DECLASSIFIED: An Advance Review of DEPT. H #1

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Nothing But Comics has obtained a leaked government document regarding the incident at the Dept. H subsea facility. For obvious reasons, we are unable to disclose our source, whom we will refer to as “Dark Horse” (because it sounds cool, and because “Deep Throat” was already taken).]

DEPT H Top Secret

The initial report on the Dept. H incident, prepared by writer/illustrator Matt Kindt and his wife, colorist Sharlene Kindt, is summarized below. [NOTE: This report (labeled as Dept. H #1) was produced as part of the government’s new initiative tasking comics creators with generating graphic presentations for policymakers. The hope is that such reports will be less boring then traditional briefing papers. See Chip Zdarsky’s “Key Statistics on Beef Exports from Canada” as a prime example.]

The narrative begins with Mia’s recruitment by Philip, the head of Underwater Science Exploration and Research (USEAR), to solve a murder committed miles beneath the ocean in the Dept. H subsea headquarters. Mia is the daughter of the renowned Dr. Hari Hardy, whose marine research created the department for USEAR.

DEPT H Lemire Variant
DEPT. H #1 variant cover by Jeff Lemire

Mia visits her father’s patron, eccentric billionaire Blake Mortimer.[NOTE: It is an interesting coincidence that this patron has a first and last name reminiscent of the protagonists of the Belgian adventure comic, Blake and Mortimer. Coincidence? Mr. Mortimer bears further investigation as a possible ligne claire Belgian sleeper agent; the FBI should be notified.]

Concerned about Mia, Mortimer suggests that she not accept the USEAR assignment, but instead join him in a space exploration venture; however, Mia is determined to honor her father and investigate the murder. She also meets with her love interest, Alain, who also fails to dissuade her from the investigation.

DEPT. H #1 Cover

Below the sea, Mia discovers that the crime scene is submerged in water, and encounters the inhabitants of the Dept. H facility: her brother Raj; her ex-friend, Lily; the friendly research assistant, Aaron; the weapons expert, Bob; the physically intimidating head of security, Q; the mentally shaky head of research, Jerome; and her father’s business partner and friend, Roger. All of them are suspects in the investigation, and it turns out the murder victim has a very close connection to Mia.

The narrative is engaging, and sets up an interesting premise — Mia will be investigating a murder in an isolated, underwater science fiction setting, surrounded by strange people, many of whom have a personal connection to her.

The creative team portrays Mia as an aloof protagonist. She seems distant from everyone she encounters, rejecting connection and intimacy with others as she pursues her investigation with a determination and sadness that will engage readers.

Interestingly, each page has a stacked vertical cell grid on the side, with the bottom cell colored in blue; the bottom cell also contains the page number. This grid fits in nicely with the aquatic theme, and reminds readers that the Dept. H facility is both very far beneath the sea and partially flooded. It is a neat symbolic motif for the literal and figurative “depth” suggested by the comic’s title, “Dept. H.”

The exotic aquatic equipment and setting are neatly designed and rendered by the creative team, and the art creates a sense of deep sea claustrophobia that may give readers anxiety and a feeling of crushing chest pressure (but in a good way) as they read the comic.

It is the recommendation of this reviewer that further reports should be commissioned and read.




Dept H Blurb

DISCLOSURE:  Our source, “Dark Horse” (which may or may not be Dark Horse Comics), gave us a free copy of Dept. H #1, with no payment or expressed expectations for this post’s content… “Dark Horse” probably wasn’t expecting this post’s content.

The images above are the property of their respective owner(s), and are presented for not-for-profit, educational purposes only under the fair use doctrine of the copyright laws of the United States of America.


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