Image Comics Review: THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #5
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Colours: Martin Simmonds
Letters: Martin Simmonds
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
The Department of Truth #5: WHAT is Black Hat? WHO is the mysterious man pulling its strings? WHY is he in Cole Turner’s apartment? The first arc of the smash-hit new series comes to a dramatic conclusion, as Cole questions whether or not he’s on the right side of the War for the Truth!
The Department of Truth #5 marks a turning point for James Tynion IV’s story. In the first issue, it seemed clear that the then unnamed Black Hat group were the villains of the series. So, it was easy for protagonist Cole Turner, and us the readers, to assume that the Department of Truth were on the side of right.
But Cole has started to doubt this as he’s learned that the Department can be rather ruthless in its methods. And when the Director ordered Cole to kill to keep the Department’s secrets safe, Cole has started to wonder if the Department is no better than the Black Hat. And now, the head of the Black Hat, Martin Barker confronts Cole to make the case that it’s his group that’s on the side of right.
Barker’s case relies on what he calls “three truths”, which imply that the conflict over the nature of reality goes back throughout the entirety of human history. The Department is the present day successors of those who use the nature of truth for their own power. Barker further implies that something happened on November 22, 1963 that derailed the Department from their originally lofty goals, and the current conflict between the Department and Black Hat has arisen as a consequence.
At the start of the series, Cole has served as an everyman, with the readers sharing his viewpoint as newcomer into the hidden world of the Department of Truth and Black Hat. There was little indication that Cole had any significance to either side other than he was a suitable recruit. But we later learned that Cole had been the victim of one of Black Hat’s operations as a child. But Barker reveals that both groups were trying to recruit Cole, and that he was angered to lose Cole to the Department.
Plus, a Department agent is shown discovering a Black Hat file on Cole, which appears to hold some disturbing information. It seems clear that Cole is at the centre of the conflict between these two shadowy organizations. It’s unclear where this story is taking us, but Tynion keeps leading us further and further down this deliciously intriguing rabbit hole.
Again, I have to commend Martin Simmond’s artwork on this series. There’s an abstract edge to his artwork that tells the story in broad strokes, and conveys the mood perfectly. However, Simmonds’ style invites the each reader to fill the fine details in their own minds. This means that each individual reader is imagining the story in a way that is unique to themself. This is rather fitting for a story where reality itself is subjective.
This is not a series that spoon-feeds the reader the entire story. It is a story that challenges the reader to wrap their head around some pretty complex concepts. Where a lot of comics are straightforward, The Department of Truth invites the reader to analyze the deeper significance of what they’re reading.
Unfortunately, that means for some readers, this is not the kind of thing they want to read. Some enjoy that straightforward, easy to digest experience. However, those readers who, like me, enjoy a more challenging reading adventure will revel in Tynion’s epic. But this may be a moot point, as I suspect the first type of reader probably gave up on the story well before now.
In The Department of Truth #5, Tynion continues to deliver his superbly intriguing and engaging story. This series is quite unlike anything I’ve read before and I’m loving every page of it. I highly recommend this series to anyone who likes a deep and challenging reading experience.