The Backlog

Revisiting 'Clean Room,' a gut-wrenching comic about the horrors inside us all

Gail Simone's contribution to the horror genre is masterfully unsettling and even better every time you read it.

If you've ever experienced grief or felt the unmeasurable weight of a broken world on your shoulders, this one's for you.

“Odd how we fear expressing kindness in a dark, dark world that needs it so badly.”

Clean Room

There are some things that, once observed, can never be forgotten. Often, they are the demons that live in our own minds.

It is a premise that so many artists have tried to capture, though perhaps none so poignantly as Gail Simone. The renowned comic book writer behind titles including Birds of Prey, Batgirl, and Deadpool gifted us with Clean Room in 2015, beginning the brief but impactful run of a series that holds a mirror up to humanity and forces us to look.

For its characters, that ultimately means answering one thing...

... can you live with what you've seen?

Clean Room is a horror comic unlike any other. It's not for the faint of heart — be warned, there's no shortage of gore — but the grotesque alone isn't what makes this title so memorable.

The comic follows journalist Chloe Pierce after her fiance's suicide and through her attempt to bring reckoning upon the person she considers to be the reason behind it all — self-help guru Astrid Mueller. But of course, there's so much more to that story than she ever could have imagined.

Through their intertwined fates, Clean Room becomes a story of love, loss, and self-discovery, with a hint of apocalypse. It's about pulling yourself out of the blackest hole and telling your demons they'll never win.

“Do you know what the worst thing in the entire world is, the worst curse you can inflict on any human being? The very worst thing? Seeing the world as it actually is.”

Clean Room

Clean Room also gives us the kind of representation that mainstream fiction typically fails to deliver — diverse, complex characters and queer storylines that simply exist, without fanfare or tokenization or the inevitable lesbian death plotline we've all grown very tired of.

It is a relic of DC's 'Vertigo' imprint that deserves a place among greats like The Sandman and Preacher.

It's both mesmerizing and, at times, difficult to stomach.

Clean Room's run wasn't a very long one, coming to a close in 2017 with Issue #18, but it's sure to linger with any reader daring enough to pick it up.

But don't say I didn't warn you.

“Hell is real and the devil is coming.”