Comic Book Review – Clear #1

Old school futurism.

Creative Staff:
Story: Scott Snyder
Art: Francis Manapul
Letterer: Andworld Design

What They Say:
A sci-fi mystery thrill-ride into a strange dystopian future, where a neurological internet connection is transforming reality.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The second of the slate of titles that Scott Snyder is working on as part of his line of originals through ComiXology, Clear is a pretty solid film noir style story with the science fiction side to it. It’s not cyberpunk but of that world and it draws the right elements that, like We Have Demons, show the talent at the top of their game and knowing exactly how to work the first issue for maximum accessibility without giving up the things that make it stylish. Snyder is working with Francis Manapul on this one and Manapul’s artwork has been one of my favorite things since I first saw his work what feels like ages ago. He’s got such a great sense of style and how to work layouts that something like this series with how it utilizes its visual design is just an ideal pairing.

The premise for this takes us to a relative near future where we didn’t have an apocalypse or a cataclysmic event but rather just the slow and steady crawl into ruin. While there have been wars and climate issues, one of the biggest changes is that computers were basically all pushed into the realm of just being servers as the front end are now people. We’re the computer, the eyes our screens, and so forth, plugged in directly. And with that, the biggest business is that of Veils, an application that allows you to view the world as you like, from film noir to manga or anime, and to most anything else – for a price. Because of this, the real world has become a bland and base design, made so that anything can be projected upon it instead. There aren’t a lot of people that view the world through the “clear” and you can usually figure out who is into that because they have things in their spaces that a Veil would struggle to work with.

The book centers on Sam Dunes, a private detective who deals with different kinds of cases but hates the ones where he has to find out if someone’s partner is using Veils in order to project someone else onto them and live a different life. That has him at the black market where they sell the high-end and illegal stuff, as run by a man named Alka 10. The case he’s on is a straightforward one with a wife trying to find out about her husband, but Sam already knows the truth because it’s what everyone does with their veil. We see him doing the stakeout and then getting caught up in a fight with some of Alka 10’s muscle, which leads to a decent fight and shows that while Sam isn’t flawless, he’s able to hold himself well.

Sam’s story is explored beyond that, with his connection to the police when a former detective-now-sergeant is bringing him in to see a woman that has been in an accident and died. One that he knows. It teases out their connection though the issue and it ties back to the opening which shows her death – when we had no idea who she is – tied with a joke that Sam had been told at one point that now becomes a clue. It’s a little roundabout but it serves the bookend aspect of the issue well to show us more of who Sam is, why he’s about to be going on a pretty intense personal mission, and the nature of the world at this point in time. Sam’s able to reveal a fair bit about himself while talking about others and it comes down well playing the film noir aspects of everything here that has long fit nicely into a near-future science fiction story.

In Summary:
I won’t say this is an easy lift for Snyder because every writing project has its challenges and no matter how easy it comes to mind, putting it to page is its own host of birthing challenges. That said, this is a very straightforward setup that we’ve seen in any number of films before in terms of the actual structure and intent. The trappings have some welcome elements to it that are wonderfully designed, and that’s no surprise with the talented Francis Manapul handling it and the colorwork. It’s got a strong look but also manages to work a lot of really solid variety to it because of the Veils, which I hope is utilized more going forward. Snyder’s got a solid story here, one that easily appeals to me as I used to enjoy things like the Philip Marlow series on HBO decades ago. It’s old school with the right flair and sets up an interesting storyline.

Grade: A-

Age Rating: 15+
Released By: Best Jackett Press / ComiXology Originals
Release Date: October 12th, 2021
MSRP: $4.99