The Department of Truth #1 Featured Reviews 

“The Department of Truth” #1

By | October 1st, 2020
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

A mind-bending reality merges with fantastical artwork and lettering in the beginning of an amazing new government conspiracy thriller.

Cover by Martin Simmonds
Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated and Colored by Martin Simmonds
Lettered by Aditya Bidikar

Cole Turner has studied conspiracy theories all his life, but he isn’t prepared for what happens when he discovers that all of them are true, from the JFK assassination to flat Earth theory and reptilian shapeshifters. One organization has been covering them up for generations. What is the deep, dark secret behind the Department of Truth?

Bestselling writer JAMES TYNION IV (Batman, Something is Killing the Children) debuts his first Image ONGOING SERIES alongside breakout artist MARTIN SIMMONDS (Dying is Easy)!


That flatly stated question is likely to repeat in readers’ heads as they try to wrap their heads around the goings on of the eponymous organization of “The Department of Truth” #1. To say that James Tynion IV has crafted an unusual, even bizarre world would be the understatement of the year. Tynion already has proven his skill with various forms of supernatural horror, and he makes for the government conspiracy thriller like a duck to water. From start to finish, this introduction piles on question after question, curiosity after curiosity. How far down does the rabbit hole really go? Only time will tell, much as it will about what exactly is the conflict at work.

Tynion does not explain much, relying on readers to have some foreknowledge about history and relatively famous conspiracy theories, while not understating the strange nature of how they are presented within the story. To see this trust at work, look no further than the very opening and its inclusion of Lee Harvey Oswald shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which is only given some explanation at all, and only from seemingly unhelpful dialogue rather than any overarching narration. Such a presentation does not point at said event as a “look how clever we are” tale, but instead relies on reader interpretation to see the ways in which the world does not quite operate the same way as it does to their prevailing notions in real life, as well as the shocking revelations that pervade the entire plot. Other theories such as that of a “flat Earth” (as mentioned in the solicitation above) are also present, with the implied narrative being that readers are aware of the alternative point of view.

While having an outsider be a point-of-view character is in no way unique, having been done countless times before in various media, Tynion uses our apparent protagonist Cole Turner to make such a character highly relatable. Turner may be a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but he is still treated as a relatively regular, albeit more proactive and intelligent, ordinary person, and reacts to various events in ways that could just as easily be the reactions of the readers if they were put into the same situations. He asks questions, follows up on his theories, and has information about a variety of topics, such as conspiracy theorists, message boards, and the idea of a tulpa, or thoughtform. However, while he is intelligent, he also is unsure of himself, shocked by what he sees, and overall has a general sense of being overwhelmed by what he is encountering, the events that led to him being the protagonist in the first place. He is new to what he is experiencing and can be at times nauseous or speak without thinking, but none of this is presented in a way that makes him appear to be less than capable.

As an experienced writer, Tynion trusts the scenes to speak for themselves. Multiple pages have no dialogue at all, or next to none. By allowing the art to breathe, he simultaneously gives comfortable places for readers to pause, enjoying the spectacle at work while not needing to read any intervening words. Much like Turner, the faith in the visuals helps readers to have a similar sense of awe.

While Tynion provides exemplary writing, the true star of “The Department of Truth” #1 seems to be the artwork and colors presented by Martin Simmonds. There is a rather hefty sense of grit to the entire enterprise, as if seen through a lens that has scratches on it. The entire style has a hefty dose of photorealism, but still through a rough viewpoint not unlike that Simmonds used for “Friendo.” That said, unlike the corporate consumerism of “Friendo,” the imagery in “The Department of Truth” #1 is far more overtly serious. By not focusing too heavily on the details of any one face paradoxically in combination with the realistic approach, there remains an air of intense mystery, from the disgustingly zooming in on antagonistic figures’ pores and mouths to make readers feel very uncomfortable to a less intense focus for Turner himself.

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The entire story utilizes many close-ups, especially early on. On the one hand, this focus allows Simmonds to concentrate on the “interrogation” nature of the tale, but on the other, it causes the reader to feel constantly on-edge, constantly worried about what might be around the corner. Figures such as the man interviewing Turner can be cast in a very heavy shadow to add to their ominous nature, and certain light provided gives an overall disorienting and discomforting instinctual response, as if a lamp shining down into readers’ eyes.

The colors shift from a far heavier red on certain individuals to make them seem borderline inhuman, then to a paler shade for others to make them seem relatively safe to view. There are a variety of color filters throughout, from a sepia-toned distant past to blues, yellows, or muted reds depending on the situation. At times, there even appears to be specific filters on individual components to draw attention to them, such as an uncanny smile across various people, or a visual of someone’s unusual eyes.

Figures such as the man interviewing Turner can be cast in a very heavy shadow to add to their ominous nature, while those portions from the past have a variety of color filters, be they blue, yellow, or a muted red. At a certain point, the color palette broadens significantly to the point of absurdity on purpose, allowing Simmonds to truly flex his muscles with a variety of hues and tones that are absolutely astonishing.

Aditya Bidikar’s lettering is, as ever, phenomenal, and changes significantly from one type of scenario to another. There are “rough-cut” speech balloons of people talking within a single scene, more tightly organized “journal page” styles for narration over a scene that is not taking place currently, and another, smoother, rounder bubble style for one particular person of note. That difference, coupled with changes in font and capitalization, help to give an impression of the dichotomy between the relatively distant after-action report style and what is currently happening.

Final Verdict: 9.0– Between the twists and turns in the narrative and the intriguing art and lettering directions, “The Department of Truth” #1 just raises further questions… and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gregory Ellner

Greg Ellner hails from New York City. He can be found on Twitter as @GregoryEllner or over on his Tumblr.