Review: THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #17
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
The Department of Truth #17: The third arc of Eisner-nominated The Department of Truth concludes here, as breakout star Jorge Fornes (Rorschach) joins the team to reveal the long-awaited secrets behind one of the biggest conspiracy theories of all time. Strap in, folks: Richard Nixon has a moon landing to fake.
The Department of Truth #17, like the previous three issues, presents us with an interlude from the Department’s history. Tynion has been using these issues to fill readers in on the Department’s backstory. And typical of this series, this issue has yet another conspiracy theory at the centre of the story. This time, it’s the theory that the moon landing in 1969 was faked.
However, it’s not quite accurate to say it was “faked” here. In Tynion’s world, truth is shaped by belief. So, in this story, the event was faked, but convincingly enough to actual bring into reality. So, in a strange way the Apollo 11 mission was both faked and real at the same time.
The story opens at the White House, shortly after Richard Nixon has become President of the United States. And Tynion makes good use of the situation to inject some exposition into the story. After all, it makes sense that a new President would have questions upon learning about the Department of Truth.
We also learn the identity of Lee Harvey Oswald’s predecessor at the Department. I found it somewhat surprising at first. But upon reflection it makes perfect sense for the Department of Truth to be headed up by Frank Capra. Who would be more adept at manufacturing stories to manipulate what the general public believes than a talented film director?
I also found it interesting that Capra does seem somewhat torn at how they accomplish this important achievement. He does have some regret that the mission isn’t achieved honestly through ingenuity and hard work. It seems like cheating to bend reality in this manner. On the other hand, he also wants to give himself over to the fictions they are creating. He tells Lee, “But I suppose I’m an old man now, Lee. I believe in my little fairytales… I wrote fictions and I want to live in them”.
Lee agrees with this: “I want to live in them too, boss. That’s what’s this is all about”. However, given what Tynion has hinted about Lee’s own fictional nature, Lee’s assent holds much deeper significance than Capra likely realizes. Lee has his own vision for reshaping the world. But would this vision be in humanity’s best interest? Or is it a much darker vision? Tynion again has us wondering whether the Department are the heroes or the villains of his story.
The issue is drawn by guest artist Jorge Fornes, aided by colors from Jordie Bellaire. Like previous interlude stories, the guest artist’s style makes an interesting contrast to that of the series’ regular artist Martin Simmonds. Like other guest artists, the style is purposely more defined and detailed than Simmonds’ art. Simmonds’ style seems rather dreamlike with an abstract edge.
There is a subtle vagueness that’s appropriate to a present where reality is in flux. However, in these past vignettes, we are seeing a reality that has already shifted and is now settled. So, it makes sense for it to be more clear and definite.
And like the other guest artists, Fornes is the perfect choice for the particular story Tynion is telling in this issue. The atmosphere in this cold war tale has a very similar feel to the atmosphere Fornes conveyed in Rorschach. It’s not the same story, but there is a similar feeling to both stories that Fornes captures perfectly.
I am in utter awe at how perfect this series is. There isn’t anything I have seen yet that I would classify as a mistake or misstep. Tynion has clearly put an extreme amount of thought and effort into designing this amazing story.
I keep wondering how long Tynion can keep this story going before running out of conspiracy theories and urban legends to work with, but he somehow keeps revealing newer and deeper layers to his epic. This story is like nothing else I have read before and Tynion has me utterly hooked.