology style cult with the revelation of what lies out there given to those who attain the highest echelon. The second woman involved is Chloe Pierce, whose boyfriend was a member of Astrid's organisation and killed himself up learning the awful truth. At first Chloe was determined to figure out what the scam was being performed by Astrid but she gradually found herself part of Astrid's world. One way is that she too can shape the visions of the titular Clean Room where patients of counselled about the terrifying thoughts and visions he creatures are giving them as Astrid manifests the beings inside there. But last volume, Astrid was nearly assassinated by her brother Peter, Chloe is able to heal her via a friendly one of the aliens called Spark, who also saved Chloe from the ministrations of The Butcher back in her home as well. The last book ended with two of Astrid's "rooks" implicated in the assassination attempt and Astrid looking at her baby niece and seeing a monster instead. That's the most important stuff that happened, but these books really are cramful of events also you might notice that the main artist is no longer Jon Davis-Hunt but Walter Geovani, more thoughts on that in the conclusion. Anyway, lets be getting along.
We start with a chubby middle-aged man called Mr. Tubbins being dropped off by a mountain path where he carries a briefcase to a muscular young man called Mr. Webber. Tubbin's shows a picture of the mutated creature that is Astrid's neice. When Tubbins tells Webber who the aunt is, Webber thanks him and tells him to do the right thing and as Tubbins throws himself off the cliff, Webber ponders the existance of "a child." Then we get a full page of his face in which the left side is horrificially mutilated.
Back at Astrid's HQ, The Honest World Foundation in Chicago, Duncan and Killian the two Rooks who betrayed Astrid are called in to see her in The Room. Both are forced to wear uniforms that newbies wear, and when confronted by Astrid, she quietly demands to know if they know what they have done. When they tell her why, Ducan saying he wanted to save his boyfriend from "unimaginable torture" while Killian says they let the entity go free because he saved them:
Astrid: "No. The answer is that you betrayed me."
She contemplates how to punish them and demands to know their worst memory. Duncan says the first man who ever loved him was killed by a snipers bullet in Afghanistan, he had to as him off him. Killian says it was discovering her mother dead from ovarian cancer aged fice. Astrid stalks out leaving them in the room saying they are going to relive those moments. But she can't go through with it and runs back into the room, she hugs them both saying "forgive me. Forgive me."
|Astrid apologises to Killian and Duncan.|
Then Astrid shows up with Io and Capone. Chloe reacts badly to seeing her saying she has brought nothing "but death and misery to my life" so she should get lost. But the Haverlins say she isn't being neighbourly and that everyone is invited to their cookout. Astrid cautiously asks "I'd like a wiener please, kind sir". When Io says she'll get her some water, Astrid says in fact she'll have a beer.
The two women with her are amazed because they have only ever seen Astrid do things like eat crackers with a knife and fork. Astrid sits down and apologises for the interupting, she says Chloe has a nice life:
Astrid: "What you said about pain all around. That is the cost, Chloe. That is the cost of having your eyes opened. I can't close my eyes again. Can you?"
She goes on to say she has one friend in her life. Her name is Anika from New Mexico. The beings took her up at age seveteen and experimented on her for amusement. Now her right side is that of a young woman and her left side that of a one hundred year old crone. "No reason. No motive. They did it to be mean. A lifetime of pain, waking up each day wanting to die. It made them laugh".
|Astrid attends the barbecue.|
Astrid pauses then lets out what she knows. The entities come from another place, she isn't sure if it's another dimension, galaxy or even hell itself. But they have been here a very long time. Earth is a distant outpost, "their devil's island." The entities they send here are the outcasts of their species, the sadists, the torturers and the rapists. Their culture has no death penalty and so they are sent here where they can live without supervision, "because we are no sufficiently advanced to matter."
Chloe asks why they bother if they are so advanced, and Astrid says thet are bored, "thousands of years in a lightless cave, only us to torment. Waiting for something." She exhorts Chloe again to come with her and she'll show her what they've waited for.
