Indie Comics Review: THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #16
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alison Sampson
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
The Department of Truth #16: Turn on, tune in, and drop out as Alison Sampson (Hit-Girl in India) enlists with the Department of Truth for a mind-altering dive into designer hallucinogens, MKUltra, and Lee Harvey Oswald’s true motivations behind unlocking the hidden power of the human mind. The Eisner-nominated series continues its history-shattering guest arc here!
In The Department of Truth #16, Tynion presents us with another interlude delving into the mystery surrounding Lee Harvey Oswald. The last issue ended with an ominous mention of Oswald having disappeared in 1966. In this issue, we catch up to Oswald in 1968 to witness an encounter that brings him back to the Department.
We find that Oswald has immersed himself in the hippy culture of the 1960s, especially drugs and free love. The story opens with him in bed with an unnamed woman, and the psychedelic imagery heavily implies that he is high.
Possibly due to the drugs, Oswald opens up to this woman, giving us some further insight into the mystery surrounding him. He tells her:
I’m scared of who I am. Really, I’m scared of what that means… I’m scared that I’m not real.
This seems to fit with Tynion’s hints that Oswald himself is a wild fiction – or something akin to one. And that raises the question of whether he truly exists, or if he’s ultimately a figment of America’s collective imagination.
He also reveals more detail about his encounter with Indrid Cold. While Doc Hynes witnessed the encounter, he was not privy to the telepathic communication between Cold and Oswald. Oswald tells the woman:
He said… that I was a dream this country is having. That I belong to them, just like he belongs to them. He said that I needed to walk softly, or the world would break in half.
And we find out that this woman is the Lady in Red who has been one of the central mysteries of Tynion’s story from the start and she gives Oswald a message that he takes to heart:
Nothing about this… place is real. It’s all just people. How real something is doesn’t change the impact it has on the world. How people feel changes the world… you want to feel real? Then…do something that makes you feel real… make your own real and live in it.
After contemplating this, Lee calls the Department, telling them that he’s “ready to come home”. It seems he’s decided on a course of action. It’s not clear yet what that is, but it starts with his return to the Department of Truth. Also, the Nixon campaign button left behind by the Lady in Red offers an intriguing hint at Oswald’s plans.
The Department of Truth has a great record for choosing the exactly right artist for the story. And Alison Sampson’s art fits this interlude perfectly. Her artwork, assisted by Jordie Bellaire’s colors, does a fantastic job of conveying the psychedelic atmosphere of the issue. As always, the art is a perfect fit for the story.
As usual, The Department of Truth #16 is an amazing issue and I can find no flaws in either the storytelling or artwork. Tynion and Sampson have done a fantastic job with this issue.
In every issue of The Department of Truth, Tynion peels away another layer of the onion only to reveal a more intriguing and mysterious layer underneath. I’m beginning to wonder how many layers are left. Are we nearing the innermost layer or barely scratching the surface? This is one of the most fascinating and addictive titles I have ever had the pleasure to read.