Image Comics Review: THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Colours: Martin Simmonds
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
The Department Of Truth #1: 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, from the JFK assassination to flat Earth theory and reptilian shapeshifters. One organization has been covering them up for generations. What is the deep, dark secret behind the Department of Truth?
James Tynion’s concept for this story sounds like a fun idea for a comic series: “What if all conspiracy theories turned out to be true?”. But that interesting concept is barely scratching the surface of what Tynion is up to. Department of Truth #1 is only the beginning of Tynion’s story, but it is clear that this series is starting an exploration of the nature and meaning of Truth itself.
It has been postulated that perhaps truth is defined by belief in it. Instead of truth being fixed, it’s more malleable. Reality can be changed if enough people believe in an alternate version of that reality. This has been used to great effect in fiction before – for instance, “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” In Neil Gaiman’s Sandman #18, where reality is rewritten by 1,000 dreamers sharing a common dream. It also pops up in Buddhist theology, which Tynion mentions here, and in theoretical physics.
If this concept is true, that would have some major impacts on the world we know. Western culture has long had a fascination with conspiracy theories, but in recent years belief in some of them is growing at an alarming rate. Many people are giving credence to scientifically preposterous ideas. Flat-Earthers and anti-vaxxers abound.
But what if these beliefs are actually changing the world around us? What could be done to prevent it or even encourage beliefs that might be beneficial? Shouldn’t there be some sort of watchdog organization to keep an eye on this? Enter the Department of Truth.
Cole Turner is an FBI agent who has studied conspiracy theories and the power they have. However, up to now he has only thought that this power was limited to being a tool to control the gullible masses. But Cole comes face to face with the impossible. As he describes it, “I saw something that can’t possibly exist”.
Tynion’s title for the story in The Department of Truth #1 is “The End of the World”. This is a clever title. As the not only might the malleable nature of the world threaten the world as we know it, but what Turner saw was the literal “end of the world”. The Flat-Earther inner circle take him on an excursion to the literal edge of the world.
Turner’s experience combined with his study of conspiracy theories makes him an ideal candidate for the Department of Truth. So, they “poach” him from that organization and bring him before an important figure in the Department. The revelation of this person’s identity is quite shocking, but very apt considering the story Tynion is telling here. I won’t spoil that revelation here, but it’s someone at the core of one of the biggest conspiracy theories in American culture.
I also found Martin Simmonds’ artwork to be particularly suited to the subject matter. His artwork has an abstract feel that I find similar to the art of Bill Sienkiewicz. Realism would be quite the wrong approach for depicting a world where there are no cold, hard facts. Simmonds’ style perfectly captures the feel of Tynion’s story. People and things are recognizable and understandable, but there’s a sense that things could change and that the details are open to multiple interpretations.
I couldn’t find anything to criticize in The Department of Truth #1. It’s the perfect first issue for a new series. It has an intriguing concept to draw you in, a well written story to engage the reader, and teases just enough information about what lies ahead to bring the reader back for more next issue.
The Department of Truth #1 is the ideal start to a new series. With this single issue Tynion has me hooked. This is the new X-Files for the 21st Century.