Dept. H Volume 1: Pressure

Matt Kindt, story and art; Sharlene Kindt, colors

Dark Horse Books, 2017

Matt Kindt's latest ongoing series is an undersea sci-fi murder mystery--but there is also flashback material set in deep space. Not many stories employ both settings. Mia is a special investigator sent to solve her father's murder in the deep-sea research station he founded, Dept. H of the government organization USEAR (Underwater Science Exploration and Research). The organization is convinced that there is a mole in the station, and that the murder was also an act of sabotage.

So Mia's instructions are to treat everyone as a suspect. That task is complicated by the fact that the crew includes her old friend Lily (now estranged) and her brother Raj (with whom she has a complicated history). The rest of the crew are a strange bunch, and some of them make no secret that she's not welcome. Clearly the investigation was never going to be easy. But then things start to go wrong at the station.

The comm antenna goes down, cutting communications with the surface. When she and Raj go to investigate, they run afoul of a giant sea creature, and Raj appears to be lost. Mia returns to the station for help, only to discover that Head of Research Jerome has become completely unhinged and has begun to flood the entire facility. The crew must scramble to stabilize things enough to prepare for evacuation. As the arc ends Mia confronts her dad's partner Roger, convinced that he has answers.

Kindt's storytelling skills are on full display here. He juggles background material (family history, including the aborted space exploration mission, and Mia's relationships to several of the characters) with the ongoing narrative without interrupting the ever-accelerating pace of Mia's investigation. Like any great thriller, she gains information even as the situation becomes increasingly desperate. I can think of few recent comics that have made me so anxious to read the next installment.

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