'Clear' Rips Its Noir Hero's Heart Out
We review the second issue of Scott Snyder and Francis Manapul's hardboiled sci-fi mystery and enjoy its dreadful soak.
The best comics go from one slap to the next. Scott Snyder and Francis Manapul's Clear left us last issue with a corpse and a mystery. Sci-fi P.I. Sam Dunes' ex cold on a slab, and her final gift to him was a message, "I was murdered."
We pick up in issue two with our confused protagonist chasing breadcrumbs and uncovering only soggy regret. This hardboiled chump is out of his depth, and just as he reaches that realization, another climactic whack knocks him and us on our ass. That's good comics.
Clear #1 gave us the world. It's a dystopian head-trip smashing the already noir-drenched Blade Runner with the sci-fi sprinkled Strange Days (that's not quite right, but you get the gist). In the future, folks meander through the world wearing Veils, digital filters designed to replace the drudgery around them with a landscape far more appealing. Who wouldn't choose Ancient Rome over the sorrowfully square San Francisco? Or, if mythology isn't your jam, try the Wild West setting. With Veils, you can model the world to match your kink.
Sam Dunes doesn't play, though. He prefers to go "clear," to live the world he sees. In issue #2, we learn a little bit more about why our P.I. wishes to abstain from this particular tech. The first few pages jump us back to Sam's military days, when a short war with China rewrote the global political climate, making way for tremendous scientific evolution and moral devolution.
Much of Clear #2 pins the reader to Sam's malaise and why those still attached to him question his perspective and motivations. Even before she was dead, Kendra McKale overshadowed Sam's existence and his friends and enemies are well aware of this cloudy devotion. And Sam's no dummy either; he too recognizes the hurt he can't shake, but acknowledging anguish doesn't cure anguish.
In stumbling into Kendra's killing, Sam kicks over the right/wrong rocks. Slowly, as he expands the world and its futurism eccentricities, Snyder creates several seemingly impossible barriers between Sam and revelation. It's noir, so there's a conspiracy and profit to protect. Crime, government, and business swirl into a rancid orgy of greed. No square jaw can bust that party, right?
Clear #2's final page sure seems to be the last word on the matter, but then again, there's another issue next month. How can that be? Ain't that exciting to consider?
And as rad as it is to experience Snyder twisting his way through these genres, it's even more so to witness Francis Manapul make them a reality. By its flashback nature, Clear #2 withdraws from the utterly mental Veil images the artist unleashed on the page last month. Instead, Manapul digs into the acting, painfully selling Sam's hollow heart.
That's not to say that we don't get some wild images in the second issue. There's a bit with a cherry tree that requires some ocular savoring, and yeah, there's an ax-man too that tickled this particular reader immensely. Both Snyder and Manapul seem to be relishing their partnership, routinely producing panels as mic drops.
Last week's We Have Demons #2 left readers with a pretty clear indication of where that series is going next, but Clear #2 left me scratching my head. Surely, I did not read what I just read? That last page is not the last page. We got more comics coming. But what the hell is that comic? Oh, man, I really want to find out.
Quickie Review: Issue #1 gave us a radical genre fusion, and Clear #2 pushes that combustible world further while also taking a breather to explain the troubled soul at its center. I root for Sam Dunes even as I doubt his victory, which seems woefully nonviable given where this issue leaves him. Thankfully, this comic is anywhere but in the gutter. 8/10
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Francis Manapul
Colorist: Francis Manapul
Letterer: AndWorld Design
On Sale: Now
Synopsis: Dunes reflects on times of love and war as he investigates the death of his ex-wife, with old friends and new foes emerging as he learns about the extent of her work.
Writer SCOTT SNYDER and artist FRANCIS MANAPUL step out from the world of caped heroes to present a sci-fi noir tale for the ages! In this wild and twisting mystery where nothing is as it seems, discover a future where no one sees life the same way.
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