• Dept. H #19

    Dept. H #19
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: October 18th, 2017.
    Written by: Matt Kindt
    Illustrated by: Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt
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    The submarine is stuck at the bottom of the ocean. We learn through Mia’s narration that she’s come to peace with it and accepted the fact that they could all very well be done quite soon. Crabs crawl over the hull. Except they’re not crabs, they’re remote subs being operated by someone up on the surface, clearly keeping an eye on the crew, plugging themselves into the sub and acting as temporary battery packs.

    There are some mild spoilers here. I realized this after I wrote the bulk of what’s below but want to point it out in this part of the review so you can opt out if you want. Nothing major is revealed, but if you want to go in completely blind, you’ve been warned (but if you want to go in completely blind why are you reading reviews in the first place?).

    It works. The sub gets enough power that it’s able to surface and head towards station X where they hope to find Aaron… if he made it that far. But of course, they’ll only make it to the station if they’re able to stop and depressurize at every stop, assuming those stops are working. As the sub pilots them past what’s left of the research station they scope of the destruction that occurred there seems to set in. Mia thinks about this, how what’s left of the station will wind up being her father’s tomb. It’s already being reclaimed by the denizens of the deep. As she ponders this, the curse, the motive, we flashback… to a discussion with Phil about Hari taking Dept. H into space.

    Conversation inside the sub snaps her back to reality. They have no idea what sort of condition Aaron might be in if he made it to the station before them. Bob notes that if Aaron is a threat, he’ll be neutralized. It’s after he makes this comment that Mia asks Bob why she thinks her father was killed. He doesn’t know. Hari was a source of inspiration to the entire crew. It’s hear that we learn how Bob met him, how he read about him in National Geographic while being held a prisoner of war. He then became a special ops agent, working to stop the Chinese from tunneling under the ocean into Japanese and Russian waters where they planned to develop viral-weapons capabilities. After that he went to South America to deal with a Russian threat – viral weapons again – but when his actions became too high profile his own government had to deal with it. This led Bob to Hari who hired him as a security expert. While working for Hari he stopped eco-terrorists from ruining his base in Antarctica. He notes that they had to have been funded by someone – Russians? Chinese? Americans? Any of them could have had it out for Hari, wanting to stop him from developing a virus cure all that would ruin all of their viral weapons work.

    And then they arrive at the first sub-station.

    Anyone who has been paying attention to the series knew that Dept. H was working towards an end, that it was never really intended to be an ongoing series in the true sense of the word. Matt Kindt had a finale in mind, and with this issue, we’re now working towards that. As such, in the following issues we can probably expect a lot of revelations to come forward. If Mia’s quest to solve her father’s murder must end, then we must find out who did it, right? Hopefully. And maybe why they did it. But who knows, Kindt’s writing is as unorthodox as his illustration, easily capable of transporting us to strange worlds inhabited by strange characters who do strange things – that somehow all comes together to make perfect sense. This has been a very creative, artistically challenging series from the start in terms of how it has been written and in terms of how it has been laid out and illustrated. Don’t expect that to change as we work towards the finish. This issue continues what a lot of the best issues of Dept. H have done, and that’s build character. This time around, yes, we further the plot as the sub with the survivors in it makes its way to the surface, but we also learn a lot about Bob, how he joined up with Hari, how he became loyal to the man and why, and his past, how that might tie into things. Or not. I have no idea where this series is going, and that’s the beauty of it. That’s what makes it so fascinating and so much fun and so beautiful to experience each and every month.

    And of course, as it is with every issue, we get some nice pre-production artwork from Kindt and the always fascinating letters pages which are always worth reading. Except this time there’s only one letter, and it’s from Kindt to his readers. Here he talks about the end of the series, coming with issue #24, his move to Vienna, his thoughts on how people ‘consume’ artwork and more. It’s an interesting piece that makes me think I’d like to sit down and have a few drinks with him some day. Sharlene Kindt too. Her coloring work is beautiful and a big part of what makes Dept. H looks as gorgeous as it does. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Dept. H is, again, one of the best comic books out there right now. It’s highbrow without being pretentious, beautiful and sometimes horrifying, challenging without coming across as inaccessible. It just plain works. If you haven’t been reading this, you really have been missing out.