We cut to the Clean Room. Inside is Astrid and Chloe and a baby of around a year old. Astrid asks Chloe what she sees and Chloe says she sees a beautiful little girl. Astrid addresses the child asking if she has something she wants to say to her? The baby erupts into a monstrous being hurling threats and obscentities at her finally says "we're coming. We're all coming, bitch monkey!" Then it mentally forces the guard with them to shoot himself in the head before saying to Chloe, "Philip says hello". Philip being her dead fiancee's name.
|Chloe meets hell baby Derica.|
Back in the Clean Room, Astrid is her usual unflappable self while Chloe is freaking out at what the baby is telling them, that they plan to make a bridge out of humans. She thinks to herself:
Chloe: "Just one time I wanted to be Lois Lane. I just wanted to do important work. Reveal the kind of massive truths that could actually help people. I didn't want to see any deeper than that. Not really. Fuck me. Too late. Too late."
We get a lovely double page spread of said human-bridge with the baby saying they'll walk on their faces wearing shoes with nails in all the way home "and there are so many of us, Astrid. So many."
|Red Flag! Red Flag!|
Then the hell baby causes the dead guard to rise up and start speaking with Philip's voice as it mocks Chloe. Astrid decides it's time to put an end to this for now and orders a "damn" big shockwave to be sent through the child monster knocking it out. Astrid puts out a comforting hand to Chloe who suddenly notes she hadn't heard Astrid use a curse word before, "I think you were worried" she smiles at her. Then she tells Astrid to repeat after her, "Fuck. Shit. Dick." Astrid manages to say "Intercourse. Feaces. Thingie" and they embrace.
|Derica gets zapped.|
Astrid decides to get Chloe to evaluate Artus. Chloe is the only other person who can bend the room to her will and Astrid is needed elsewhere. Reluctantly Chloe agrees and takes Killian as her Rook to help her:
Chloe: "No more slacking on the job Killian. You and I are going to fuck these space hemorrhoids up."
Inside the room, Chloe plants a big kiss on Killian's lips (Killian is a lesbian with a huge crush on Chloe). Having done so she feels more confident while Killian is left somewhat weak at the knees "you could kill a girl with lips like that" she says. Then Artus is led inside, his hands double cuffed, and he calls them "critters."
|Chloe smooches with Killian.|
Inside the Clean Room Artus is getting overwhelmed about being close to things Astrid has touched. He says he was expecting to be questioned by her, but Chloe says she is doing it so what does he know and how does he know it? He says he is a hunter but one day:
Artus: "I got scratched Dinged up right fierce. Almost bled out, right there. Since then, well I bin havin' all kinda revelations."
He says he can show them, so Chloe uses her ability and the Clean Room transforms. To show a woman bound to a chair and gagged with lots of red haired wigs behind her. Artus is seems is a serial killer of prostitutes, "they're just women. Loose women. Critters is what they are."
Then the Artus of the vision comes into the room with clippers ready to shave the woman. Killian says they aren't ready to see this and to take them back. But Chloe says they have to stick it out to find out what he knows about the child. So vision Artus shaves the woman's head and staples a red wig to her scalp. Chloe can't take his enjoyment anymore and punches real Artus then kicks him in the head when he is downed.
|Artus gets a well deserved pwning.|
Back in the Clean Room real Artus rises saying he won't help them now and he's felt the room calling since he walked inside. So he takes control of the room and going home and leaving them trapped inside with the vision version of himself which can now see Chloe and Killian who points a gun at them saying "well, well, well. Lookie what we have here. Critters."
We then take some time out for a look at how Astrid's organisation genuinely helps people in need, art by Sanya Anwar. We see a man and a woman attending Trinity College. The woman is reading a biography of Lewis Carroll, the man comes and flirts with her and when she says she never reads fiction he hands her Astrid Mueller's book then they go for a pint. We get a whirlwind of images showing them together including getting married then we see her alone in bed "years later I knew what it meant to be bereft. To be alone in a strange place".
