Writer: James Tynion IV; Artist: Martin Simmonds; Letterer: Aditya Bidikar; Designer: Dylan Todd; Editor: Steve Foxe.
The Department of Truth #21 from Image Comics picks up where we left off: Cole is unwinding the ever-mingling allegiances of various government entities while completely unaware his world is slowly unraveling around him. Cole doesn't know his husband, Matty, knows everything and is determined to reveal the truth, no matter how malleable it may be. Cole is busy visiting Fort Knox for answers, a trip worth its weight in gold with reveals.
Previous issues of The Department of Truth have aspired to and achieved a certain abstract loftiness. The art is vibrant and iconic but often excludes physical consistency for a reader to grab onto. This just works. It's done well and mirrors the confusion and abstraction of its story. The Department of Truth #21 disrupts this, almost deliberately creating and giving importance to physical space. Cole is getting his bearings and we ours. This works alongside this issue's grounding of the narrative. We've been building towards something for many issues, but predictability is not something this series is keen on — a fact that keeps us returning again and again.
The Department of Truth takes its readers on nightmarish-hellscape Disney rides through religious iconography, occult zealotry, philosophical abstracts, and all other manner of thoughtful phantasmagoria. This week sees a grounding of all these ideas into a sculpted narrative. All of the groundwork from past issues is put to clever use with this idea in mind. When popular belief leads to concrete reality, knowing what those beliefs are can prove powerful in unseen ways. Tynion has created a playground wherein the rules of reality itself can be altered tenfold while still retaining a certain grounded severity.
This creative team is at its best in The Department of Truth #21. Tynion ties and unties various narrative knots like an anxiously artistic Boy Scout, yet with the precision of Doctor Strange on his best day. Simmonds and Bidikar bring the abstract to grisly life, letting previously used iconography as character indicators. This also serves to expand the potential for future storylines as it weaves varying motives together with a power none of them truly understands — all while poor Cole bobbles around having his life eviscerated.
This is one of the easiest 5 out of 5 POPs I've ever given. With an uncertain story and a certain grip on my attention, The Department of Truth keeps the hits coming with this week's issue. Be sure to pick it up this Wednesday - September 28th - from YOUR LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP (!!!) or from Image Comics here!
If you want more Tynion (but with a darker, sharper edge), check out his running collaborative horror anthology Razorblades: The Horror Magazine. If you're looking for something more space age, conspiracy wonkiness then I'd wager you should look at the hit Primordial, by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. Then, and only if you're down for a weird and emotional journey, check out Lemire's Mazebook!
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.