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‘Decorum #3:’ Advance Comic Book Review

Neha gets her first taste of life at the academy when Imogen brings her to Tempest, the home of the Sisterhood. Neha's lifelong adventure of grudge-settling, assassinations, and revenge begins! At least, according to the official academy literature. Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Mike Huddleston bring their main characters across the first major threshold in Decorum #3.

Imogen and Neha travel from planet Dealdus to Tempest via the transit hub Bys. Neha learns more about her refined and self-assured new patron and gets answers to a few important questions. Imogen introduces her new ward to the Sisterhood of Man, a secret guild of female assassins. And the academy's blunt and ornery headmaster confronts her inexperienced and sarcastic new recruit.

Decorum promises to be as expansive as Hickman's recently concluded East of West, but universe-building takes a backseat to character development in this issue. The relationship between Neha and Imogen is explored, and readers are given a better sense of both characters through their interactions. When new characters enter, they are defined by their similarities and differences to the main characters. Contrasts are drawn between Imogen and the academy's headmaster, as well as contrasts between Neha and her fellow recruits.

So far, Huddleston is taking the reader on a dazzling artistic journey as intricate as Hickman's narrative. There are a handful of pages in the transit hub Bys that contain beautifully complex new settings, but for the most part, the art serves the story. In this issue, character facial expressions and poses are given particular emphasis. Conversation scenes utilize stripped down panels with nearly empty backgrounds. The characters are given the spotlight, sometimes on a completely empty stage. At the end of the issue, the new academy recruits are rendered with very little detail, but Huddleston's gestures and postures rise to the occasion and tell the stories of the characters.

I thought the opening two issues of Decorum were somewhat intimidating, which isn't necessarily a deterrent, but they were certainly a challenging read. The story so far has been packed with Hickman's signature terse exposition, convoluted backdrops, and fondness for detail. But issue #3 is more lighthearted than its predecessors, even humorous in some instances. The story is linear; it focuses on Imogen and Neha. And Neha gets an answer to the all-important question, "Why me?" Why was this scrappy courier plucked from the gutter, like a cyberpunk Eliza Doolittle, by this genteel assassin? The answer, and Neha's reaction, indicates where the story might be going in the immediate future. And despite my reference, it seems more Men in Black than My Fair Lady.


Creative Team: Jonathan Hickman (writer), Mike Huddleston (artist), Rus Wooton (Letters), Sasha E. Head (Design)
Publisher: Image Comics
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