What it comes to mystery and intrigue, The Department of Truth is your best bet for both in the comics realm. James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds have explored conspiracy theories and their stranglehold on humanity so deftly in the first four issues it’s stunning. In the fifth issue out this week, we learn a bit more about a shadow operation that opposes The Department of Truth, but what do they want with protagonist Cole Turner?
This issue opens with a spy infiltrating a secret office told via dirty, gritty, and acid-washed panels by Simmonds. It’s unnerving how the visuals may show a simple room with a computer and yet the haunting quality of the use of colors and shadow are unmistakable. Soon we discover a new conspiracy theory at work — each issue seems to have a new one to explore — and a haunting truth to the mission at hand. Someone is after Cole.
Much of this issue takes place in Cole’s apartment as he hears out the enemy of The Department of Truth. This issue gives a lot of insight into both sides and helps readers understand why an operation like The Department of Truth exists at all. This issue firmly establishes Cole’s awkward place amongst these two groups as well as the Star-Faced Man’s role as well. Their eternal fight is the main crux of the narrative and is firmly established here. This supplies the overarching narrative with their key players so that the narrative can continue on with its subplots each week. For that, this issue succeeds wonderfully.
Narratively speaking, this book is about a man informing Cole on a lot of details sitting in a solitary room. There are cutaways, but there isn’t a ton of plot development. In that way, this book is a bit slow, but Simmonds makes up for that with his incredible textures, mixed media, and haunting visages in the shadows. There seems to be a subtextual story in every panel. Likely some panels came out the way they did by a stroke of some luck, like splattering paint and having it create a new effect, and that’s part of the charm of this work.
There are striking panels of all types, like one where Cole is firing his gun and the use of white light seems to create a glimmer around the gun and coming off Cole’s mouth. A close up of an eye on the very next double page of the mysterious figure giving Cole info gives off a sense of sympathy and understanding. This same figure is drawn with shadowy black eyes for much of the narrative. Together these choices make you not trust him, but also know he’s speaking the truth. For these reasons, the art makes you practically study every panel to gather its greater meaning.
The Department of Truth is one of the most exciting new series I’ve read in years. It harbors dark truths about our own reality while developing an idea that belief is something humanity at large can control as a group. Mixing in demonic nightmares and one man attempting to navigate a dangerous situation, we have ourselves a series you can’t put down. You won’t.
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