Suddenly she hears her husband Ian calling her name, "Mary" and she sees him come into the room missing half a leg and with a smashed open skull, "and then I started screaming and forgot to stop, somehow." She keeps seeing him again in her daily life, unable to let him go because he keeps coming back. She tried to read Astrid's novel which is three hundred words with no punctuation, "legend was that if you read it all, you gained tremendous personal power or went insane." She decides it's not for her and gets Astrid's new book.
She also goes to therapy, "because this morning, in the shower? Ian handed me the soap". Her therapist says it's grief related psychosis, her brain is putting him in places he used to be. But Ian is standing behind her, and he's never been in this place before. She gets prescribed anti-depressants.
She loses her job and nearly loses her mind when she sees a meeting of the Honest World Foundation taking place. She goes inside and they treat her with kindness immediately. Ian appears and says he doesn't like this place, he sounds afraid like she'll abandon him despite that being exactly what she wants to do.
|Mary is special! Honest!|
Mary: "They looked at me and saw me for what I really am. What I could be. I couldn't wait to go through the adept program".
She journeys to the organisation's HQ catching Chloe leaving in a fury which happened in volume one. Inside she is shown to a dorm room. She is ordered aroun by a Rook called Terry but Astrid comes in and says to go easy on her as it's her first day.
Mary tells Astrid that she changed her life, Astrid gives her a long look then says she is glad. Then she says she is there to achieve her potential and "enjoy your new life Mary". She attends meetings everyday, does visible volunteer work, hand out Astrid's books in the street a lot of which are taken by the homeless for warmth. She is a "stone cold believer" by now.
When they hear one of their group is being made a Pawn, everyone celebrates. But when he comes back to the dorm that night he doesn't smile and cries all night. Next morning he's gone and they weren't supposed to speak his name again. Then she is told she is to do be an assisstant Eval technician. They must listen to the person then say that the eval can't be right, then get a senior supervisory adherant and speak to them quietly then tell the person, "we've never seen a reading like yours. It's off the scale. Never even heard of one like this" and they then finish by saying they have unlimited potential and can change the world.
This reveal upsets Mary a lot and she starts crying often too. Then she is called to meet Astrid and her new second-in-command. She goes into the Clean Room and meets Astrid and Chloe. She tries to explain herself but Astrid says it doesn't matter, she says Mary has been lying and time to see what it was all about.
The Clean Room changes to a bridge her husband died bungie jumping off, "the bereft day" Mary calls it. As they look upon Ian and Mary about to jump Astrid tells Mary that Ian suffered from depression, delusions and more. "His good natured spirit covered worlds of pain" she says. Ian tells Mary that he's cut both of their lines so it will look like they were irresponsible "it's the only way Mary. The only way out".
Illusiory Ian jumps, but Mary doesn't. Astrid says that was the only time she didn't follow him. Real Mary says she should have jumped too. They look upon Ian's broken body and Astrid says he wanted away from life that badly. "You can owe allegiance to love, Mary. But this is not that" Astrid tells her. Then she says she spoke to Ian, and he told her he's glad she didn't jump, "he wants you to be happy. He wants you to be free."
|Mary faces her worst day.|
Astrid: "A kind person was being quietly destroyed by something that wasn't even remotely her doing. Don't you wsh someone had cared enough to done that for us?"
And that ends this interlude with Mary making her peace over Ian's death.
We start the next chapter with Chloe talking with Philip outside their house. He says beer, hot scary lovemaking and looking at the sun coming up, "it's never going to be anything better than this". Chloe says he doesn't know that, he says if Astrid Mueller's right... but she cuts him off saying can't he shut up about that woman and enjoy the moment? He says her message seems to be enjoy what you have and make the most of every moment, but...
