Imagine if the tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists were right? Welcome to the dark and dangerous world of ‘The Department of Truth’ and its newest recruit, Cole Turner. A man who has had his own brush with the dayside of life and may well be ready to remember in this creepy horror tainted comic book from James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds.
The Department of Truth #2 gets off to a very tense start, made all that more tense with Martin Simmonds adhering to a 9 panel grid and a series of close-ups of a young boy being partly interviewed and partly interrogated by invisible adults who remain creepily off-camera. But when the camera pulls away to reveal the perpetrator the boy is discussing, it’s a rather shocking and suitably horrifying image to what has just proceeded it. A stark reminder that this is as much a horror story as a conspiracy thriller, with the grimy, gruesome visuals to match James Tynion IV’s script. And, a great start to one of 2020’s most talked about books too. It also leaves you baying for more as we do a quick switch to a far more domestic scene and discussions of the reptile-run Illuminati over coffee with Cole Turner, our eyes and ears in the Department of Truth.
It’s another issue that expands on the notion of collective belief becoming reality. Well, for those who believe in it anyway. Religion, politics, conspiracy theories; they all rely on our shared belief in these institutions for them to still exist and be sustained. Although I would argue we’re all questioning that collective belief in politics these says, that’s for sure.
The big reveal last issue comes up again over pancakes, but it’s the theme of Satanism that comes into focus in this particular issue. You know, the hidden messages in music that speak to the youth of today. Or, rather yesterday as I remember the moral outrage over records by the likes of Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. There is more than the odd dark hue of child abuse hanging over this issue, with the appropriate bogeyman materialising too. After all, in this world every and any conspiracy theory is true, every bogeyman given flesh and blood. And, I’ve read enough conspiracy theories to know that they are often covering up something far more shady. In a world that Cole now realises is fluid and ever-changing, he wants solidity and closure. Facts over fiction, even if the truth is horrific.
And, in the pursuit of his inconvenient truth, we get a further tour of the Department of Truth and the weird and wonderful characters who work there and the rooms full of a labyrinth of red string connecting photos, news clipping and more looking to make connections between the disparate.
Brilliantly claustrophobic at times and creepily clammy, The Department of Truth #2 builds a frightening world in which too much collective belief can be a bad thing. It’s a much, much darker X-Files, if written by Stephen King, and I imagine on everyone’s desk is a plaque with the age-old cliche, “You Don’t Have To Be Mad To Work Here, But It Helps”.
Tynion IV and Simmonds are building a world of horror hiding just out of view and one that could go on for as long as there are conspiracies out there to write about. Last issue its as the Flat-Earthers and this time round its the turn of the Satanist child abusers, but in the maelstrom’s centre stands there is the mysterious lady in red. A Devil who wears Prada, or something else entirely? Well, that is yet to be investigated, but I’m sure Cole will get there eventually. The truth, as they say, is out there after all.
The Department of Truth #2 is available on Wednesday 28th October from Image Comics