In The Department of Truth #4, the grandest of conspiracy theories gets an airing as two reporters debate the existence of the Deep State. Will Cole get his chance to investigate the Star Headed Man, and what is Lee Harvey Oswald’s asking price? Find out in your next mighty Major Spoilers review!
THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #4
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Editor: Steve Foxe
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: December 23rd, 2020
Previously in The Department of Truth #4: FBI agent Cole was just a researcher, until he stumbled across evidence that said that the world was flat and a wall ran right across it at the South Pole. That was when The Department of Truth, a secret government agency dedicated to stamping out conspiracy theories before they manifested in the real world, and headed by THE Lee Harvey Oswald, showed up and showed him the light. Now, teamed with agency Ruby, Cole must stamp out malign, vicious conspiracy theories, and confront the people behind an organization known only as Black Hat…
Reading The Department of Truth #4 is like stepping through Alice’s Looking Glass, while tripping on the purest LSD ever manufactured on this fallen world. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, it’s like having your brain smashed in by a gold brick wrapped in lemon.
Did I mention it is also fantastic, in all senses of the world?
Department of Truth #4 represents itself as the ur-text of the war the Department is fighting against Black Hat. Through the convulsive and propulsive narrative, writer James Tynion IV has shaped an issue that examines one of the key drivers of conspiracy theories in America today, the notion of a ‘Deep State.’ To read this issue is to experience something of the hallucinatory allure of conspiracy theories, that notion that if you could just pull aside the curtain, you would be able to understand the forces that manipulate our lives from cradle to the grave.
The majority of The Department of Truth #4 is that narrative, how then CIA Director Allen Dulles essentially hand picked every American President from JFK up to Obama. It is presented as matter of factly as if you were reading out loud a menu, a catalog of decisions and events that have shaped American history, and the American people, for the last sixty years. It is the reason the Department exists, because they know that if a critical mass of people actually believed in what was being proposed as the truth, those lies would become the truth, and the Black Hat organization, which has been propagating them, would warp fiction into reality.
Along the way, Tynion IV takes time to critique the nature of the media in America today, how it is essentially a provider of information, true or otherwise, to a voracious audience that requires ever more stimulus. Told through the lens of two reporters the Department is spying on, the issue is also a test for Cole, who is tasked by Lee Harvey Oswald, with dealing with the two reporters. His reward? To be allowed to go up against the Star Headed Man, a fictional creation of Black Hat who manifested and tormented his childhood. There are wheels within wheels in this issue…
DREAM ME A NIGHTMARE
Adding to the hallucinatory nature of the narrative, there is Martin Simmonds’ mind bending artwork. A lot of it is a series of impressions – you rarely see a character or place clearly defined. Instead, everything appears slightly off kilter, either through a filter of color, or well- placed shadows, or a deliberate blurring caused by the artist’s brush. This is memorably demonstrated with a series of panels depicting Oswald. Oswald shouldn’t exist – we know he was killed by Jack Ruby in that parking garage. Or was he? In the world of The Department of Truth, Oswald is both dead and alive – and the inability of the reader to focus on him thanks to Simmonds’ artwork is testimony to that truth.
Similarly, throughout The Department of Truth #4, until they confront Cole, the two reporters are just silhouettes on a series of screens. What they look like doesn’t matter in any event – it is only the story they are arguing about that has any real value.
BOTTOM LINE: NIGHTMARE FUEL
I don’t know if I’ve read a more powerful issue in 2020 than The Department of Truth #4. Its most frightening power is to make you almost think the theories being stitched together to explain Obama’s rise to the Presidency are true. The issue also takes a massive length of timber and starts whacking at the crazies who believe this nonsense, and spares none of them any punishment.
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The Department of Truth #4
The Department of Truth #4 is a scathing commentary on the ability of the gullible to believe just about any nonsense spouted by self important grifters. It’s a powerful denunciation of how far the media has fallen, and how willing it is to be party to the swindling of the American people of the one thing they desperately need - the truth.