Dept. H #1

A locked room mystery is one of the oldest crime story subgenres. In most of versions, it’s about a murder committed in a room with only one way in, generally locked from the inside – but in general it’s about a seemingly impossible crime. The question is who is the perpetrator and how did they do it. In the case of Dept. H, the crime is the murder of a scientist in a lab accessed only via corridor in a research base – six miles below sea level.

Set in a not too distant future, Dept. H #1 begins a whodunit investigated by Mia, an Indian woman and the daughter of the victim. She is recruited by USEAR (Underwater Science Exploration and Research), a government institution that oversaw her father’s research, to find out who killed one of the most important minds of the world, and instructs her not to trust anyone. Out of seven people working on the titular deep-sea station, at least one of them is a murderer, threatening the viability of the project. Some of the suspects are people she knows – including her brother Raj. Some of them are more likely suspects – and thus possible red herrings. Meanwhile, the entire crime scene has been flooded by the ocean water, making a tough case even harder.

Matt Kindt’s new Dark Horse ongoing series – the first he is writing and drawing himself since last year’s Mind MGMT finale – already provides a promising setup to an interesting story. But as good a storyteller as Kindt is, he is also an amazing artist and designer. His style takes some getting used to for people accustomed to less rough art, but it’s very expressive and allows him amazing flexibility. He already proved it with his depictions of the characters’ psychic abilities on Mind MGMT, but here he changes his approach along with the setting. It’s much subtler and detailed, with a countdown on the outer sides of each page, which will mark how far (or, since it’s styled as a depth counter – how deep) we are into this story. There’s a page that very subtly and beautifully shows the past shared by Mia and another character without devoting a “proper” panel to it. And this time around, he’s not alone. He’s joined by his wife, Sharlene Kindt, who is in charge of coloring the art. And considering she, a professional illustrator, and is the one who taught him everything he knows about the amazing watercolors he used in Mind MGMT, it’s no surprise that this issue looks beautiful. She chooses different approaches depending on whether the story takes place in the present or in the past, with the latter being much more subtly colored, leaving it almost entirely white. It’s beautiful, and I can’t wait to see her work improve (as this is her first comic work) as the story progresses.

Fascinating and gorgeous, Dept H #1 provides a promising start to a long series. It’s a must read for every fan of crime stories and interesting science-fiction comics.

Dominik Zine is a nerdy lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand..