I grew up during the tail end of the Cold War, a bizarre time in history where we lived under the constant fear of nuclear armageddon, while at the same time were completely oblivious 99% of the time when it came to understanding just how close we were to the edge of destruction.
And weirdly, the world seemed to make a lot more sense then. America was the good guy, and the Soviet Union was the bad guy. We were the patriotic freedom loving heroes, and they were the cruel, abusive, godless villains, hell bent on destroying everything we loved. Films like Red Dawn taught us the horrors that awaited us if invasion happened, while at the same time promising us that no matter what, we would always come out on top as the victors.
I was in seventh grade when the Berlin Wall fell, and I distinctly remember our teacher wheeling a TV on a cart into the room so we could watch the events happening on the news. It felt like the nation had woken up from a long nightmare, and that soon the beautiful promise of American Capitalism would sweep the globe, uniting all of the peoples of the world in the warm, fuzzy blanket of freedom.
Of course, that’s not how things worked out, and it would not be that long before the new reality kicked in, one where instead of a single, monstrous enemy in communism, we instead were facing a multi headed hydra known only as “terror,” which we couldn’t fight the way we fought before, and which made us question our own roll on the global stage.
And in the world of new and frightening uncertainties, it’s no wonder that so many conspiracy theories have rushed in to try to comfort the scared with their beautiful lies, promising to make the world make sense again.
And that, my friends, is where the third arc of The Department of Truth begins. That’s right, it’s time to once more dive into my favorite Indie series on the shelves today. James Tynion IV and Martin Simmond’s epic masterpiece returns with a new arc that promises not only a lot more answers about what has been going on behind the scenes, but also promises more of that sweet, sweet world building that Tynion does so well.
So let’s crack into The Department of Truth #18 and see if all our terrible dreams are about to come true!
Here’s the blurb: Co-creator MARTIN SIMMONDS returns for the explosive new arc of the Eisner-nominated hit! For decades, THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH battled a secret war against its Soviet counterpart, THE MINISTRY OF LIES. Now Cole Turner will have to face the consequences of his predecessors as the dark actions of the past unfurl before him…
Fair warning: Heavy spoilers from this point on for the entire series and this issue. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Cole Turner has had a hell of a run recently.
The promise of the first issue of this series was that all of the conspiracy theories you know of are true, to varying degrees, and that truth depends solely on belief. If enough people believe that something is true, then the world literally shifts to make that the new reality. Understanding this gives people the power to make the impossible possible, but it’s a double edged sword. While the Department of Truth has been working hard to maintain the status quo, a lot of other organizations have been working in the shadows to bring monsters into being, and completely change the very nature of reality.
Throughout the series there have been a number of startling revelations, where Cole has constantly had to recheck his values and ask himself if he is really on the right side. At each turn, he has been confronted by the fact that his boss, Lee Harvey Oswald, has not only kept the truth from him, he has also made sure that the truth he was shown was distorted through Lee’s own ideological view of the world and America itself.
The last arc ended with Cole learning that his new mentor Hawk was a secret double agent for Black Hat, the organization hell bent on bringing down the department and rewriting the world. Cole had to face his demons, figuratively and literally, and the result is that as the third arc opens, Cole is seriously questioning his choice to join the department, and wondering if there is any way to ever get out.
Between these arcs there are side issues that, while sadly not illustrated by Simmonds, do carry a lot of important weight and information. The last issue was particularly important because it dealt with the Department embracing the power of belief to bring unreality to reality, in this case by faking the moon landing, and as a result of the nation’s belief in its reality, actually shifting the world to make it true.
Did you get all that? The moon landing being faked made the moon landing real. Yeah, that’s the kind of stuff that makes this series so great.
The reason this was so important was that, as we learn, the Soviet Union also had their own Department, known as the Ministry of Lies. Both the United States and the USSR spent the entirety of the Cold War pushing their own ideological views on the rest of the world, and as we know, America won that battle of ideas, but the cost of that war of beliefs was that, while capitalism won the day, the resulting belief vacuum has set the stage for all of the corruption that Black Hat plans to unleash upon the world.
This single issue is a beautiful encapsulation of everything I love about this series. Tynion and Simmonds have this amazing ability to take real historical events, and process them through this lens of conspiracy and corruption, and produce a compelling narrative that just keeps sucking you deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.
In short, they may very well be the greatest conspiracy theorist ever, and I am here for it!
If you haven’t already asked, make sure you reach out to your LCS and get The Department of Truth put on your pull. This third arc is setting itself up to be the most interesting and explosive so far, and you are not going to want to miss it!
Until next time, stay safe!