Morality in the Department of Truth: Bigfoot & other myths in DoT #11 ADVANCE REVIEW

The Department of Truth #11. Writer: James Tynion IV; Artist: Martin Simmonds; Letterer: Aditya Bidikar; Designer: Dylan Todd; Editor: Steve Foxe.

Cover by Martin Simmonds

The Department of Truth writer James Tynion hits the ground running with this week’s TDoT #11. A hunt for Bigfoot gives way to a story of hope, as Tynion adds stock to his recent Eisner Award win for Best Writer. The addition of Martin Simmonds’ art provides the perfect one-two punch that gives the story impact and creates a visceral atmosphere of curiosity, terror, and more curiosity. For those unaware of the department's purpose, the Department of Truth maintains the structure of beliefs in the world. Conspiracies with too much belief behind them become tulpas, living realities, that must be eradicated to preserve peace. This is where we find ourselves this week with a creature feature of a tulpa: the legendary Bigfoot.

Carrying over from the last issue, we are witness to parallel storylines that converge in a surprisingly emotional falling action that shifts our perspective on one hard-assed character. One narrative thread follows our DoT agents as they track the tulpa known as Bigfoot in the wilderness. Hawk and the DoT’s resident cryptozoologist have taken it upon themselves to give Cole some good ol’ on the job training — by training I mean capping our beloved Bigfoot in its big face. In a double header of lore dumping and mission briefing, we — alongside Cole — are given the history and legend of Bigfoot.

Prose by James Tynion IV; Art by Martin Simmonds

Now, it’s important to note that I am a sucker for good lore and this issue proved to be chicken soup for my soul. The writing carries us along on a mythical chronology that spans from Ancient Africa to the Galapagos Islands and eventually to the foot of Mt. Everest itself. The legend of the Bigfoot (Yeti?) is told in conjunction with Western Imperialism to explain its dispersion across multiple continents.

Prose by James Tynion IV; Art by Martin Simmonds

Simmonds’ beautiful, vertical tiers frame the progression of our mythical target’s legend across time in expressionist-style detail that caters to the imagination, while letting a small part of it still run wild. The depictions of such locations as the aforementioned Mt. Everest takes the breath away in their reminiscence of Friedrich’s “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” painting (an aesthetic you’ll understand when you see it, below), characterized by blurred edges and surreal, dream-like qualities. Tynion and Simmonds have a certain style in their symbiosis that commands the imagination. Metaphorical images abound to supplement the mythical exposition and blur the edges between reality and “truth”.

Caspar David Friedrich, ca. 1818

The second thread of this parallel structure follows Evan, a man who has unfortunately inherited his father’s Bigfoot obsession. Evan’s story, for the most part, is told through a letter to his son, the pages of which intermittently occupy whole pages of the book. Tynion’s writing paints a picture of a man whose obsession drove his whole family away, while Simmonds’ doodles and icons in the margins denote a saddening mental instability. Evan is haunted by a need for vindication, a need that outweighs anything else.

Prose by James Tynion IV; Art by Martin Simmonds

These two narratives converge during Evan’s final hunting expedition (before he gives up on his life’s work), landing him in the woods the same night as the DoT. I won’t spoil the climax or falling action, but they both present an opportunity for this series to remain constant, yet the creators opted to instill some heart into an otherwise cold character. Taking this chance added depth to character interactions and opened the door for a heavily hoped-for backstory.

This creative team constantly surprises me with every new issue. The story is paced well, only giving up enough secrets to keep you coming back to the comic shop for a narrative re-up. It’s no wonder this Image Comics series was nominated for Eisner Awards in both the Best New Series and Best Continuing Series categories. If you’re not reading this title, you should be.

Pick up The Department of Truth #11 from Image Comics on July 28, 2021 at your Local Comic Shop or on comixology. If you feel you're too behind to pick this title up? Fret not because you can get volume one of the trade paperback on Amazon! While you're there, check out other similar works like Something is Killing the Children!

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