Read This Book- “The Department of Truth: The Complete Conspiracy“

There’s an old saying along the lines of “asking a reader what their favorite book is is a lot like asking a parent who their favorite child is.” And while that is true is many ways, we all know mom likes my brother way more than me! And I like this series way more than just about anything else.

If I was forced to pick my top 5 indie titles of all time, The Department of Truth would be a serious contender for the number 1 spot. A brilliant satire, a nightmarish horror story, a historical thriller, and a meditation on family, The Department of Truth is so brilliant and so well crafted that I literally to this day am still buying copies of the first volume to send to friends who ask for comic book recommendations.

I don’t even suggest the title; I just have Amazon send them a copy.

So when I heard that the first 17 issues were going to be given a deluxe, hard cover binding for a new release, well, not only does that mean I need to once again drop some info about this series on new readers who might not know, it means I also probably need to start saving up to send this one to my friends as well.

What makes this series so good? We’ll let’s dive in together and see as we look at The Department of Truth: The Complete Conspiracy Vol 1

Spoilers ahead!

Here’s the blurb: Cole Turner has studied conspiracy theories all his life, but he isn’t prepared for what happens when he discovers that all of them are true: the JFK Assassination, Flat Earth Theory, Bigfoot, Mothman, and so much worse. One organization has been covering them up for generations, controlling the narrative for what they claim is the greater good. What is the deep, dark secret behind the Department of Truth—and will learning it destroy Cole’s life from the inside out? The first three arcs of the critically acclaimed series by Eisner Award-winning writer JAMES TYNION IV (Something is Killing the Children, The Nice House on the Lake) and superstar artist MARTIN SIMMONDS (Dying is Easy) are collected here for the first time in deluxe hardcover format. Experience…THE COMPLETE CONSPIRACY. Collects THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #1-17

A little bit of personal backstory here: This book came into my life at a very strange time for me. See, growing up, like a lot of boys my age, I was obsessed with aliens and UFOs. Every time I went to the public library I was always on the hunt for a new book about aliens, the paranormal, and secret government conspiracies. I’m sure I drove the librarians nuts with my endless stream of requests, and I probably ended up on some watchlists for all of the interlibrary loans I took out on books about conspiracies and deep state secrets.

As soon as we got the internet, I was a frequent fixture on too many paranormal and UFO boards to count, constantly pouring through mountains of grainy images and supposedly leaked secret testimonies, until it reached a point where I had to finally walk away or go completely nuts.

I was lucky. I had other things in my life to take up my time, and I had some great teachers and the common sense to listen to them, which kept me from completely spiraling out of control. To this day I watch and shudder whenever I see a conspiracy theorist ranting on TV not because what they are spewing is nonsense, but because I know that there but for the grace of god went I.

Conspiracy theories are at the heart of American culture. Our very founding as a nation was the result of conspiracies about taxation and domination, and to a mind that swam in the conspiracy ocean as much as mine did, documents like Patrick Henry’s Speech to the Virginia Convention have all the conspiracy hallmarks I knew and loved at one time.

And that’s not to say the those theories were not well founded, or even true, but it’s important to note that through our history, conspiracies have always played a major part in shaping our understanding of the world.

That being said, for much of our history those conspiracies were predominantly the domain of cranks and malcontents, serving to do little more than sell books and stir up resentments. As the world moved into the 2020s however, I was shocked and dismayed to see that conspiracy theories were gaining traction in a way I had never seen happen before.

Nightly news stories and internet podcasts were awash with conspiracies about everything from stolen elections to school shootings to medicine to anything else anyone in the government or people in power did. The internet and the power of belief had captured the narrative, fueled the election of candidates riding waves of fear and hatred, and completely overshadowed the calm and measured public discourse that at one time seemed to be the center of our collective worldview.

Don’t get me wrong, I know our nation’s history is anything but peaceful and smooth, but what started happening then, and continues today, was something new.

It’s fairly obvious that a number of people were just as taken aback by this as I was, James Tynion IV included. When you first crack into The Department of Truth you can feel the unbelief dripping off of every page. Cole Turner, our narrator, is a man that I find so much in common with. We both live lives awash in conspiracy knowledge, and we both tried to process that in a way that helped to make those conspiracies, and the people who promulgated them, make sense.

And just like me, Cole quickly found that the world was not interested in rational and calm explanations. Might and volume made right, and in the world of The Department of Truth the victors don’t just write the history books, they make those books reality.

I did warn about spoilers!

See, in the world of The Department of Truth, once a conspiracy gains enough traction, elements of it start to become real. The more belief there is in something, the more truth it has, until eventually that belief reaches a tipping point, and history itself is rewritten to make that belief a reality.

What this means is that those spooky conspiracy theories I read about as a child were not only starting to come true, but dark and sinister forces were actively encouraging those changes in order to MAKE them come true, and to rewrite history itself.

It would have been easy for this series to turn into a monster of the week, Men In Black-style series about fighting evil spies and big monsters, but instead Tynion and artist Martin Simmonds do something that is not only more significant, it is also much more impactful to people like me. Instead of the monsters or the conspiracies always taking center stage, a huge portion of the book is dedicated to trying to understand the reasons why people believe what they believe, and why they turn to conspiracy theories in the first place.

Very early on there is an issue that deals with school shootings and supposed “false flag” attacks. The focus isn’t on the greedy blowhards attempting to make a buck from the tragedy, but instead on a mother, distraught with grief, and looking for any way to get her child back. Spiraling out of control, this mother is manipulated by both sides, and instead of finding peace, her grief is only made worst as both sides continue to exploit it. It’s a powerful and upsetting mediation on the human psyche and one that Tynion and Simmonds return to again and again as they continue their masterful mix of big, bombastic conspiracy driven spy story with smaller, more personal stories of the tragedy and mental illness that lead so many people astray.

Speaking of Martin Simmonds, all praise in the world goes to him for his masterful artwork in this series. The deeply unsettling style adds an extra level of horror and heartbreak to an already tense narrative, and the further you fall down into the book’s rabbit hole, the more you will appreciate just how brilliantly he brings this world to life.

This collection also includes a number of one-off issues that served as both filler between arcs and backstory for the Director of the Department of Truth, Lee Harvey Oswald. If you missed those issues originally, this is the best place to find them all gathered up in the correct context for how they were read the first time.

If you have never read The Department of Truth you owe it to yourself to give this series a chance. At at under $50 this is probably the best and most affordable way to get completely caught up on the series moving forward. It’s a great buy and a great read. Ask your LCS is they can pull you a copy.

Alright, that’s it for me this week. Until next time, stay safe!

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