Philip: "Shame I'm just the ghost of a memory and you're about to be shaved and slaughtered with a bad wig stapled onto your head. 'nother beer?"
And we return to Killian and Chloe trapped with the memory of Artus in his killing basement. Killian says she thought the Clean Room showed memories not "timey-wimey bullshit" and she moves to take down Artus. But Chloe tells her she saw someone attack Astrid with a knife in the Clean Room and when it became reality again she was still bleeding, "I don't know if it's a dream or what. But dead is dead either way". And Artus grins.
Elsewhere Astrid is visiting hell baby Derica. The crib is wired up so "let's try and keep this civil." Derica stands up and says she smelled Astrid's "stinkwater" as soon as she walked in. Derica offers to show Astrid love and acceptance. Astrid says she likes being alone. She tells Derica she doesn't frighten her. Derica says she will in time, they have such wonderful plans, "we were supposed to rule, but instead, we're exiled here with your filthy herd." They are going to "troll for souls... we're going to break you from the inside."
|The Evil plan of Evil.|
Derica: "They won't stop looking, but they won't really do anything will they? You are a spectator society."
The President will give a speech about the need for courage and declaring martial law before putting three bullets in his wife's head. They creatures won't announce themselves we let humanity think they did it themselves.
As she starts to leave Derica says she's not the first person with the visions, how many people they have pushed over the edge into mental asylums. They did it by going after everyone they loved. Quickly Astris calls Io and orders each Rook to be guarded by two Bishops and she wants Duncan and Killian around Chloe at all times. Io has to break the news that Chloe and Killian are missing and Duncan didn't come in today. All Astrid can say to herself upon hearing that is, "fuck."
In a hospital a doctor is called into a room by a nurse and is greeted by the sight of a man with a horse's head causing him to say "my God".. The nurse then slashes the doctor's throat saying "it's time for the opposition party" Then the TV's go dead. Elsewhere The Butcher has come for Duncan, but Duncan has set a trap for him with the three Haverlin brothers armed with baseball bats surrounding the Butcher as he stands before Duncan.
Calmly the Butcher says he thinks he can take all of them, but Duncan has a secret weapon "White Mist", the perfume Astrid wears. He splashes it into the Butcher's faces who screams like it's acid. Then the Haverlin brothers lay into him with gusto. After a sound beating which leaves his head crushed and mangled the Butcher cries for mercy. Unfortunately that's not going to happen and beating round two commences.
|Baseball bat time for The Butcher.|
We see Anika in bed, she of the half a body belonging to a one hundred year old. And her loyal caretaker bears down on her saying she has surprise for her, a secret she's been keeping a long time. In the Clean Room Artus is ranting about leaving the "bitchcritters somewhere thet don't want to be". Astrid's mission control, Raven, tells her what's happened and also that there is chaos in the building with several fatalities and some floors lost contact with, "they're here, Astrid. They're in the building."
Astrid orders an evacuation and that everyone should get home to their loved ones. She thanks Raven for his service to her and says goodbye to him. In the sickbay the carer shows Anika the shoe she was wearing when the aliens took her up. She herself "personally supervised what we did to you. To ruin you. To rip open your soul." The carer starts to transform, but gets an axe to the head courtesy of Capone. With the carer dead Capone says they are getting out of here, somehow.
Astrid enters the Clean Room and asks Artus what she can do for him. He rambles on about the room speaking to him, but now they belong to a "godly man, as they rightly should." If Astrid agrees to be hims and lets him teach her how to behave proper he'll bring the others back. When he says she ought to know how to cook, that it's the way to a man's heart she scowls and says "is it? Let's just see."
We begin the next chapter in a normal suburban street, everyone's net and TV's have gone off and people have wandered into the street with an old man noting "there's something wrong with the stars." Back with what's left of the Butcher who has been taped to a chair so Duncan can question him, he tells them it is going to rain blood. Then everyone will eat each other alive.
