Jonathan Hickman, words; Mike Huddleston, art
Image Comics, 2022
Above all else, Decorum is a grand world-building experience: similar to Hickman's series East of West, but even bigger. But the good news is that the reader does not have to be fully invested in the descriptions of the galactic sectors, the competing organizations (the Church of the Singularity and the Union of Frontier Worlds), or the many worlds in the story to follow the narrative. It's enough to understand the basic setup on the planet where the action takes place. For example, one of the earliest stories takes place on Daeldus, which was originally an entirely liquid world. Since terraforming it is still subject to tidal patterns, which causes its cities to constantly rearrange themselves.
This is the world where Neha (who is working as a courier) meets the deadly assassin Imogen. Neha is rough and literally unwashed, but Imogen sees potential in her and sponsors her entry into the Sisterhood of Man: the elite school for assassins where she was trained. Neha is clearly a poor fit--even surviving the training looks dicey at various points--but eventually, she graduates to training assassinations accompanied by Imogen. What she lacks in killing techniques she makes up for in spunk. As this is happening, there is also a parallel narrative involving a cosmic egg and a resurrection cycle. Both the Church and the Union want to control it.
These two narrative threads come together when the Union hires the Sisterhood to either find the Egg unhatched, or bring them the dead body of the occupant if it has hatched. Imogen, Neha and the hatched creator of the God-A.I. have a different idea: they convince the Sisterhood to assault the robot world where God is located, so they can reprogram it. Things work out, in an especially surprising way for Neha, setting up the next chapter: Decorum and the Womanly Art of Empire.
It's a complicated, sprawling saga. But Mike Huddleston's stunning art absolutely sells it. The illustrations range from intimate character studies, to dynamic fight scenes, to big abstract cosmic events. Monochrome line drawings give way to shifting areas of color to lurid color sequences (this is especially true of cosmic events). All of it is absolutely beautiful, and the constant shifts in drawing and coloring techniques provide regular surprises for the reader. The collection ends with a large collection of terrific covers.
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