By Jonathan Edwards
I picked up the first issue of Dept. H completely on a whim. I originally saw it online, listed among the weekly new releases. The name was cute, and, after reading the series description, it seemed like it could be interesting. However, nothing made me feel like I needed to go out and get it. However, when I saw it on the shelf of my local comic shop, I made a snap judgment: eh, screw it. Why not? And with that, I bought it.
At that point, I wasn't at all familiar with Matt Kindt's work. So when I sat down to read my impulse buy, the art struck me as... atypical, to say the least. Now, I do get why some could and/or would be turned off by Kindt's art, at least in regards to how he depicts people. Body shapes and proportions can be somewhat fluid between panels, and facial details tend to come and go. I might be willing to agree that this style wouldn't work in some cases, but here (and in all of Kindt's other work I've seen thus far) I love it. Especially when paired with Sharlene Kindt's watercolors, it ensures a surrealistic and uncertain tone, which I would argue is perfect for a murder mystery. It emphasizes the unknown motivations and trustworthiness of each character and the world as a whole. Not to mention, fluid art and watercolors make a lot of sense for the underwater setting. Although, it did admittedly take some getting used to at first. But by the end of that first issue, I was sold. On the art, the book and probably Matt Kindt in general.
Fast forwarding, my enthusiasm for the book did dwindle somewhat. However, I think that might be more my fault than the books. The second issue was among a pile of backlogged books for a few weeks. By the time I finally got to it, the momentum from issue one had dwindled. However, I stayed with the book, and now here I am doing my first review for Comic Bastards. So, Dept. H #9. It continues the trend, started a couple of issues back, of following a character while Roger narrates some of their backstories to a mistrusting Mia. And to be honest, that's more or less what I expected from this issue. Does that make it formulaic? I guess you could say that. Yet, I'd take that with a grain of salt. It's only really "formulaic" insofar that the preceding issues also did it. But even accepting it as formulaic, it still does it well. Honestly, this was probably my favorite of the issues so far done in this style.
This time around, we focus on the character of Q, with a little bit of Lily thrown in for good measure. Ever since we met him back in the first issue, Q's been one of the more abrasive members of Department H, so it's nice to have some light shined on where that comes from. And I have to say; it was more interesting than I thought it'd be to see his problem-solving at work. What all we learn throughout the issue feels like it's either the most conspicuous connection to Hari's death yet or just a giant red herring. Personally, I'm leaning heavily towards to the latter. I seem to recall Kindt saying he intended for this series to go on for quite some time, so I'm pretty dubious of the truth of what happened to Hari being revealed anytime soon. Then again, perhaps that revelation is coming in the next few issues, and it takes the series in an unexpected direction. Either way, I'm definitely interested in seeing what happens next.
There's not too much more to say about this issue. In terms of art, it's pretty much par for the aforementioned course. There are some really nice panel layouts to be seen, with a great juxtaposition between color (particularly multicolor in some areas) and gray scale throughout. In conclusion, if you've been digging the series so far, I think you'll like this one. If you haven't, I doubt it'll change your mind.
Dept. H #9
Writer/Artist: Matt Kindt
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics