The Department of Truth has entered comic readers’ lives like a whirlwind, opening up new possibilities in horror and science fiction via conspiracy theories. It’s probably why it keeps selling out. The first three issues have tackled different conspiracy theories like the Satanic Panic, flat earthers, and Sandy Hook truthers. As its main character discovers how this secret organization functions, we’ve learned about real-world conspiracies that are frightening in their own right. The series continues to shed new light on its secret org in interesting ways.
In its fourth issue, writer James Tynion IV and artist Martin Simmonds tackle a new conspiracy theory involving Barack Obama while revealing to the protagonist how these things work. If you’re unfamiliar with conspiracy theories, or how they work from a general public sense, Tynion does an exceptional job breaking down the false idea that Obama is in fact Kenyan. Utilizing the Lee Harvey Oswald character we gain a bit of insight into how rationalizing something so outlandish can become cultish and build into something believable. Per the premise of this book, however, these ideas can become real with the right amount of attention.
What makes this issue work so well is how it reveals how these ideas build in the mind. From the outside one might assume someone who believes Obama is Kenyan is racist — and assuredly, many are — but it’s not a necessary factor in their belief. That adds an interesting wrinkle as we explore how and why people come to these incredibly false conclusions. In a way, Tynion and Simmonds are exploring the thought process of innocent people who are trying to understand a world that doesn’t make sense or is too different for them to accept. In that way, the Department of Truth isn’t trying to stop bad people, but instead trying to curb a natural element of the human condition. It makes the case that the Department is a necessary element in a world growing more afraid of new ideas.
The art is exceptional and it’s becoming more clear Simmonds is integrating more color as the series goes on. There must be a purpose to this — maybe as the main character understands more, the world becomes more vivid — but it’s an intriguing layer to the story on top of an already complex layering of ideas. This issue utilizes television screen effects to showcase two men who are onto the Department of Truth. The lines and static of the screens creates an eerie vibe as Oswald looks on.
There are countless effects at work to enhance mood and atmosphere. Scenes with Oswald are creepy in their own right, with swirls of smoke billowing off his cigarette, or burned-out colors making up the wall beside him. There’s a twisted, supernatural element to most scenes, many of which are people simply talking in rooms. Gutters are also fascinatingly done, with white cardboard cut out and overlaid on the art to make the panels. Lighting is intriguing, with reds, greens, and yellows used as if these characters are standing inside a kaleidoscope.
My only gripe with this issue comes in the first few pages, which were hard to follow as two mysterious figures speak on TV monitors. This opening scene left me a tad confused as I had to reread it a few times.
In an industry where comic art can look similar from book to book, The Department of Truth commands you to slow down and take it in. Its ideas also demand your attention as they are cleverly linked to real-world conspiracies and the horrific implications of an idea gaining strength in a world where truth seems to hold no value. The Department of Truth continues to be an excellent example of how comics are more important than ever.
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