Dept. H #9
Released by: Dark Horse Comics
Released on: December 21st, 2016.
Written by: Matt Kindt
Illustrated by: Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt
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Not caught up? Get caught up. Issue nine of Matt and Sharlene Kindt’s Dept. H, once again, picks up directly where the last issue left off. Continuity matters to this series and as excellent as this series is (and it really is excellent), this is not an ideal starting point for new readers. So seriously, get caught up.
When the issue opens, we see Mia as a younger version of herself walking across a trail in a rain forest. Someone calls out to her – then we cut back to the present, the undersea base she’s in, the base that is currently flooding. How is it that she sees a parrot talking to her underwater? She snaps back to reality, she and Roger are still stuck in that room and still running out of air very quickly. They think Raj and Bob are in the duct above them – they were trying to get access to the room to save them before the flooding killed them.
Mia and Roger radio Mia and tell her if they can save the others first on their way, to do so. As Lily and Q make their way towards them, Roger tells her Lily’s story, though Mia protests at first – they may have grown up together but she saw Lily hit on her dad once and that left an impression. Once Roger starts talking, he explains how Q and Mia’s dad met in Australia while working to save the Great Barrier Reef. Q needed a job and was just out of prison. Mia’s old man, Hair, hired the guy – he was fearless, we’re told – even if everyone else was against it. He had a lot of experience from his work on an oil rig, this made him a pretty handy guy to have around. Q quickly proved more than capable, until there was a nasty accident and, as foreman, he had to make some seriously tough choices. Q changed after that.
While Roger tells Mia Q’s story, we see Q and Lily make their way through the base, trying to save the others. Q tries to repair what he can along the way, knowing that if he can get the systems back up, maybe it’ll all be okay. As they go about this, the past that exists between Lily and Q comes into the present…
…but telling you anymore about that would ruin the comic, and we don’t want to do that, not when it’s as beautifully done as it is in this issue. Or any issue of Dept. H for that matter. Comics can be formulaic. For every innovative and ground breaking series there are a hundred cookie cutter superhero books out there going through the motions and cashing in on name recognition and the enduring popularity of iconic characters. That’s all well and good, but if you want something more – if you want to see creators really take you somewhere you’ve never been before – you’ve got to dig a little deeper. Enter Kindt’s Dept. H, an underwater murder mystery/character study with heavy science fiction overtones and loads of beautifully illustrated suspense. At nine issue in, we’re starting to get to know the characters pretty well – but as Roger’s storytelling to Mia over the last few issues has proven, not as well as we might think. Each issue of this series seems to be pulling back another layer, opening our eyes just a little bit more – it’s fascinating stuff, completely engrossing and just rock solid storytelling.
There are no monsters here, no men in tights saving the world. Just people. People in unusual situations, to be sure (not many of us have spent a whole lot of time in an undersea science laboratory looking to find out who killed our father), but people never the less. This grounds the story, it makes us able to relate to the people that Kindt has created for the book. They’re fleshed out well, they have their own personalities and quirks and traits – as Mia tries her damnedest to solve the mystery, we’re right along with her simply because the writing is so solid here.
The art compliments it perfectly. With beautiful water color style colors from Sharlene Kindt, the artwork is unorthodox, yes, but completely eye catching. The goal here doesn’t seem to be realism so much as it is emotion. The characters are at times exaggerated and at other times oddly proportioned but it doesn’t matter because they fit the story and the situation. The layouts are beautiful, the undersea setting couldn’t be more haunting and the illustrations are wonderfully detailed.
This issue also features illustrations showing off character design work for Lily as well as an unusually naked Q alongside some interesting letters pages where Kindt confesses that he’s never learned to SCUBA dive (he really should though, because SCUBA diving is amazing).