Dept.H #1 Writer: Matt Kindt Pencils: Matt Kindt Colors: Sharlene Kindt Letters: Marie Enger Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Along with his colorist and wife Sharlene Kindt, writer and creator Matt Kindt(Mind MGNT, Ninjak) brings us an engagingly tense murder mystery in the depths of the ocean cleverly titled Dept.H.
Dept.H is a scientific research center underwater and significance may be immense as there are allusions that the surface world may be in its final days. Our protagonist is a woman named Mia who travels to Dept.H to investigate the recent death of a researcher at the facility, who happens to be her father. Many people claim it to be just an accident but there are multiple hints to suggest that something or someone else is at play.
Matt Kindt does a solid job throughout the issue introducing the audience to the world and premise of the new series. The reveal at the end is fairly obvious and can be seen a mile away but it’s genuine and a strong driving force behind Mia’s determination and disregard of other peoples concern. Mia throughout her journey is reminiscent of the character Mattie in the Coen Brother’s version of True Grit. Someone who keeps their emotions in check and possibly feels that showing them is a sign of weakness. That allowing emotions to influence their actions will interfere with their ultimate goal, both of which is seeking justice as well as revenge for the death of their father. This is an uneasy and unpleasant story that works in the comics favor.
Unfortunately, while the status quo moving forward is brilliantly set up, Matt Kindt throws too much in terms of characters at you. It’s strange because the story is well paced and takes its time, the introduction of the players is thrown at you in rapid pace, it’s rather jarring. Characters are quickly brought in, established, then the comic transitions into establishing the next character without fleshing out the previous one. The final page just comes off as lazy, having an abundance of different characters with their names and a mini-bio caption next to them seems to be done because the issue is in a rush to introduce all the different characters so it can get the plot moving. It would have been more effective had the comic took its time to draw and suck its readers into its characters.
While the writing of this comic is uneven, the art is superb throughout. Matt’s pencils are sketchy, gritty, and a bit ugly at times but is well suited for the sour and unpleasant setting. This is a mystery story about a murder in the dark ocean depths, it shouldn’t look pretty. Sharlene Kindt’s colors have a murky watercolor vibe to them and does a great job of establishing the past and present scenes. In the flashbacks, Sharlene brings down the color palette with a monotone feel and has a heavy emphasis on blue. While the present scenes has a higher color palette to them, it never goes high and keeps the cold environment feeling all the more uneasy and dire.
Dept.H is getting raving reviews and has a lot of hype behind it. This unfortunately worked against as people will go in with high expectations. What they’ll received is a very tense and bitter murder mystery in a very dower and grim environment. The artwork is impressively both expressive and subtle and the same time. However the jarringly rapid pace of character introduction makes the writing completely uneven and the final page is really nagging. Hopefully the comic settles down in latter issues and allows the reader to get to know the characters through dialogue.
Score: 3 out of 5
Review by Eric Bradach