The Department of Truth is a new sci-fi series with horror and thriller sensibilities from James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds. Given Tynion’s ability to write great horror (Razorblades) and the visual delight Simmonds is capable of (Punk’s Not Dead), Image Comics has a bona fide winner on their hands before anyone even cracks this book open. Plus, given the political nature of the cover, there’s obviously some Manchurian Candidate vibes coming from the title.
This is a book that I very much believe readers should go in nearly blind, so I’ll keep this review as spoiler-free as possible because once you put this down you’ll realize the difference between a good first issue and a first issue that’ll change your life.
I don’t say that lightly, but as someone who reads and reviews many comics every week. At its most basic, the book is about a man named Cole Turner who studies conspiracy theories. He’s brought in for questioning and, given his research, he’s quite scared of who has brought him in and why. As he attempts to make sense of the questions and why they’d care about his work, we too are interested in figuring out who they are and why they care about Cole. It’s a setup that is appealing for any reader who likes to solve puzzles and make sense of things.
— Martin Simmonds (@Martin_Simmonds) August 22, 2020
And then at a point in the story, nothing makes sense. There’s a truth bomb in this book that will make folks angry, not because it isn’t genius (because it is), but because it’s a million-dollar idea I can’t believe nobody has used in a story before. The central premise of this reveal will change how you think about conspiracy theories. It also feels incredibly well-timed with QAnon and flat earthers living amongst us.
Simmonds’ art is awash in grit, grime, and what feels like history. It opens on obscure-looking faces as if we’re literally peering back in time and witnessing something monumental. The weight of the story is important and Simmonds doesn’t let us forget every step of the way. There’s a washed-out coloring technique that is overlaid over some iconic and realistically rendered locations that help make everything feel dreamlike and unreal. As the main character attempts to make sense of things, the art seems to suggest maybe the reader shouldn’t believe any of it either. This creates a sense of confusion that is positively addictive to analyze.
As the story tiptoes between the real and hauntingly unreal, I was reminded of Ralph Steadman’s work which most will know from Hunter S. Thompson’s books. It defies reality in a sense, which goes along with the central conceit of the book splendidly.
The Department of Truth #1 is as savvy as it is suspenseful, spine-tingling in an unnerving way, and a rare read that feels brand new once you put it down. This book is perfect for the super well-read comics fan, or the sci-fi fanatic X-Files fan.
The Department of Truth #1 is out in comic book shops on September 30th and available for preorder digitally today.