Scott Snyder may have focused his attention on the excellent We Have Demons at NYCC, but make no mistake, more new hits are coming from his eight-title deal with ComiXology. Case in point, Clear is out this week by Snyder and Francis Manapul, which introduces a sci-fi future where everything you see can be reskinned to look however you like. The technology is called veils, but in a world where anything can be covered up or hidden, literally everything is not what it seems.
Clear is an excellent first issue, opening with a story that seems unrelated to anything, but comes back around by the end of the issue. The story within the story technique allows the reader to take in the excellent visuals by Manapul on a key moment while supplying a metaphor for the reality of this series before we can fully understand it. By the end of the issue, a sci-fi noir thriller and detective story is fully established, and the rules of this strange new technology that has changed reality are explained expertly.
Manapul draws and colors the entire issue, which has a neon-soaked look not dissimilar from Blade Runner. The use of pink glow on our main character — who is introduced with quite a freaky-looking helmet — casts the story’s protagonist in a way as if he is an alien who is separate from the world around him.
This ends up being the case — he’s one of the only people around that pays to see the world for how it is — and this helps establish him as a loner, not unlike a hard-boiled detective. We get to see his face eventually and captures the pain and anguish he’s feeling when confronted with an incredible loss. The fact that the book ends in his office that’s straight out of a film noir detective program save for the neon orange light speaks volumes as far as what type of character we’re dealing with. There’s enough here to know he’s caring, unique, and likely about to enter a world of a lot of trouble.
Hanging over the character work and story is the Veil, which is described as “a neurological internet connection.” It doesn’t seem so far-fetched in a world where we’re already placing avatars in place of our actual faces on the internet. Snyder digs a bit into cultural mindsets and desires that are easy to follow and relate to. It’s laid out in a logical way, with some key info about what has happened in globalization, that is hauntingly believable. It’s a concept that sounds insanely cool to experience in VR or in a movie, but could be very tricky to visualize in a comic book.
That said, Manapul knocks it out of the park, slowly easing readers into the experience of re-skinning the world via street shots and then totally tossing us into the deep end with a chase sequence that integrates multiple worlds being introduced into the main character’s vision all at once. Like some kind of puzzle or collage, Manapul fragments the world around our protagonist with panels showing different things in the sky, or even a car he’s chasing partly being rendered as a wooden carriage.
Your new favorite science fiction comic book series is here, and it goes by the name Clear. This series has all the trappings of an instant hit, capturing the old-school vibe of a detective noir with the modern sensibilities we crave in sci-fi. Buried within the slick visuals is a comic that is focused on the human struggle to escape reality and bury our noses in entertainment and instant gratification. In some sense, it’s an inversion of Blade Runner which is about trying to find identity — in Clear, our protagonist is trying to hold onto his identity and what is real in a world that wants to escape it.
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