Welcome back loyal readers! It’s time once again for our weekly look at the best and brightest in indie comics, and this week we have a real treat. One of my favorite books of 2020 (and now I guess 2021) The Department of Truth just wrapped it’s first arc.
It was a monumental first arc, with some of the finest writing and the best art in comics today, and so I’m going to take a minute to praise this book because, gosh darn it, I love this comic.
Let’s get into it!
Here’s the blurb:
WHAT is Black Hat? WHO is the mysterious man pulling its strings? WHY is he in Cole Turner’s apartment? The first arc of the smash-hit new series from JAMES TYNION IV (Batman) & MARTIN SIMMONDS (Dying is Easy) comes to a dramatic conclusion, as Cole questions whether or not he’s on the right side of the War for the Truth!
Now, before I dive into the writing, I want to first talk about the art. Martin Simmonds is a modern master, and his art not only perfectly fits the tone and mood of The Department of Truth, but it also elevates it to the level of a masterpiece. I never read this book digitally, because I want to turn every page and see everything in all its amazing detail on the paper itself. I simply cannot praise the art in this book enough.
The premise of The Department of Truth is deceptively straightforward: this world is like our world, but in it, lies given enough credence reshape reality. If enough people believe the world is flat, it not only becomes flat, but that belief rewrites history so that the world has ALWAYS been that way. That’s where The Department of Truth comes in. They make sure that fringe theories never gain enough steam to change the world, but sadly, it looks like they are starting to lose that war.
Their enemy, in this war of truth and lies, is known only as Black Hat, a shadowy figure who not only has the power to produce evidence encouraging fringe theories, but who also shapes those warped realities to a certain extent. The result of this is that he seems to have control of a small army of supernatural and bizarre beings, from Reptilians to Satanist at his disposal, and he desperately wants to use them to change the world.
The first five issues of The Department of Truth have been a wild rollercoaster. Issue one introduced us to our leads, Cole Turner, an expert in conspiracy theories who believes he was brought into this war because of his knowledge of how they work, and Lee Harvey Oswald (yep, that one…maybe) who is in charge of the Department and completely dedicated to stopping Black Hat.
The first arc has taken us from the ridiculous, with flat earthers and moon landing deniers, to the bizarre with the 1980’s Satanic Panic, to the down right heartbreaking with a look at the impact of False Flag conspiracies on the families who have lost loved ones.
James Tynion IV embraces the madness of this world, but also clearly has sympathy for those who have been hurt in our world by these fringe theories. I was genuinely gutted by the issue on false flags, and desperately wanted to force those who believe in such things to read it from cover to cover.
And that is what is so great about The Department of Truth. When I first dove in I thought it would be a fun romp through wild conspiracies, poking fun at fringe nuts along the way. But Tynion wasn’t interested in that, and instead, we got a real look at the people hurt by these theories, from a random mother desperate to cling to a lie that could bring back her son, to Cole himself, who slowly begins to realize those nightmares he’s been having of Satanic abuse might have more to them than he thought.
The Department of Truth is a deeply human book and one that really looks at who we are as a society. Our reality may not be altered through magical belief, but if we have learned nothing in this country from the events of the last month, there will always be those who are willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in order to rewrite the world in their own image.
My first review of The Department of Truth started with jokes about conspiracy nut jobs. I’m no longer laughing. This little comic is one of the most important books on the shelves right now. Tynion and Simmonds are holding a master class on social commentary, and we all need to be reading it. Do yourself a favour and grab this book now. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Until next time friends, stay safe.