Dept. H #5
Writer & Artist: Matt Kindt
Colourist: Sharlene Kindt
Publisher: Dark Horse
A review by Amelia Wellman
Vast advances in scientific method. Deep sea exploration. Murder six miles down on the uncharted ocean floor. Dept. H is a locked room, sci-fi, murder mystery with a cast of colourful characters and giant squids! Five issues in and the pressure is still rising!
Dept. H #5 has Mia sleep-deprived and not feeling so hot as she tries to solve the murder and sabotage that brought her to the bottom of the ocean. On top of that, she has to save her brother, who went missing when the two of them went to explore the caves that hold the backup generators. It seems that the more clues she uncovers about the murder, the more complicated the case becomes.
Dept. H #5 picks up with Mia journeying through an uncharted cave because there are voices calling to her. Believing it’s her brother, she runs headlong into a situation she doesn’t understand and hasn’t prepared for. Mia does that a lot. She’s at the bottom of the ocean at this research centre to find a murderer and, because she’s been told to suspect everyone, a large part of each Dept. H story is spent in deep, introspective moments where Mia goes over her evidence, breaks down the other characters, or goes over her own flaws. While we get large pieces of Mia revealed all at once, all the other characters are examined a little at a time. If anything is revealed about them, more questions promptly pour in keeping the mystery going strong.
Action within the narrative is unrelenting but not overwhelming. The problems Mia encounters are severe but they’re solvable for the time being. Suspense rises with the water pressure. The atmosphere of the series is creepy, dark, and foreboding. Aside from a murderer/saboteur lurking the halls of the research facility, the whole ocean is overhead of these characters and they deal with it in differing ways. Mia feels small in the immeasurable gloom of it while her brother approaches it scientifically to a fault. In the circumstances of the situation, the self is shown to be just as dangerous as the creatures prowling in the dark, cold waters of the seabed.
The art of Dept. H is absolutely stunning. Choosing which is better, the art or the story, is next to impossible. The backgrounds are soft splashes of water colour with rough and fast black sketch-lines inked over top. The character designs are varied and soft around the edges, while retaining the expressiveness that drives the story forward. It isn’t the most detailed artwork you’ll ever see in a comic book, but it’s beautiful and alluring in its uniqueness and definitely has a confident sense of style.
Buy It! Dark Horse found a gem with Dept. H. A locked room murder mystery at the bottom of the ocean? Why has no one thought of this before? Diverse characters in both their personalities and appearances, unanswered questions that keep the suspense going and your interest piqued, and the gorgeous art of Dept. H combine to make a comic worth pursuing for what is hopefully a long, glorious run!