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Department of Truth #22 COMICS REVIEW: War looms & Cole's life is shaken as the battle reaches home

Writer: James Tynion IV; Artist: Martin Simmonds; Letterer: Aditya Bidikar; Designer: Dylan Todd; Editor: Steve Foxe.

The cryptic chaos of The Department of Truth from Image Comics is akin to a narrative hurricane. So many abstractions and plot twists whirl by in rapid succession, surrounding you with uncertainty and unease. This is the closest we can hope to empathize with our protagonist, Cole Turner. As an agent of The Department of Truth, Cole has seen the darkest corners of human belief and its potential as a weapon. From hunting Bigfoot to adversarial organizations, Cole has relied on his husband, Matty, to be an anchor in a sea of constant change, but even that isn't immune from the war that looms. Matty now knows everything thanks to Black Hat, and Cole's fight has found its way to his home, but Cole is ready. The Department of Truth #22 brings all the heady abstractions of previous issues down to reality, as plotlines converge in spectacular fashion, and future ones begin to take shape.

Tynion never shies from emotionally-gripping dialogue, but here he seems to revel in it. Previous issues and a multitude of small moments have been leading to interactions we see in this issue. Panels aren't teeming with dialogue, but what is there drips with subtext and depth, communicating wildly complex emotions with minimal wording. Avid readers will be ecstatic as their emotional investments yield bounties in down-to-earth conversations that have been prepared for in months of real time. Backdropping the humanity of the narrative is a broader story of war that Tynion weaves perfectly throughout. Intense moments of intimacy are punctuated by brutality and viscera as the war of ideas becomes a lot less cold. The Department of Truth #22 demonstrates a narrative that can shift its scope from worldwide terror to heartbreaking whispers.

This series wouldn't have the same panache without Simmonds stirring up visual majesty. Tynion's words may only shoulder their dynamic weight with the help of Simmond's wistful yet personal style. This issue Simmonds creates space in his work, literally. His composition creates physical distance between characters that adds the needed depth to more intense interactions. Points of view shift from personal close-ups to monolithic buildings to expositional montages in a style that consistently shifts our view of the world. Erratic linework and paint-splashed colors assist this general feel of instability as each turn of the page is like flowing from one dream to another. Bidikar's lettering is the cherry on top of all this, giving tenor and tone to our characters; this issue especially is marked by vibrant lines that boast diversity and — I'll say it again — scope.

The Department of Truth #22 excels at bringing its loftier ideas to reality as multiple narrative threads reveal themselves to be fuses that have just started running out. I almost yearn for the day I feel less than thrilled after reading an issue of The Department of Truth if only so that I can tell myself this creative team is human; however, as it stands, today is not that day. The Department of Truth #22 garners itself a whopping 5 outta 5 POPs!



Pick this title up NOW from YOUR LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP(!!!) or from Image Comics.


RECOMMENDED READING

If your love of Tynion's character work and narrative weaving is insatiable, then I highly recommend you keep the Tynion train going with his horror anthology series, Razorblades, which demonstrates many creators dredging the bottom of human depravity in brilliant and often character-based vignettes. If you desire more end-of-the-world fare, then look no further than the intensely apocalyptic The Nice House on the Lake which boasts twists, turns, and a lot of face melting.


 

Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.


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