The 24 issues of Matt Kindt′s Dept.H series is everything we look for at borg–science fiction, action, adventure, retro, mystery, noir. And it all arrived in one comic book series from Dark Horse. Writer/artist Matt Kindt has said his series Dept.H was inspired by 1970s G.I. Joes, Fisher Price Adventure People toys, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Jacques Cousteau, and readers felt all of that come through. From the patch on the underwater crew outfits that evoked the classic 1960s/1970s G.I. Joe Adventure Team to the SP-350 diving saucer from the famed Calypso in the craft that takes the characters to the depths of the ocean floor in the opening pages, to the setting and Department H Headquarters based on the ocean floor that screams H.G. Wells, Dept.H is one of the decade’s top comic book series. And it’s now coming your way in two paperback omnibus editions beginning next week.
Best known for his run on his Mind MGMT series, Eisner Award nominee Kindt wrote and illustrated the story, with coloring supplied by Sharlene Kindt, his wife. In part the series is an Agatha Christie-inspired closed room case. We meet Mia Hardy, who has been asked to find the mole in the undersea lab, a mole who is believed to have sabotaged the base and murdered her father. Mia has worked with the suspects before, providing the opportunity for the writer to hold back information and share with us bits and pieces when necessary. Who killed Mia’s father? Was it Q, the head of Dept. H security? Her father’s business partner Roger? The frenetic head of research Jerome? Demolition expert Bob? Her childhood friend turned enemy Lily? Her own brother Raj? Or Aaron, the research assistant? Or was it someone topside?
Readers feel the pressure of undersea operations as Mia is plunged into her own peril, as the facility again is sabotaged before she can work her way though all the suspects. How long can Kindt take us for this suffocating adventure before letting us come up for air? The page design even features a graduated flood gauge at the pages’ edges that slowly “fills up” with water issue after issue.
Kindt’s clever writing leads you to believe he may have already given us more than enough clues to solve the murder in his panel images and subtext. Kindt’s use of two stories running concurrently in a single panel–one in flashback and one real-time–is simply a brilliant use of the comic book medium.
Sharlene Kindt’s color work is integral to the enjoyment of this series. Both Matt’s cover work and Sharlene’s color composition throughout evoke late artist Sam Petrucci’s original artwork that appeared on the 1960s G.I. Joe action figure boxes. Probably the best single artwork in the series can be found in the inside cover of Issue #8–a mock-up of Hari on the cover of an issue of National Geographic Magazine. Kindt’s greatest feat here is showing that this minimalist style of artistry can make us all believers and even benefit the active reading experience when coupled with great storytelling.
With its excellent pulp noir novel-style cover, low lighting and narration, you might call it the first undersea noir comic book series. It also evokes movies like Abyss, Leviathan, and Sphere, as well as outer space parallels like Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey. And, of course, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
A beautiful, addictive, evocative, classic science fiction mystery full of action with a great dose of all things retro, Dept.H is a story you must get your hands on if you haven’t already. If you missed the monthly issues, you can now order the new first volume omnibus (including Issues #1-12 and some bonus content) in trade paperback here, and pre-order the second volume omnibus (including Issues #13-24) here. If you can’t wait or you’d prefer a hardcover format, the first hardcover volume of Dept.H, Pressure, reprinting Issues #1-6, is available here, the second hardcover volume reprinting Issues #7-12, After the Flood, here, the third hardcover volume reprinting Issues #13-18 here, and the fourth hardcover volume reprinting Issues #19-24 here, all available at Amazon, or contact Elite Comics or your local comic book store and order back issues or any of these collected editions.