Image Comics Review: THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #4
[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 #4: How can a journalist ethically report on a story that they know can’t possibly be true? As packages with proof of impossible stories keep arriving on one reporter’s doorstop, sent by a mysterious entity known only as Q, one reporter must find the answer themselves.
In The Department of Truth #4, James Tynion IV gives us a big hint about the Black Hat organization’s agenda. They have provided a reporter with apparent proof that a shadowy organization has been responsible for installing and controlling every President since John F. Kennedy. This is, as Cole Turner describes, “a unified history of American conspiracy theories”. This will lead people to believe that “that our history is fiction”. And that the Department of Truth will be revealed as the creators of that fiction. Thus, they intend to expose the existence of the Department of Truth.
And Cole comes to a crossroads in this issue. Director Lee Harvey Oswald directs Cole to kill the reporter and his editor to prevent them from telling anyone about the supposed truth they have learned. Cole has to decide whether to commit to the Department and kill for them.
Before he does, the reporter asks him a telling question: “you’re the good guys, right?”. Cole’s responds, “I think so” before shooting them both. This shows that although Cole chooses to commit to the Department, there is still some doubt in his mind that they are on the side of good. Turner has no doubt about the malevolence of Black Hat. But can he be sure that the Department of Truth is much better? And we as readers share his uncertainty.
Director Lee give Cole some insight about conspiracy theories and why some can change reality while others do not. The more complex the theory is, the less likely it is to effect change. He explains, “convolution is our friend. It helps fracture belief so it doesn’t coalesce into any one stable form and become truth”. However, a simple story might be accepted and succeed in changing reality.
I quite enjoy Martin Simmonds work on this series. His somewhat abstract style reflects the fluid nature of reality in the world of The Department of Truth. A well-defined, realistic style would be more indicative of a reality where facts are indisputable and details can be nailed down. However, Simmonds depicts a world where reality is malleable and details are vague.
We’re now four issues into Tynion’s series and I still cannot point to anything that I dislike about it. The only thing that I dislike is having to wait a month between installments.
With The Department of Truth #4, Tynion and Simmonds continue to tell a story quite unlike any seen in comics before. It’s a thought-provoking exploration of a world where belief defines reality, and I find this utterly fascinating.