Truth is an interesting concept. At its essence, it is that which is aligned with fact or reality. Reality: another interesting concept that is more malleable than we’d like to believe. We all look through a lens based on our experiences, upbringing and so on which in turn dictates the way we view our reality. Much like how different meanings can be derived from the same picture by two different people, the truth we pull from our realities is just that, our truth, a specific feeling, from a specific view, in a specific time. The fluidity of truth has led to a world in flux, and James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds are delving into this topic in the harrowing new comic series, Department of Truth.
The first issue sets out to develop a fabricated reality, a reality where Tynion plays a delicate balance in dipping the reader’s toes into a cabal that is infecting their reality into others, not by some means of science fiction, but by the simple means of suggestion. Less exploitation and more so validation. A simple nudge and a pat of gratitude, and a new reality is born, in the Department of Truth, quite literally. Tynion plays with common real-life conspiracy theories as threads that will surely unravel to something far larger in the future. Each line leads to the eerie feeling of absurdity, and yet, each line is firmly planted in reality.
Simmonds’ art scratches below the surface of the dangers of conspiratorial language and how it pervades society. The palette splashes the pages of the conspiracy theorists with hues of red, while reserving the dark tones of blues and greens for the department. One aspect that caught my eye was the reluctance of painting those who follow conspiracy theories as monsters (in red). As Tynion accurately describes through series protag Cole, “These are just normal people like us, but not, “ just ordinary boring people.
In the panels, they are featured in light greens and softer reds while attending a flat earth conference. Not to go as far as being placated as victims, but also not the monsters we see later in the issue which take on deeper hues of red. The more monstrous designs are only really shown twice in the issue. The monsters, Kenneth and Bertram Boulet, are shown in the reflection of Cole’s glasses. Their deep red, hideous faces allude to the real monsters of the ‘elites,’ spreading their deception to the vulnerable. Think something along the lines of Koch brother types, those with enough sway to change the tides of public perception through their vast wealth and influence.
The power of the first issue lies in Tynion’s and Simmonds’ refusal to obfuscate from our reality, the reality where conspiratorial messages fuel and often mask white supremacy. The premise is that, in most cases, the two work hand-in-hand. Their nimbleness in their ability to associate the festering dangers of actual America (and surely a large part of the rest of the world) with a fictitious department to stop the spread of conspiracies makes this a can’t miss book from a can’t miss duo.