Indie Comics Spotlight: Dept. H #1, Circuit Breaker #1, and Satan’s Hollow #1


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Dept. H #1


“I know the answers to all my questions are down there.”

There are things about the depths of the ocean that we still don’t know. It’s not because we don’t want to know, but because we can’t get down there. When we do get down there, it’s inevitable that some of the darker aspects of humanity will make appearances, including murder, as explored in Dept. H #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written and illustrated by Matt Kindt and colored by Sharlene Kindt.

Mia is a special investigator hired to uncover possible sabotage taking place at a deep-sea research station. What she finds is a mind-blowing crime scene filled with suspects with terrible secrets, strange deep-sea creatures and an impending flood!

The whodunnit approach to literature is always hit or miss, but Kindt definitely hits in Dept. H #1. The premise is the investigation of a murder and Kindt goes to great lengths (depths?) to establish the crime scene and give the reader context for the mystery. Mia is presented as a supremely confident person who everyone knows is capable of solving the crime, but Kindt’s dialogue also presents her as someone who will likely face opposition. Kindt offers a great summation of all the suspects by the end and gives the reader reasons to suspect each and every one of them. And while the core of the issue is solving the mystery, Kindt spends a good amount of time exploring the surrounding world as well.

The illustrations in Dept. H #1 are loose and dreamlike. Kindt’s style is very distinct and relies on a somewhat enigmatic take on the characters and settings, with the characters seemingly floating through backgrounds. This approach works exceptionally well for helping the reader to better conceptualize inhabiting a location deep under the sea that boasts a sense of weightlessness. Every panel in the issue is crucial to establishing the surrounding environment and Kindt blends them together in an effective way for telling the story. And Sharlene Kindt’s colors are a great fit, adding a washed out tone to the work.

Beyond its title being a clever play on the underlying concept of the book, Dept. H #1 is a strong first issue that establishes plenty of stakes for the characters and readers. Mia is respected amongst the other characters as the right woman for the job, but whether or not they’ll approve of her results remains to be seen. Kindt’s script is free-flowing and methodical, giving the reader plenty go grab onto as they make their own assumptions about its direction. His artwork is equally as ambivalent in its approach, playing into the mystery well. Dept. H #1 is a well-rounded book that offers everything one could want from a good mystery story.

Dept. H #1 is in stores April 20.

Circuit Breaker #1


“…the chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!”

Robots are becoming more and more regular in our daily lives. They do everything from help us clean to drive us around – jobs that were traditionally done by humans. If gets to a point where more jobs are being replaced by robots there might be a revolt, as is the case in Circuit Breaker #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Kevin McCarthy, illustrated by Kyle Baker, and features coloring and letter assists by Mindy Steffen.

When the heroic robots that saved Japan during World War IV are outlawed, they turn against mankind, waging a campaign of terror across the last city on Earth. Their creator builds one more soldier – disguised as his teenaged granddaughter – and tasks her with dismantling the marauding mechanical militia. But as she begins to question her programming, will she be the last hope for humanity, or the final nail in our coffin?

The concept of the rise of the machines isn’t exactly new (and the Terminator franchise has definitely played that card to the ground), but Circuit Breaker #1 takes a different approach. In it, McCarthy has humanity turning against robots but basically winning, as they’ve eschewed the convenience that came with their presence because of their growing disdain for their abilities to replace them. It’s an interesting take on the conundrum in that McCarthy takes it in a different direction – in Circuit Breaker #1, humanity has the capability of stopping any robotic uprising. Much of the history in the issue is presented through the eyes of a pretty unique protagonist as well, which keeps the pacing snappy and moving. McCarthy even manages to throw in some mysticism in the issue as well, promising to blend together seemingly disparate themes in ways that a manga typically would.

The airy artwork by Baker is adds some levity to what could otherwise be a pretty dire tale. All of the characters are illustrated with anime sensibilities about them that further grounds the book in the Japan setting, successfully blending together humans who look like caricatures of humanity with robots that are menacing in an endearing way. The panels are laid out in a very defined fashion that helps the reader keep up with the action. Many of those panels effectively capture the action well, with robots throwing punches and characters jumping through broken windows. The colors remind the reader of an episode of Powerpuff Girls in their brightness for the most part, with characters standing out against starkly colored backgrounds.

Circuit Breaker #1 is a pretty fun first issue that plays on a lot of robot versus humanity themes. The characters are all generally pretty likable and make the reader more enjoyable because of that fact. McCarthy uses the book to make a subtle jab at the westernization of other cultures, but it’s done in a way that doesn’t feel overtly preachy. Baker’s illustrations are light and clean, blending together traditional anime style characters with a newspaper strip mentality. Circuit Breaker #1 is a lot of fun and delves into more mature themes without bludgeoning the reader over the head with such sentiments.

Circuit Breaker #1 is in stores now.

Satan’s Hollow #1


“I’m scared, E. Really scared.”

The thing about urban legends is that they typically rely on a small-town sensibility to sustain them. Those same legends often rely on some sense of the supernatural or unknown to keep them terrifying the locals and Zenescope is big on such terror. Their latest foray into the urban legends water is Satan’s Hollow #1. The issue is written by Joe Brusha, illustrated Allan Otero, colored by Fran Gamboa and J.C. Ruiz, and lettered by Matt Krotzer.

Urban legend tells of a satanic cult that performed rituals in the Ohio woods at the turn of the century. The rituals became more and more disturbing and eventually led to the ultimate evil…a human sacrifice. Legend states the cultists were so successful that they opened a portal that leads directly to hell. Now, twenty years later, the last surviving victim of the cult has returned, but something immensely evil has arrived with him…an entity known only as the Shadowman.

The story follows a female protagonist named Sandra making her way back to Blue Ash, Ohio, to wrap up some loose family ends and essentially stumbling upon the town in the throes of an urban legend. The terror that accompanies an urban legend is generally based in the unknown aspect of it and that’s what Brusha capitalizes on in Satan’s Hollow #1. The town has bought into the myth somewhat and clearly thinks something more supernatural is at work in the disappearance of a local boy, but Sandra doesn’t seem ready to buy in. Brusha gives the setting a slow burn as it builds up the tension to an ending that’s poised to direct the series. Brusha’s dialogue is pretty concise in moving the pieces into place and the plot doesn’t really waste a moment in building up both Sandra and Satan’s Hollow as characters.

Setting the mood in a town like Satan’s Hollow is crucial to making the story more believable and Otero relies a lot on ambiguous, shadowy figures to accomplish that goal. Those creatures do infuse the book with sufficient amount of terror that works in contrast to the relative calm of Blue Ash. The humans in the town are defined by a seemingly calm style that doesn’t appear to take any risks, where characters sport basic facial expressions. Sandra does get a little of the Zenescope treatment in her figure and some of her poses/wardrobe, but it’s not overtly distracting. The color work by Gamboa and Ruiz does a great job of accenting the moodiness of Blue Ash, painting the town with plenty of blacks and blues at night and an autumnal palette during the day.

Satan’s Hollow #1 is a relatively haunting take on the urban legend. Sandra’s story is a good vehicle for the plot to advance itself and delve into the urban legend even more so. Brusha’s script is pretty low-key but effective at establishing the stakes for the characters and the town itself. Otero’s illustrations are subtle yet tap into the mood pretty well. Satan’s Hollow #1 is a new Zenescope series that gives the publisher another chance to delve into the horrors of an urban legend.

Satan’s Hollow #1 is in stores now.

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