guttergeek review: The Cleaners

Posted by on January 8th, 2010 at 12:11 PM

Mark Wheaton, Joshua Hale Fialkov, and Rahsam Ekedal, The Cleaners: Absent Bodies (Dark Horse, 2010). $14,95, paperback.

If you missed the first four-issue mini-series of The Cleaners which wrapped up this past summer, the trade is good news—-and if you read it, it is still better news, in that it suggests that Dark Horse remains committed to the series despite what were apparently disappointing sales for the critical favorite. Mark Wheaton brings horror screenwriting creds to the project, and he is joined in the scripting by Fialkov with whom he collaborated on 2008’s The Infected. But for me the high point of the series is Ekedel’s pencils and Jon Graef’s coloring: together they lend a surreal aura to the SoCal scene which is alternatively clinical and downright spooky–just right for the strange brew that is this strange book. The story focuses on a highly specialized team of trauma scene cleaners called in for the projects no one wants to touch–or that someone wants no one to know about. They are very, very good at their job, but also take their job a bit more seriously than your usual custodial team. Strange cases and ugly crime scenes lead to stranger and deadlier scenes once you start following the leads, and the blood and gore with which the book opens ends up looking relatively sterile compared to where it all takes them.

As is so often the case, the whole project has the feverishness of a Hollywood movie pitch, and the arc would have most definitely benefitted from another two issues to allow the allow the highly-compressed third act a chance to breathe (and the second act a chance to exist). But it is a good pitch, and I want more. I fear that Wheaton and Dark Horse both might be more interested in pursuing the future of this project in Tinseltown, but there is very real promise to the book’s central characters, and to the premise of a world where high-tech forensic work meets the supernatural (think of it as CSI: Sunnydale). And if readers can put some muscle in the trade sales maybe Dark Horse will give the green-light to let us know what is coming next (and as the final teaser makes clear, it ain’t gonna be pretty).

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