Review - Dept. H #1 (@DarkHorseComics)

"I know the answers to all my questions are down there."

There are things about the depths of the ocean that we still don't know. It's not because we don't want to know, but because we can't get down there. When we do get down there, it's inevitable that some of the darker aspects of humanity will make appearances, including murder as explored in Dept. H #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written and illustrated by Matt Kindt and colored by Sharlene Kindt.

Mia is a special investigator hired to uncover possible sabotage taking place at a deep-sea research station. What she finds is a mind-blowing crime scene filled with suspects with terrible secrets, strange deep-sea creatures and an impending flood!

The whodunnit approach to literature is always hit or miss, but Kindt definitely hits in Dept. H #1. The premise is the investigation of a murder and Kindt goes to great lengths (depths?) to establish the crime scene and give the reader context for the mystery. Mia is presented as a supremely confident person who everyone knows is capable of solving the crime, but Kindt's dialogue also presents her as someone who will likely face opposition. Kindt offers a great summation of all the suspects by the end and gives the reader reasons to suspect each and every one of them. And while the core of the issue is solving the mystery, Kindt spends a good amount of time exploring the surrounding world as well.

The illustrations in Dept. H #1 are loose and dreamlike. Kindt's style is very distinct and relies on a somewhat enigmatic take on the characters and settings, with the characters seemingly floating through backgrounds. This approach works exceptionally well for helping the reader to better conceptualize inhabiting a location deep under the sea that boasts a sense of weightlessness. Every panel in the issue is crucial to establishing the surrounding environment and Kindt blends them together in an effective way for telling the story. And Sharlene Kindt's colors are a great fit, adding a washed out tone to the work.

Beyond its title being a clever play on the underlying concept of the book, Dept. H #1 is a strong first issue that establishes plenty of stakes for the characters and readers. Mia is respected amongst the other characters as the right woman for the job, but whether or not they'll approve of her results remains to be seen. Kindt's script is free-flowing and methodical, giving the reader plenty go grab onto as they make their own assumptions about its direction. His artwork is equally as ambivalent in its approach, playing into the mystery well. Dept. H #1 is a well-rounded book that offers everything one could want from a good mystery story.

Dept. H #1 is in stores April 20. The Final Order Cut Off is Monday, March 28 (FEB160017).