Augmented reality is a readily available technology in today’s world. From gadgets like Google Glass to apps like Pokémon Go, there are plenty of ways to add an extra layer to the world around us. So, what if you could take things a step further and make the whole world into something else? What would you choose to see instead of the depressing horror of things as they truly are? That’s the premise of Clear, a cyberpunk, neo-noir story where you’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s an illusion.
After losing a terrible war in the near future, the United States has slid ever further into a downward spiral. Fortunately, to avoid seeing how bad things are getting, you can get a veil: an overlay that links directly to your consciousness to make things look like whatever you want. Wanna see the world as an ’80s dance party? A Utopian future? A wacky cartoon? Just shell out a few dollars for the right veil, and the world is whatever you make it.
Only a scant handful of people choose to see the world as it really is. Among them is Sam Dunes, a hard-boiled detective who would rather dwell in the terrible reality than escape to a comforting fantasy. Of course, that costs money, too. Everything costs money, and hardly anyone has any—yet another reason not to want to see the world as it really is.
When Sam’s estranged wife Kendra turns up dead, he’s led to believe it wasn’t an accident. This, in turn, leads him on a long and circuitous investigation of the world of veils: the people who make them, the people who sell them, and the people who traffic them illegally. There’s a large and seedy underworld built around this industry, if you care to look—which, of course, no one does.
As for Sam, though, who does care to look, he quickly finds himself caught up in a vast conspiracy, where no one can be trusted and everyone has something to lose. How, exactly, did Kendra get caught up in all of this? How deep did she get, and what did she know or do that got her killed? And how deep into it can Sam get before he gets killed himself?
The further we get into the story, and the deeper into the conspiracy, the more twists and turns there are. It keeps things exciting, but by the end, it seems just a little convoluted, and you’re not quite sure if everything makes sense.
Still, like most good noir, it’s the journey – not the destination – that makes it worthwhile, and, in this case, the world the journey takes us through is a lot of fun. It’s a gritty, dystopian reality that makes for compelling sci-fi, but, at the same time, hits just a little bit close to home. The rich and powerful control everything, making their money by keeping the rest of the populace complacent and distracted. That’s a concept that’s universal.
This volume tells a complete, self-contained story, but I wouldn’t say no to more stories within this world. The comic is flawed in places, but there’s still a lot to love about it, and, in the end, I enjoyed it. If you’re a fan of gritty, sci-fi noir, then you’ll definitely want to check out Clear.
Creative Team: Scott Snyder (writer), Francis Manapul (artist/colorist), Andworld Design (letterer)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Click here to purchase.