The Haverlins say that won't happen, people stick together. The Butcher says maybe they will but what about Duncan? And also Astrid's kingdom is collapsing and she will burn. Duncan uncorks more of Astrid's perfume and asks what they can do to stop the end from happening.
In the Clean Room Artus tells Astrid his story, that a "wildcat" got the better of him, and he died on the hospital table. When the doctors saved him he could feel "the gears of the universe grinding all around me". The Clean Room called to him, it wants him in charge not Astrid. Astrid says she make him take her to them. He sneers that this should be interesting.
|Artus thinks he's in control...|
In the suburban street the people see an old woman with blood all over her front come walking up saying "bad dog. bad dog." You love and feed them and then they attack you and she reveals one of her hands is missing. Back at the Institute Derica's guards have been killed and a man in a hoodie walks over to the hell baby. It is Mr. Webber. he says he sculpted his face to please the exalted one, ie: Derica. Who asks to be taken to see Astrid once last time because she wants to rip her open. Webber carries Derica away saying "your will be done mistress."
In the street the woman missing a hand has collapsed. Everyone is freaking out and a young boy points at one of the women can yells that he saw her skin change, that she was pink and had claws "she's not human." Everyone backs away from her as she says it's ridiculous. One of the men whispers to his wife to go fetch his gun sharpish.
In the Clean Room Artus says he's going to take a trip through Astrid's worst memory. We see young Astrid, still on crutches after the accident that triggered her ability to see the aliens. He father puts a hand on her shoulder, but he's actually a horrific monster. She says she will tell everybody about him, everyone will know the truth. Her not-dad says who will believe her? As for her father the demon hugs her saying, "I ate him, darling. Right down to his dirty fucking toes."
Artus mocks her and Astrid says that when she was twelve she took a kitchen knife and stabbed the creature twenty-one times. Artus has one last chance or she'll disassemble him. He says she doesn't scare him she's just a critter:
Astrid: "Yes. That's apt actually. Because sometimes you need a beast Artus. And I am that beast. And this room belongs to me."
And she regains control. Artus cowers in front of her and demands he tell her where they are and forces it out of him, "that wasn't so hard was it?"
|...he was wrong.|
She demands to know from Artus how to kill the entities, he begs her not to make him tell. With quiet fury she says she will MAKE him remember his death. Right now his victim is going to stab him and he will die on the way to the hospital, "death is outside and his voice is thunder". If he doesn't tell her how to kill the entities he will leave him in this moment for all eternity.
With her foot on his face he says "exoduction", the have to abduct the child entity and then exorcise it. Unsatisfied, Astrid leaves Artus at the mercy of a black spikey creature and the memory fades away with him trapped inside it. Astrid, Killian and Chloe are safe back in the Clean Room.
In the suburban street the woman the child accused is being restrained while she protests she's been their neighbour for years. She has a shotgun pointed at her and the man holding it demands she start talking. We cut to the child who did the accusing and he's actually a monster himself. He smirks to himself as three shots ring out telling his sister he's sure they'll be fine.
The Institute is being evacuated, but Avil, Chloe's police detective boyfriend runs inside to find her. He meets up with several of the faithful who don't want to abandon Astrid, including Mary from the interlude. In the Clean Room Chloe is a little shocked at Artus's fate at being left alone with his death. There are moths everywhere. She tells Chloe she can see the entities not because she nearly died but because they reveal themselves to the people in the most pain.
Astrid: "It's grief. A child in a coma. A woman whose fiance killed himself.. that's there catnip. It's their heroin."
Chloe says they have to exorcise they child, and Astrid says they'll come to us. Raven is still in mission control. She asks him to bring them two Earl Grey teas and to play some Chopin while they wait. He says it would be his honour as he wipes away some tears.
|Waiting for the end.|
In Southern California, an automated warning has gone out from Astrid to her "Blue Utopians". They have a card that will allow them entrance into a nearby sanctuary which is good for two approved persons. They will be safe but the rest of the world won't be so fortunate.
