Review: DEPT. H #1

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DEPT. H #1
Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt, Marie Enger
Published by Dark Horse
Release Date: April 20, 2016

Jump into the warm, serene waters and let the calm overtake you. That’s usually the experience I have while reading a Matt Kindt book. Everything about his series, like Mind MGMT, submerges you completely into the story within a few pages. The art, the plot, the characters — this is a book that is a master course in story-telling. Dark Horse has what looks to be the start of a fantastic new series with Dept. H brought you by Matt Kindt, with Sharlene Kindt on colors and Marie Enger on letters.

Dept. H follows special investigator Mai as she dives deep underwater and into a hardboiled mystery. Not only must Mai find the truth about a severe incident under the sea, but the crime involves the death of her father. As if her safety isn’t compromised enough by being 20,000 leagues under the sea, Mai has no clue where her trust should lie among the eclectic cast and crew of the underwater research station.

This first issue does a beautiful job of setting the scene for the rest of the series.  There are numerous characters introduced, yet there is almost nothing overwhelming about the manner in which it is carried out. Each character is visually unique, with a design that seems to echo the character’s personality really well. This technique makes it easy to follow as the introductions are made and the setting is traipsed through. The baseline of this story, while not wholly original, is made impossibly intriguing by the way Kindt writes. While at base value, this could easily just be another mystery (albeit in a unique setting), Kindt elevates the drama by weaving an intricate web of character relationships and providing a compelling narrative using the Mai’s voice.

Kindt is truly one-of-a-kind when it comes to his art style. His loose watercolor and freely drawn line techniques provides the perfect atmosphere for a book set underwater. He so wonderfully captures a wide range of emotions, body-types, settings, and action in this opening issue. Every page has a flowing beauty to it that holds your attention throughout the story, making it easy to get sucked into the narrative. Sharlene Kindt’s colors are hauntingly gorgeous, slipping between scaled hues of blue to brightly colored pages. To cap it off, Marie Enger’s letters add a personal touch to the story, making this issue feel like a journal entry, working intimately to place you alongside Mai as she navigates the book.

Dept. H has sunk its watery teeth into me. This is a first issue that I immediately treasured for its breathtaking aesthetic and compelling narrative. If Matt Kindt hadn’t already made a fan of me with Mind MGMT, I’d be proclaiming my allegiance after this one issue. If you love mesmerizing stories, you’d best be picking up this book.

The Verdict: 10/10

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