Image Comics Review: THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #6
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Elsa Charretier
Colours: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
The Department of Truth #6: Acclaimed artist Elsa Charretier joins James Tynion IV to uncover the deep tangled roots of the Department of Truth—roots that stretch as far back as the Middle Ages. What is the Inquisition? Who are the Illuminati? And what is the truth behind the Phantom Time Hypothesis?
In The Department of Truth #6, James Tynion IV gives us a brief interlude before diving into the series’ second story arc. This interlude has a framing tale, giving us a peek at Lee Harvey Oswald’s early days in the Department. In that story, he translates and reads a story that takes us back to the year 1000 AD.
Recently, I took part in a Comics In Motion: Indie Comics Spotlight podcast with Seth Singleton and hosted by Tony Farina, discussing the series so far. During our discussion, we had been wondering if the Department of Truth had counterparts in earlier civilizations throughout history. So, I was quite pleased to be presented with a story that actually explores that idea a bit.
This tale drops a few significant revelations. One notable tidbit is that the Roman Empire had been aware of how to use belief to change reality, to forge a story that kept the Roman Empire strong. But the big shocker is that the conspiracy theory known as the Phantom Time Hypothesis is true and was used to drastically reshape history.
If you’re not familiar with this particular theory, the basic gist is that the Pope used the newly created calendar to get spread the belief that the year 614 AD was in fact the year 911 AD. This allowed them to give the Holy Roman Empire a long and fictitious history. This theory claims that the famed king Charlemagne was a fictional creation.
However, a surviving daughter of a Roman Emperor gives a foreboding warning: “You have created unsteady ground upon which to build your dangerous new Western Civilization. You have taken control of the written word, and time. And now you will build a great new history on a bed of lies. And you will have to maintain it’s power or it will all come toppling down upon its heads”.
This indicates that not just one country, but the entirety of Western Civilization is unstable, and is in constant peril of collapse. Presumably, the Department of Truth is the current bastion against that collapse.
And this woman also reveals, “the bloodline of the empire remains in Europe and we are watching… keeping ourselves secret and strong. We are the Enlightened”. And as Oswald realizes, in Latin, “the Enlightened” equals “the Illuminati. I just knew Tynion was going to bring the Illuminati into this title somehow.
So does this mean the Black Hat group is the Illuminati? It certainly seems likely that they are – or are at least associated. A more direct connection is drawn by the fact that the mysterious woman in red shows up in this story. Whoever she is, it appears that she’s been around for at least a millennium. I don’t know what’s going on, but this is fascinating stuff!
The artwork of guest-artist Elsa Charretier stands in stark contrast to that of regular artist Martin Simmonds. This makes this interlude stand out from the preceding storyline. This effectively emphasizes that this is no mere filler issue, but that there is some important information in it, so we should pay attention.
It’s hard to find any fault in this series. It’s so well-crafted. One might try to accuse Tynion of piling too many bizarre plots and conspiracy theories into a single storyline. However, he has managed somehow to create a framework where each new and stranger addition actually makes the story better.
Tynion is using some strange alchemy to produce something new and wonderful here. This is really nothing like I’ve ever read before, but I’m loving every moment I spend in this strange malleable reality Tynion has created.