Dept. H #1 (Dark Horse)


CREDIT: Dark Horse

Rating: 4.5/5 – A Locked Room Murder Mystery in the Depths of the Ocean.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Matt Kindt is a prolific creator who is both a writer and an artist.  He has done both series he both writes and draws (like Mind MGMT, one of my favorite books of recent years) as well as serving solely as writer on series like Valiant’s Rai and Ninjak, and his creator owned series from Dark Horse, Past Aways, with artist Scott Kolins.  He’s back on writing and art duties with this new ongoing Dept. H, which is a play on the word depth, since it is about what is essentially a “locked room” murder mystery that takes place on a scientific research station at the bottom of the ocean.

What can I say? I love Kindt.  He is one of my favorite creators working in comics today.  I particularly like his work when he is handling both the writing and art, so this series is right up my alley.  Art appreciation is a very personalized thing.  Different people can look at the same art and one thinks it is wonderful, while the other has an intense dislike for it.  The trick is understanding that just because you don’t like a piece of art does not necessarily make it bad art.  It just means it is art you don’t like.  Kindt has a very distinctive style that some people (like me) love, while others declare it to be “bad”, which really just means they don’t like it and are not able to articulate this thought properly.  But enough preaching about what is probably my #1 pet peeve in comics fandom.  Let’s talk about the comic.

The story focuses on Mia.  Her father was the head of USEAR (Underwater Science Exploration And Research) and was on a station 7 miles down at the bottom of the ocean where he was murdered.  Why?  And by whom?  Mia is determined to find out and this first issue gives us the basic background, introduces us to the key players, and gets her down to the station.  As far as storytelling goes, Kindt is employing some interesting techniques.  1st, each issue will be 1 day in the lives of the characters.  That does not mean every day will necessarily be the very next day from the previous issue, there may be skips, but the issue itself takes place over the course of a day.  That said, Kindt is moving a bit outside of that constraint by including flashbacks to fill in background material, and this is where the superb watercolors provided by Sharlene Kindt (Matt’s wife) come into play.  The present day scenes are in full color while the flashbacks are in muted blue-tones, the effect worked really nicely for me and I’m loving the art & color in the issue.

Dept. H is a must read series for fans of Matt Kindt’s writing AND art.  If you loved Mind MGMT, you should be on board for this.  If you’re unsure, pick up a copy of the issue at your comic shop and flip through it.  Does the art appeal to you?  If so, buy it and read it, I think you’ll enjoy it.  This is definitely a series that needs fan support.  Kindt makes an appeal to fans in the back saying that the success of any series depends on people buying the book monthly.  “Waiting for the Trade” is all well and good, but if enough people do that instead of buying the series as it comes out, there won’t be any trades to wait for, the series will end due to low sales.  Kindt intends to reward monthly readers by including material every month that will not be reproduced in the collected editions; sketches, pin-ups, articles, process pieces.  If you like it, buy it monthly!  I am.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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