Decorum #1 Review

by Jay Hill on March 10, 2020

Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art and colors by: Mike Huddleston
Lettered by: Rus Wooton
Design by: Sasha E. Head
Published by: Image Comics

When Hickman’s East of West was gearing up for its epic ending, the news broke that it wouldn’t be long before he started another adventure at Image Comics. This time he partnered up with the talented Mike Huddleston who is no stranger to creating great books at the publisher. Decorum was announced and the glimpses of assassins, brave new worlds, and interesting characters & creatures kept the anticipation high. Now, with its release, it’s time to see if it can live up to the hype.

Spoilers: It can, and it did. (That’s all the spoilers I’ll be giving.)

The cryptic opening scene begins the book off with a feeling of an active universe. One of the things this book does best is to introduce a realm that feels alive and breathing. This is one thing Hickman has always done well and is what made his series East of West so great. From issue #1 of East of West, it was clear that this was a new vision of America full of different nations and people all with their separate motives and conflicts. In Decorum, what was done in East of West on a global scale is done on a galactic scale. Decorum’s story involves a system of planets and the lore provided for them is lush. Throughout the book, along with the story scenes, are spots of background information about the worlds. The way the entire issue is set-up is brilliant and feels like the opening of a historical tale. It almost feels like this is a comic made to preserve an actual ancient legend or event, except it takes place in an amazingly alien sci-fi world.

The eclectic elements of the story are reminiscent of movies like Star Wars or The Fifth Element, or the French comic that inspired George Lucas and Luc Besson, Valérian and Laureline. The fully realized world of the book is filled with intriguing concepts and limitless potential. The “main narrative” of Neha’s courier job feels like we zoom in on a scene in this world/universe that has many happenings like this going on at all times. As her story goes further, she begins to become more entwined with a bigger aspect of the universe at large. But even the interesting character she meets and the secret group they belong to seems like, and probably is, one piece to a larger puzzle. Neha also has parts of her motivation that aren’t fully explained in this issue and could go on to further shape her and the story. Basically, Decorum #1 is a gift to unwrap and by the end of this issue, while it was a blast to unwrap so far, there is still much more to go before the full gift is revealed; and that is extremely exciting. 

Visually, this comic is brimming with excellence in several ways. If Mike Huddleston was flying under some peoples’ radar before this book was announced, this issue is going to open a lot of eyes to his talent. The variety of his style may be unmatched; there’s definitely not many like it. The way he blends different ways of illustrating in a single issue and keeps it cohesive is incredible. The opening segment displays this best. He can achieve a picturesque and greatly detailed style that has a photoreal quality to it. And with that style, he can choose to color it vibrantly to make it feel like an oil painting or leave it greyscale and have it feel like a greatly shaded pencil sketch. In this style, he can capture a 3-dimensional aura like the art of Simon Bisley and Frank Frazetta. Then, he has a scratchy style that can be minimalistic. It can convey chaos and motion and make the movement of a scene dynamic. Finally, there is a style of crisp lines and clean illustrations that another artist could/would choose to illustrate the entire book in, and it would be accepted as visually great. But Huddleston uses all of these styles like different instruments to compose a great piece. While many books have magnificent art in one particular style and don’t need anything else, the way this book does many feels like when an album is filled with great songs that cover several moods and even genres. It’s like how Sgt. Peppers is a great and cohesive album where every track feels in the right place, but The White Album is just as great while featuring many different styles of song.

Huddleston did something similar in the comic Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker. After a dramatic showdown, the style changes to a more dramatic style. It makes the scenes feel like they’re suddenly in slow motion. This is when many startling deaths start to happen, and the hero is in a tough spot. That sudden switch was perfect and added so much to the scene. I read it when I was new to comics and had to check to see if they switched artists or something because I didn’t know Huddleston was capable of fully using that style even though the series is full of glimpses of it. This book reaffirmed and reminded me how incredible he is. And, one thing that stood out to me in this issue is his incredible growth with visual storytelling. It helps that Hickman gave him an opening with almost no distinguishable dialogue so that his visual storytelling is on full display from the outset, but further into the book I kept being impressed with it. Such as when Neha is enjoying her “Street-Street Noodles”. The shop is shown and a yellow silhouette indicates where she is sitting, then the yellow highlighted illustration gives us a closeup of the scene; it’s very intuitive to read. Or when she’s riding towards the city and three points of lights in the distance are made to grab our attention, then it’s shown where they’re coming from. Or the later scenes being black-and-white, except for the flashy suit. The deep lore and narrative that made this such a fun book to delve into are matched by how exciting it is to see what unique thing is going to be done on the next page by Huddleston.

I also have to give respect to Rus Wooton who always does incredible work. He knows where to place a dialogue bubble to complement the illustrations of the book and the design of it. He has worked on both East of West written by Hickman and Butcher Baker illustrated by Huddleston. Add to that his work on Deadly Class and he has been the one constant in what may be my three favorite comics ever: there’s obviously a reason for that (he's that good). And, if I’m not misunderstood, Sasha E. Head is to thank for the beautiful design of this book. The design of this book is a substantial part of how enjoyable it is to read. Segments like the maps or the breakdown of lore like the Cryopods or the great diagram of the Street-Street Noodles are segmented perfectly.

Decorum #1 is the opening chapter of a story that was expected to be big and has lived up to those expectations. There’s story, ideas, character, mystery, and action in abundance. You couldn’t have asked for a better beginning. Jonathan Hickman and epic science fiction comic books are a match made in heaven. And while the substantial story content builds up the worlds, Mike Huddleston makes them concrete with stunning and diverse visuals. In this book, a new reality of wonder is created and all you have to do is open it to be transported there.

Our Score:


A Look Inside