Saviors and Saints, Devils and Astrid Alike
“I can lose a rook, but I cannot lose a Queen.” Pretty powerful words, right? Like let me write my thesis on that kind of words. The powerful woman that is the subject of this week’s tellin’-alls from the mind of someone way too stuffed with Kit Kats is a bit different. She’s neither a heroine nor a villainess, but instead is her own unique brand of anti-heroine.
Her name is Astrid Mueller, and she is what makes the goddess Gail Simone’s Clean Room magic. Now, this series is a bit new, and is only six issues in. So no excuses as to why you haven’t filled your squishy melon full of this psychological thriller meets horror meets art project.
Astrid Mueller is the head a huge self-help organization, and is a writer whose books cast an immensely strange vibe on the person reading them. Kinda like how Twilight makes people go crazy, but you know, the books she writes are actually, uh, good. One great detail is that her books have no punctuation at all, and they are full of conspiracies and other psychological notions verging on what someone believe is almost religious. The woman herself is shrouded in mystery, which only adds to the suspense as we learn more about her. She has what is called a “Clean Room” within her headquarters, which nobody knows the nature of. It is as veiled in riddle as she is. That is, until a reporter named Chloe, whose fiance killed himself with one of Astrid’s books open on the counter next to him, persistently tracks her down. Chloe goes on what is a bit of a mad reportin’ spree as she finally gets an interview with Astrid, and the presence of the woman she has been chasing down leaves even her a bit subdued. Astrid presents herself almost majestically, like a black widow. Beautiful but extremely dangerous. She keeps this air about her, even with faced with terrifying situations.
So what is it with Astrid? What’s her deal? Well, when she was a little girl, she was hit by a car, not once but twice, and that is what sparked everything. Astrid can see things, horrible things. In the hospital, she sees a monster attached to her father, and now seeks out people who have the same gift/curse that she does. Gotta give it up to Jon Davis-Hunt for being able to have the imagination to match Gail Simone’s writing, because let’s just say he kills it in the horrific and monsterly area. Seriously, the art in this book and the creatures throughout it are beautiful, and yes, scary. Though certain parts of the tale are indeed of the horror genre, both Gail’s writing and Jon’s illustrations keep it on the track of intellect without diving into confusion. Astrid is easily the most engaging character, and having scenes where her childhood teddy bear, which she had when she was hit by the car so many years ago, in many key scenes keeps her rooted in her motivation behind the Clean Room.
Many call her a psycho, a brainwasher, a crazy woman. To others, she’s a saint, a savior, a magnificent woman who helps people get free of their addictions and changes their lives for the better. Astrid is a clear leader, and she calls the closest people who work for her “rooks”. She explains to Chloe that an inverted rook is called a Wazir, and is only allowed to move one space on the chessboard at a time, barely making them stronger than a pawn.
Whatever you want to call her, Astrid Mueller is a powerful character, and getting deeper into the series only makes this more evident. Her backstory grows, as well as her relation to the supernatural and humanity. She is a piece of fiercely intelligent writing, and is not the stereotypical woman in comic books. Astrid stands out so aggressively in this story without overpowering it. Yet she’s always there, being the Queen and the person that is keeping balance between two powers.