Advance Review: ‘The Department Of Truth’ #14 Continues To Be Repetitive And Formulaic In Its Reliance On It’s ‘Conspiracy Theory Of The Month’ Trope
by Olly MacNamee
While there is so much to commend ‘The Department of Truth’ on, the constant introduction and explanation of conspiracy theories and how they gain power in this world is becoming too much for this humble reviewer. A repetitive formula that only gets in the way of the more interesting story being told at a quicker pace.
It’s been a while since I last reviewed The Department of Truth. To be honest, I needed the break. As a series, I felt I was becoming a bit too repetitive with its constant exposition of whichever conspiracy theory writer James Tynion IV wanted to write about and bring to life that month. The central concept of conspiracies coming to life if only we believe in them enough was a great original concept, but after a year’s worth of issues, it was wearing thin. I was always more interested in the bigger story that seemed to be grinding slowly on in the background as conspiracy after conspiracy took centre stage. Thankfully, Martin Simmonds creative artwork always managed to make it all worth it, being able to breath life and inspiration into even the heavier exposition-laden scripts. So how would this new issue fare after my hiatus from reviewing the title? And how would the art stack up given Simmonds’ break from this issue, and the next few too?
Well, fortuitously for me, this new issue is one of those standalone issue that does delve into the backstory of the Department of Truth and this running it. Specifically Lee Harvey Oswald soon after the assassination of JFK. Although Tynion still can’t help himself and once again has his characters bang on about conspiracies becoming realities. We get it already!
Scouring the country and investigating strange happenings, Oswald and his partner, two men in black, head out into the wilds to look into the Babalon Working, a real world ritual performed in 1946 by occultist Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard. You know, that L. Ron Hubbard. With one whom are referenced by Oswald in this issue.
But then, as per usual, the reader is treated to another self-indulgent recounting of a real-world bizzaro event/conspiracy theory. Very quickly the formulaic narrative, repetitive patterns of previous issue sets in once more. Everything I came to dislike about this once promising series. Whether this book is set in the past or the present, it would seem Tynion’s clear obsession with conspiracy theories must always take centre stage. It all feels like each story-arc or standalone issue is nothing more than an illustrated Wikidepia entry. Kind of like Vertigo’s Big Books of Conspiracies but with a marginal story thrown in to tempt readers to keep on coming back for more of the same month after month.
Stylistically, guest artist John Pearson is a great fit. An artist not too dissimilar to Simmonds, but less reliant on textured built-up multi-media layers and more interested in painted art. But, in keeping the scratched over aesthetics of Simmonds, Pearson keeps up the overall distinctive look this series has come to be known for. The art, once more, is the saving grace for a series that seems to be stagnating in terms of story even if it’s still unique in terms of its art.
But, after this issue, and over a year’s wort of good faith in this book, I think I’ve given more than enough time over to this particular endeavour. Yes there are the tantalising appearances of the Woman in Red, and yes the various threads are clearly intertwined, and there’s even a good twist ending thrown in too, but it’s just not enough for me anymore. I just can’t get past the constant insertions of conspiracy theories that only eats up comic book pages that could otherwise be taken up with progressing the plot at a quicker pace. I wanted to believe, but now I can’t. And so, like the underlying theories of tulpa underpinning this whole series, as I stop believing, The Department of Truth will also disappear from my life and become no more.
The Department of Truth #14 is out Wednesday 1st December from Image Comics