• Brad Gullickson

'Clear' is a Sci-Noir that Crackles with Hardboiled Energy

We review the latest ComiXology Original from Scott Snyder and Francis Manapul and find bliss in its neon shadows.

Look around. The world you're standing in is a dump. Given the opportunity, wouldn't you rather see something else? Maybe your favorite Star Wars planet? Perhaps the Wild West or a tropical paradise? Scott Snyder and Francis Manapul's Clear presents a future that's as disappointingly dreary as our present, but one that offers escape through technology.


Twenty-nine years from today, the repulsed people of this planet will have the option of dropping a veil over their vision. Rather than face the hellish reality outside, they can upload a landscape of their choosing. The chance to stroll through Tatooine or your grandmother's garden is but a flip of a switch away. But once flipped, would you ever turn it off?


In Clear, most folks prefer the fantasy. Not Sam Dunes. He wants the suck; he needs the clear. He spends his days chasing the sorrow of others. Clients hire him to out their spouses, to uncover the Black Veils they've purchased on the black market. These illegal illusions don't allow public access, so no one around you knows what you're seeing, and the mystery is enough to drive some partners mad.


Welcome to the latest sci-fi answer to the peeping tom P.I. Sam Dunes stands on the trench coats of Sam Spade, Jake Gittes, Eddie Valiant, and Lenny Nero. He trudges through the rain, slinks through the alleys, and picks through your digital dumpster. What he uncovers is repugnant and only speaks to a larger, systemic atrocity. Fat cats in high towers are getting fatter while the peasants below rot and die.


Clear is the second title released as part of the Best Jackett Press/Comixology alliance, but it couldn't feel more different than Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's heavy-metal horror show, We Have Demons. Clear is a hardboiled, dystopian vision that's wildly imaginative while also feeling right on track with where we're heading as a society. We may or may not get here, but its concerns should be our concerns, and we should read it with the same nervous energy that those who consumed Brave New World did. Too dramatic? Would you settle for Soylent Green?


But let's not get the wrong idea. Clear isn't heady, finger-wagging science fiction. It's a blast of a read, and as Snyder grinds through recognizable noir and sci-fi tropes, a giddy fannish giggle rumbled through this reviewer. The comic joyfully penetrates its shadows and neon, switching from fisticuffs and intrigue with the crack of gunfire. Bookending the first issue is a tragedy that will undoubtedly cement our emotional investment as readers. Clear wants it all.


I could think of no better artist to electrify this comic than Francis Manapul. He's soaked up all the flicks and paperbacks that you have. He's reworked them in his brain, and he slathers them upon Clear. His panels topple and tumble into each other, triggering a kinetic force that's heart-racing until a splash slaps you on the page-turn and you're left horribly, wonderfully shook. And as rad as his lines are, his colors are even better, marrying light and darkness with genius precision.


With We Have Demons and Clear, the Best Jackett Press/Comixology collaborations have graduated into must-read comics. Snyder is putting it all out there, giving the best he can give, and the sensation is riveting and addictive. Thankfully, we've got them slamming into our e-readers every week for the next several weeks. Hot damn!


Quickie Review: Clear hits with a heavy fist. The comic is angry and energetic and speaks truth to power without skimping on the juiciest bits from its dueling genres. Snyder and Manapul seem to be having an absolute party with Clear, and joining them on this ride is a no-brainer. Drop that veil, and enjoy. 10/10 (Wait, is that two perfect scores for two Snyder titles in a row? Yes, yes it is.)



Clear #1


Writer: Scott Snyder Artist: Francis Manapul

Colorist: Francis Manapul

Letterer: Andworld Design


On Sale: Now!

Synopsis: Clear written by Scott Snyder with art and colors by Francis Manapul—Welcome to a world where people are able to connect to the internet like never before, where a neurological internet connection is transforming reality. Welcome to the world of Clear. A dazzling, sci-fi thrill ride into a strange dystopian future, in Clear, people connect to the internet neurologically and mediate the real world through the lenses of their eyes. Everything can be skinned to fit your preferences. There are custom skins for steampunk, old fashioned Hollywood glamour, and pornographic and fetish fantasies. If you can name it, you can live it. You choose how you see the world and no one knows what you’re seeing. In San Francisco, private detective Sam Dunes is working a case for a wealthy woman, spying on her husband, making sure the man isn’t buying illegal untraceable filters to make his wife look like someone else. Dunes has just finished tangling with the filter dealers when his old partner, tells him about the alleged suicide… of his ex-wife. When Dunes receives a gift from his dead ex-wife in the mail, Sam finds himself pulled into a wild and twisting mystery that stretches from the city’s deadly underworld to the even deadlier heights of the city’s wealthy and powerful elite.