• Dept. H 2: After The Flood

    Dept. H 2: After The Flood
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: July 5th, 2017.
    Written by: Matt Kindt
    Illustrated by: Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt
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    Not caught up? Get caught up. When this issue begins, the crew has split up. Mia’s up at the communications room with Roger, Aaron is running towards Jerome’s lab, Q and Lily are trying to get the pumps fixed, others heading to the sick bay to retrieve Raj while they still can. It’s chaos, and they’re about to lose their emergency power.

    While the others set out to do what they can, Mia finds herself alone with Roger and with a bit if time to kill while they wait on the rest, she asks him about her father’s death. She tells him she feels everyone had a hand in it and that for that reason, none of them are worth saving. She wants to get in the sub and head back to the surface and leave them in the base to drown.

    Roger tries to convince her otherwise. He tells her about Aaron, who was a student of Hari’s, Mia’s father, who Roger himself assisted years ago. Aaron got noticed because he would challenge Hari in class. They would debate the meaning of exploration, of what would happen if extraterrestrial life were found and how it would affect human existence and religion. Aaron was able to get Hari to think differently and by doing that, guided him to explore the oceans instead of the skies.

    Roger explains this as we see Aaron find Jerome and confront him about the cure for the H virus that was noted in his diaries. Jerome brings Aaron to his chambers where he pulls a jellyfish out of a tank and slaps Aaron in the face with it. Aaron and Jerome scuffle, Aaron’s communication link goes dark and Jerome destroys some of the H virus test vaccine. Aaron does what he has to do to stop it all from being destroyed, he knows what this could mean up on the surface.

    The base is flooding. Water from outside is coming in fast and something is blocking the drains. Mia and Roger are up to their necks in water and running out of time. Bob is going to grab Raj and then head over to help, but Raj isn’t in the best shape. Regardless, they make a break for it as the place starts to fall apart around them. Bob says to Raj that none of this is accidental, it’s happening too perfectly.

    Bob and Raj get to the compartment where Mia and Roger are trapped. They try to clear the area in front of the door but it’s no use, they won’t be able to do it before they drown. Inside the compartment, Mia wonders aloud if Bob is the one who killed her dad. He’s former Special Forces, lots of experience with weapons. Meanwhile Bob himself is trying his damnedest to find a way to get them out. They attempt to make their way through the ducts and vents of the base to the computer system in hopes of redirecting the flow of the incoming water.

    As this happens, Roger gives Mia some background information on Bob. He tells her of how he first met him in the jungles of Belize where he was covered in blood, surrounded by dead soldiers. Mia’s father, Hari, felt that Bob’s experience in the theater of war made him indestructible. On his last job he was sent to take out a Venezuelan drug lord who was actually working on unleashing a virus on an unsuspecting world. It went south, the Russians said it was an act of war and the U.S. government abandoned him to avoid an encounter. Bob retreated into the jungle and was left a wanted man. And then the legends started, about a beast that would decapitate drug dealers and kidnappers and leave their headless bodies on the steps of government buildings. When guerillas went after Hari and his lab crew, Bob stepped in and took care of it. Bob recognized Roger and Hari from the pages of National Geographic.

    But what about that water? There sure is a lot of it…

    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…

    Mia and Roger are still stuck in that room. There’s a leak above and the lights have been knocked out but the humming Roger can hear means they have power. It must be a short. Mia tries to tape the leaking pipe shut but what does it matter? They’re surrounded by water with no way out. She tries to get ahold of anyone on the radio, but her calls get nothing but static in return.

    She asks Roger to tell her a story, his story. He obliges.

    Roger met Mai’s father when they were in university. Roger was a film student so when her dad posted an ad for a cameraman, he answered. They became fast friends and Roger’s aspirations soon changed. Roger had dated Mia’s mother before she became involved with her dad, and tensions arose later not because Roger lost the girl, but because he didn’t think Hari should have ever had a family in the first place – he was too single minded, too obsessed with exploring, to do right by them.

    We see this first hand through a flashback scene. Mia, as a kid, gets bitten by a snake, a viper. Her dad is nowhere around so her mother has Roger bring her to the hospital on his motorcycle. Had Roger not been there, Mia would have died. Roger stuck by the guy, but was it for Hair’s sake or was it just a way to stay close to the girl he lost to him? We also learn that those ‘vacations’ Mia’s mom used to take weren’t vacations. Every once in a while she’d have her fill of Hari’s obsessive ways and just take off for weeks at a time. The Green Hole Expedition in South America would prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Roger warned Hari that they shouldn’t be there, something wasn’t right about the place, but Hari wouldn’t listen – the expedition was all that mattered to him.

