Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Cleaners: Absent Bodies by Mark Wheaton, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal

Robert Bellarmine is a former surgeon who now leads a company of crime-scene cleanup technicians. Unlike the others in his profession, he does a much better job at cleaning up all sorts of contamination, from surfaces to the very air, which can get contaminated with the blood and body cells of the victims, allowing anyone in the area to aspirate the blood and body cells and be infected with whatever diseases the victim might be carrying, or which has landed there while the blood sat out.

But something about the new crime scenes that Robert is being called out to is very unusual. Not necessarily the blood spatter, but the fact that there are several blood types all mixed up together in the blood spatter, and some of it is over 20 years old. The blood is human, but the cops try to pacify the residents by telling them that the blood belongs to dogs, but Robert tells the woman who asks that if it was really dog blood, they would have gone home- the cops that is. And they are still there.

Meanwhile, the residents of the area are hiding their own little secret- children have been disappearing, and concerned parents are keeping them inside for fear that their children will be the next ones to disappear. But who, or what, is kidnapping children and slowly bleeding them? And what is this person or thing doing with all that blood? And future stories are hinted at, as well. Why is the man known as Knut taking the hair of showgirls? What does he plan to do with the girl he's following?

And the back-up story "The Body Colony" shows us a man infected by a plant when he was wounded. Now he can't control the thing growing inside him- can Robert Bellarmine help him get it under control?

I liked this book, which mixed the science of crime labs and crime scenes with supernatural creatures, like "Leeches" and the plant species infesting the man at the end of the book. We also get to see that Robert is not a well man, and what impelled him to stop being a surgeon and become a crime scene cleanup technician. Well, at least somewhat. He was married and his wife was sick and died, but we don't know why she died or why he chose his current profession.

Another thing this comic has is blood. Lots and lots of blood.

The artwork is somewhat different as well. Despite it being conventionally western in style, the blacks seem heavier and deeper, and seem to hint at something hidden, which definitely fits in with the supernatural that hides beneath the surface of the ordinary in the stories. The other members of Robert's team are also something of a mystery at this point. Why does Knut have razors imbedded in his fingers? And why is he so pale? What is he doing with the hair of the showgirls? is he something supernatural, or is the blonde that he seems to be stalking?

I loved this book, and I definitely want to see more of this series. I hope that they release another graphic novel soon, and that some of the mysteries laid out here are cleaned up. For those who loved CSI and would like to see them do more "Supernatural"-type stories, this series is a gem. Recommended.

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