Derica and Marcus Webber are walking through the institute, with Derica directing Marcus along the way. Marcus says he worships her kind and waited for her birth. He mutilated his face to present a more fearsome visage and emulate her race. "Very good. And you will rip out Astrid Mueller's heart for me, yes?" Marcus says it will be his pleasure.
Raven brings the tea, he asks if they should be evacutating as the building is on fire. Astrid says she knows, she was the one who set the fire. She wanted to to work in isolation with the people she... and she tails off. "Trust?" says Chloe. "Yes trust. Thank you Chloe" says Astrid. Then she says they're here.
Derica and Marcus are at the door to the Clean Room and Derica unleashes a torrent of vile abuse and threats to get her to open it. Then Capone appears behind them and opens fire. Inside the Clean Room, Astrid notes her "splendid loyalty." Duncan and the Haverlins are also fighting their way through the Institute too battling the creatures as they appear.
Capone is getting beaten up, Killian asks to go out and help her, but Astrid says Capone knows she is expendable. Capone rips off Marcus's bottom jaw, then a knife flashes. Astrid says it is time to open the door and thankfully the person outside is a battered and bloody Capone with a knife in her stomach. She collapses over the threshold and Derica walks in past her saying "she killed my creepy pet Aryan".
|Capone is severely injured as Derica enters the Clean Room.|
Astrid: "Well, it's a bit complicated. I waited until your mind was elsewhere, you see. Then I had the worlds horniest genius blow a hole through yur invisible city. It's going to the bottom of of the sea, I'm afraid."
She then tells Derica to be quiet, and they start to exorcise her by reciting Catholic rites at her. A huge moster bursts out and says, "don't you try that Catholic shit on me Astrid Mueller! We wrote half that damn book." Then everyone else arrives, Avil, Duncan, the Haverlins. Chloe is happy to see Avil but she grins at Killian and tells him "you might have to share a bit."
They then reveal the secret weapon they have, which is Spark the good alien. And as Astrid recites more words of banishment, Spark completes the ritual and sends the being "to before there was time." Astrid tells Spark she may have misjudged him. She orders Capone get medical attention and the fire get put out. Chloe tells Astrid, "holy shit, you saved the world. I'm still a reporter. People are going to know." But Astrid says that won't be the case at all.
|Spark helps banish Derica to a time before time began.|
Chloe: "So I went on the box and said everything she'd said was a scam, a lie. That she was a thief and common criminal. And then I went home and cried for three days. And never quite liked myself again. Not completely."
Killian and Avil come by and that helps, no one has seen Astrid in over a week. She started reading Astrid's infamous novel, the one with no punctuation, the one that gives you either total enlightenment or drives you insane. She's halfway through, "can't wait to find out which way I go." And this brings this volume and the series overall to an end.
I'll comment on the art first because I think losing Jon Davis-Hunt (poached for a higher profile gig I believe) hurt this story quite a lot. His clinical detailed precision worked brilliantly for the ordered world of Astrid, and although Geovani gives us great monsters, his panels where people are just talking are ill blocked and lacking in detail. Narrative wise, personally I thought all the stuff with Artus dragged the story down. I'd much rather have seen more incidents of the beginning of the apocalypse instead. I also didn't like how passive is made Killian either, although I enjoyed Chloe acting on her attraction to her after two volumes of Killian's clumsy flirting. That said there is still much to recommend here. We are once again given a very strong female character in Astrid who can smack down serial killers and save the world with practised ease. And was evern allowing herself to be martyred in the court of public opinion to explain what all the strange goings on where about. I also would have liked to know abit more about Marcu Webber and how he came to know of the hell baby, his story seemed potentially much more interesting than Artus's. But I carp on when overall I liked it, liked the different women in it, all badass in their own right and the premuise was imaginative and if there is no more Clean Room which looks likely, it did at least not end on a cliffhanger but wrapped its plot threads up fairly neatly.