    At this point, Q has made it into the room where Mia and Roger were trapped and figuring they were going to drown. Roger was with him, but Lily is not. He tells Mia that they got ‘split up’ and that ‘she’s involved, she knows something.’ Roger confirms that this was sabotage from the inside. Someone in the group is responsible for the flood, and Mia has to wonder if that same person is the one who killed her father. Roger figures Lily got ahold of the excavation explosives and used those to set all of this off.

    Mia can’t trust anyone at this point, she can only trust the evidence. She leaves the group to go find her helmet camera in hopes that the recording it holds will hold some clues. She’s also exhausted and having trouble sorting all of this out. So many suspects, but so few obvious motives. She does, however, deduce that the explosions did come from the inside and were done one at a time, small sized – in hopes that no one would notice until it was too late.

    She puts on her helmet and heads underwater. Here she has a conversation with a man in a dive suit, his face covered, about what she’s really doing here. We flash back and see Hari quitting the space station project - space was starting to wear on him and he shut the project down. Hari set out to reuse an old oil rig in the Mariana Trench for further research, Raj backed him at every move. Hari’s plan was to use this to get the undersea base back in order. The man in the dive suit asks Mia if she remembers the green hole that her dad was obsessed with. We learn who really got there first and what happened to them when they dove for treasure. Hari went down later not for treasure but for genuine research – and to find the truth about the expedition that preceded his own.

    Issue twelve, the last issue in this collection, opens with a splash page introducing us to an ‘activist philanthropist’ named Blake Mortime. It’s done as an interview piece, like something out of a magazine. Blake talks about keeping a low profile but how he wants to raise awareness for a venture he’s funding to explore the far reaches of space and find a viable alternative to the current planet we’re all living on and that is currently plagued by the H-Virus. He also talks about his split with famed explorer Hari Hardy.

    Back in the base on the floor of the ocean, Mia watches as a fight breaks out. They try to calm things down, unware that outside small submarines seem to be scurrying about. The good news? Before it all hit the fan, Jerome was onto something in his lab – a cure for the H-Virus. Aaron even posits that this is the reason that the murder that started all of this in the first place was committed. He also admits to killing Jerome himself. In Aaron’s defense, we know that Jerome was off his rocker and that he was trying to destroy his own work. Aaron did what he had to do, but Mia questions this – she figures if her dad, Hari, knew of a cure that he’d have shared it, not hidden it. After all, she says, his motives were pure.

    Q tells the crew that they’ve got two working subs left, it’s time to use them to get back to the surface. Those subs, however, are in C-Branch and the corridors there are flooded. To get there, they’re all going to have to suit up and go along the exterior, the hull of the base, together. This won’t be easy with tensions running as high as they are, but soon enough they’ve made it. Unfortunately, Q notes that they don’t have enough of a charge to take more than half of the crew. Aaron, Bob and Lily take the first sub leaving Raj, Q and Mia on the second sub. Roger volunteers to stay behind. This gets Mia thinking about all of her father’s work – she doesn’t want it to just die. She decides to stay here too, this is all that’s left of Hari. Her brother Raj doesn’t feel the same way and he boards the second sub with Q.

    As the first sub nears the surface we learn what those other subs that were circling the base were there for – Dept. H has been quarantined, it’s believed that they’ve all been exposed to a new strain of the H-Virus and they won’t be allowed out of the water. It’s Alain himself who notifies them of this, the fact that they’re carrying a probable cure doesn’t matter. Jerome told Alan that he’d exposed the rest in the course of his research…

    Matt Kindt’s tale of murder six miles deep continues to be an engaging and gripping read. The character development continues to develop at a deliberate but effective pace, and once again we flashback with Mia to some very specific moments from her childhood that help us to better understand who she is and her connection with her late father. It might seem like a small thing but for a series as involved in her singular quest as Dept. H is, it makes a big difference when the writing is savvy enough to make sure that the reader ‘gets it.’ At the same time, Kindt’s careful not to spoon feed things to us. The mystery is unraveling to be sure, but it’s at a controlled pace and the conspiratorial elements that were seemingly sidelines in the early issues are now coming to take on a bigger part of what’s happening. It’s great stuff, and of course it’s once again illustrated in Kindt’s beautifully unorthodox style and complemented by picture perfect coloring courtesy of Sharlene Kindt.