Indie Comics Review: THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #14
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: JamesTynion IV
Artist: John J. Pearson
Colours: John J. Pearson
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
The Department of Truth #14: In 1946, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and eccentric rocket scientist Jack Parsons performed a series of rituals to summon a divine feminine being. Her name was Babalon. She was dressed all in…red.
In The Department of Truth #14, James Tynion IV presents another flashback story. Agents Lee Harvey and Doc Hynes embark on an unofficial mission to learn the truth about the Babalon Working. This summoning was intended to summon “the divine feminine” and apparently succeeded. L. Ron Hubbard and Jack Parsons apparently unleashed Babalon upon the world.
It is implied that Babalon is the mysterious woman in Red with the X-ed out eyes that has continually popped up in the series so far. And Tynion is now starting to draw back the curtain on her, hinting at her nature. Her exact nature still isn’t clear, but according to the engineer Lee and Doc are questioning, she is a major threat to the United States and the world.
He states, “The door is open This is Babalon’s country now. This is the Aeon of Horus… We’re going to eat ourselves ALIVE. And that’s what she wants… This is the END OF THE F–ING WORLD. The LAKE OF FIRE is going to SWALLOW US ALL UP. And we DESERVE IT“. This all sounds very apocalyptic. But is right, or could it be that there is more to Babalon? Is she ultimately a threat, or will she prove to be benign.
And Babalon’s not the only character whose background is expanded upon in this issue. Lee and Doc meet the son of the man they question. The boy appears angry and irreverent, demanding that they take him away from father. Lee gives the child some advice: “Your dad’s nuts, but he knows things. Get him to teach you without making you nuts too And maybe we’ll have another conversation when you’re older, okay?”. And we know that they did have that talk, as the kid’s name is Harrison Hawk, future agent for the Department.
I liked the humour that Tynion adds to his story. Given the nature of the series, it’s appropriate that Lee and Doc dress as “men in black” while on their unsanctioned mission. And it was amusing to see Lee had shaved off his eyebrows off along with his hair to avoid being recognized. But instead this gives him an especially conspicuous appearance. Or as Lee puts it, “I look like a f–ing mutant from one of your magazines”.
This interlude story is drawn and coloured by guest artist John J. Pearson. Pearson’s style has some similarity to regular series artist Martin Simmonds. But Pearson’s art seems to have a bit more of a realistic edge. Details are a bit more defined. I have to wonder if this is deliberate. Maybe it’s meant to show that the present day is more unclear as shifting belief alters the world. Perhaps the further you go back in the past, the more defined the details become.
Lettering is often something I don’t notice much in comics, but there’s something I did notice here. Where most comic dialogue is in all-caps, the lettering here is in sentence case. This does subtly, but noticeably give reading the dialogue a different feel – as if it has more depth or meaning behind it. Also, all-caps lettering in comics usually relies on boldface for emphasis, but Aditya Bidikar skillfully uses boldface along with putting select words or phrases in all-caps and italics. This allows for added layers of emphasis.
The only negative with this story is that, being an interlude, it means we have to wait that much longer to get back to the main story and find out what happens next with Cole Turner in the present. However, I find these flashback stories utterly fascinating, so I don’t mind Tynion taking time away from the main storyline for these diversions.
The Department of Truth #14 is another great issue in Tynion’s addicting saga. I just love how his story continues to lead us further and further down the rabbit hole. And Tynion’s story about conspiracy theories changing reality is chillingly timely considering the current political climate in the United States. The Department of Truth is a truly unique kind of story, and I’m loving every page of it.