The Department of Truth #9 drops into comic book shops this week and it’s time to enter another conspiracy theory-laden exploration. Ever needed a little mind-bending weirdness in your life that ties into real-life non-fiction ideas? This book is for you. In the latest issue, Cole Turner learns a bit more about how obsessions and ideas formed in real-life supernatural elements including the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
James Tynion IV, Martin Simmonds, and Aditya Bidikar continue to dazzle with one of the most intriguing comics on the shelf. This week’s issue opens with a reminder of Cole’s ties to the Star-Crossed Man, which bookends well with a scene at the end of the book. Cole is very special and was chosen for the role he’s in, but he’s also completely in the dark about the wider world of conspiracy theories and the dramas that led to the formation of the Department of Truth. Thanks to Hawk, we learn a bit more about events that transpired prior to its formation.
Much of this issue focuses on Hawk and Cole going about some chores while Hawk explains some rather deep concepts. After Hawk needles Cole with bigoted talk about being gay, the conversation starts with magic, which eventually leads to ideas around tarot cards. Ultimately the idea of symbology and its power over centuries is relayed, which explains how our concept of things that seem new is in fact built on much more lore and mythology that comes before it. The conversation ebbs and flows with incredibly clever concepts which eventually leads to satanist groups and secret organizations only the rich can attend.
Tynion does an exceptional job keeping things relatively clear as he maintains a larger argument juxtaposed with rather abstract artistry from Simmonds. Ultimately the idea of collective belief is explored which helps keep any one religion or belief system out of the conversation. It’s a higher-level look at humanity’s need to explain things collectively and helps explain how the bigger premise of the series works.
In some respect, this issue feels like retread as it explains concepts and the idea of shared understanding already articulated in previous issues. That said, Tynion and Simmonds are exploring new concepts and ideas while touching on religion and secret organizations to further connect the dots for us. While these wider real-world ideas are explained, Tynion is essentially weaving in the new ideas of the series, like the Scarlet Woman. It’s a clever way to take many understood believes and concepts and tie them into The Department of Truth’s specific story.
If you haven’t guessed, this issue requires patience and personal interest in the ideas of shared thoughts and beliefs to be entertained. If these ideas aren’t of interest to you, the heavy captions and dialogue scenes may try your patience. Essentially, the creators are leading you down a wild, prose-style adventure that requires connecting dots and thinking about the world in a new way.
Visually, Simmonds does well to draw you in. Not every page has a literal connection to the scene, as Simmonds tends to break away with symbolic imagery to convey the bigger ideas. The art can help connect the big ideas visually, but can sometimes offer only so much as there’s so much explained on a given page. There are visuals that show characters speaking in the scene, caked with splattered paint, a play of light, and other creepy, unnerving visual choices to amp up the horror aspects.
Simmonds mixes media in interesting ways too, like rendering a cartoon on a screen straight from The Jetsons, for example, or revealing a tarot card behind the characters straight from a real-world deck. In one page that mixes Cole as a child giving testimony and what he saw when he encountered the Star-Crossed Man, Simmonds renders Cole as if on a CRT television, but the Star-Crossed Man is rendered as if created by a modernist painter. It’s a crazy blend of ideas that probably shouldn’t work, but does even when visual ideas change multiple times on a single page.
Bidikar’s letters are well done, too. The word balloons, which tend to mix angular lines atop a white block of opposing angles, feel certain, but hand-drawn so that it doesn’t feel computer-made. It adds a liveliness that reminds us we’re reading the words of people just like us. There is a good emphasis on keywords, too. Given how much text there is in this book, it never feels overly done or covering the page too much.
The Department of Truth #9 continues to deliver complex ideas told in a prose style, blended well with an art style that goes for broke with many different ideas. The Department of Truth remains one of the most sophisticated comics on the shelf, blending the weird and unnerving through a prism of utter madness and darkness. Now, bring on Bigfoot!
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