Well once again I find myself seeking the loving embrace of a James Tynion IV story, and would you look at that, we have a brand-new beauty on the shelves of your local comic shop right now. From cover to quirks this book has it all, complete with lashings of both mystery and humour. So join me in my joy of tackling this issue from what I’m sure you’ll agree is a legitimate a super team of talent.
Publisher: Image Comics
Author: James Tynion IV
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Colourist: Martin Simmonds
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Release Date: 30th September 2020
So right from the cover I was already hooked, with Martin Simmonds of Dying is Easy (IDW), Punks Not Dead (Black Crown) and Friendo (Vault) bringing his A game once again, both inside the comic and out. We also have the appealing option of a variant cover from Jenny Frisson, who is often a top seller the premium cover market. From a storyline perspective, Tynion IV serves up an all-round sexy premise which falls beautifully into today’s ‘question everything’ culture. This is a modern-day dream team for me, but don’t think I have forgotten about our letterer Aditya Bidikar because they bought something to this book that I couldn’t be more thankful for.
The story is set through the experiences of Cole Turner. What happens when a man who has spent his life dissecting conspiracy theories is confronted with the damming reality that the vast majority of them are true? From reptilian shapeshifters to the flat Earth theory, nothing is able to be dismissed here as one by one they are all being proven true. Confronted by the Department of Truth, we explore the extent of their cover-up operations and the secrets locked away within the organisation.
When claiming that such a thing exists, evidence must be provided. This evidence can be categorised in one of two ways. A priori is knowledge independent of your own experience, or the opposing A posteriori, which is knowledge from personal experience. At its core, the narrative here challenges what is true and what is false by challenging Cole Turner’s sense of each.
The lines between the fundamental A priori truths and our lead’s personal A posteriori truths have become blurred, mostly due to him being hungover but primarily as a result of the shocking revelations in the early pages. As this issue puts it ‘Up is down and down is up’. Yet the talents of both Tynion and Simmonds make the unexplainable easily digestible to the reader throughout. Genuinely, this is one of the easier to follow ‘question everything’ stories. This is not at the expense of details or plot complexity but by virtue of the strength of the interview setting and dialogue-focused narrative.
Department of Truth delivers strongly while holding a unique spot in the market. Simmonds’ distinctive artwork splashes every page edge to edge with a unique style that adds to the story in so many delightful ways. Every page is stylised with Simmonds signature style, but he also extends his artistic range, pushing more emphasis on every key beat in an issue which is, in essence, just one long conversation. The shading and colour palettes remind me of the best years of Vertigo comics. The backgrounds can steal your focus should Simmonds wish it, while simultaneously showing traits of each character in subtle details. I do often take issues with stylised art but this is where Aditya Bidikar did me a huge personal favour with his lettering.
As a dyslexic I often with reading. Over the years, I have spent many hours descending pages with a ruler to stop my brain being muddled at the endless walls of text, hence my love of comics. The encapsulated shorter texts made it vastly more manageable for me to process. However, on pages with stylised art where the art frequently blends into the lettering style, I can often get lost. Thankfully, every single line of dialogue was not only written well here, but also delivered well visually. We still have clearly defined text but it blends seamlessly into the visuals of the issue and its interview style.
The story is hugely anchored in the idea that multiple realities exist and overlap simultaneously. I’m not talking some meta multiverse, but rather the differing perceptions from people of difference classes, education and social circles. The humour of this book is beautifully woven in a way that it never takes the forefront but is always held prominently in the back of your mind, including commentary on people you can often sum up as ‘one of those’. Even those who are independent, enlightened, free and forward-thinking individuals have the rug pulled out from under them. If you read along and laugh at the people they mock, you will inevitably be part of another group open to the same ridicule from a more enlightened group than yourself. And you know what? I really dig that.
If you missed it last week, I strongly recommend you add this one to your reading list right away. Every element of this book is so well supported by each of the talents and together they produce a genuinely one-of-a-kind read. In the ‘uncertain times’ the media is pushing on us, it’s really refreshing to look at some harmless ‘what if’s’.
The writer of this piece was: Mike Chandler
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