An alien envoy is investigating the disappearance of an associate. This leads him to Earth some thousands of years ago. He finds the highly advanced civilization of Atlantis. He offers them the opportunity to join the Orion Federation. He only has one catch: the leaders of Atlantis must show complete transparency of the workings of their society for one day.
Atlantis agrees, but are they truly showing him the full picture?
As you can tell, Cleansing plays with the Atlantis myth, particularly the one that has developed over the millennia that it was a highly advanced society.
The protagonist, named D'Zeekr Qrono, is an aloof character. He is somewhere between Uatu the Watcher, the Vision, and Data. He is benevolent, but nothing seems to phase him until the end. He has a strict set of rules which he drip-feeds us as the comic progresses.
He's not especially engaging, but he's not boring either. He can pull the story forward, but he's not easy to connect with. That's where the Uatu comparison comes in, but even Uatu has had moments where he's broken his aloof persona.
Granted, that's not the fairest comparison, given that the Watcher is a 50-year old character.
The plot can get a little confusing at times as well, especially when two different stories begin to unveil alongside each other.
It also throws a lot of its own complex terms at you in the beginning, which can feel a little intimidating and alienating for an opening.
His evaluation of Atlantis is, at least in part, moralistic. He is evaluating how fit Atlantis is for the Orion Federation and its gifts. That's where the premise can get a bit shaky. To discuss this, a spoiler warning is necessary, so you have been warned.
Atlantis has slaves. They are called the Adumen, and they are referred to as savages. However, one or more of them are communicating telepathically with D'Zeekr over the course of the story, giving him insight into what is really going on in this society. That's where the two different narratives run concurrently.
This also connected to his original reason for coming to Earth, but those specifics aren't all that pertinent to this discussion.
One detail that is hard to accept is that D'Zeekr asks if they could coexist peacefully with the Atlanteans, and the Adumen answer that they have nothing against them. They know they are being used as puppets by a hidden dictator.
I'm not sure I can buy that. Slavery, torture, murder, and rape (which is briefly alluded to) is hard to forgive. Maybe this is some enlightened leader of the Adumen, but, well—slavery has existed in world history, and the oppressed don't generally just get over it, which is, in my measure, pretty damn understandable.
Admittedly, that is something of a semantic in the grand scheme of the comic, but D'Zeekr asks the same question, could the Atlanteans coexist with the Adumen, to that hidden dictator. He angrily says no.
Now, much of Atlantis isn't even aware of this guy's existence, but D'Zeekr has that answer count for all of Atlantis. This leads to him well, cleansing, them from the face of the Earth like the Old Testament God. Like criticisms of the Old Testament God, the question must be asked if every Atlantean deserved that fate. However, the comic doesn't seem aware of that potential hypocrisy and goes about its merry way, the reader being left to assume that D'Zeekr was in the right.
Also, and this is more of a tone issue, but that hidden dictator also punishes one of the Atlantean high council by having him—well, give him oral sex. This happens in front of the rest of the council, and he asks them "what are you glaring at." That's a single moment, but it does stand out for many reasons.
The art for the comic is quite good. The team of Andre Araujo and Catherine Toennisson do a good job of creating their own Atlantis. The inhabitants look unique and the city looks great. D'Zeekr has a pretty great design as well, both his true form and his disguise. This comic looks great all-around.
The Cleansing has a lot of interesting high sci-fi ideas, and it comes close to seeing them realized. However, the finale stumbles, and the lead character isn't interesting enough to pull the reader through it. I can recommend it to people who are interested in hard sci-fi, but only tentatively.
For those who are interested, it is available on ComiXology.