'Decorum' #1 Review: Mike Huddleston’s breathtaking art steals the show in Jonathan Hickman’s latest offering

'Decorum' #1 Review: Mike Huddleston’s breathtaking art steals the show in Jonathan Hickman’s latest offering
(Mike Huddleston/Image Comics)

Spoiler alert for 'Decorum' #1

'Decorum' #1 has a lot of what you'd expect from a Jonathan Hickman comic. Data pages, expansive world-building, advanced grand-scale science fiction concepts that speak to new physical laws all of their own -- it has all the ingredients required to keep the reader engrossed. For a 49-pages long comic, it's surprisingly short on story, but that's fine, because while the worldbuilding is impressively grand, the art truly stands out.

Mike Huddleston has a unique storytelling style -- it is unearthly at times, fast-paced in others, and always just a little surreal and detailed enough to make a second and third read of the issue rewarding.  Huddleston switches from fully colored paintings to a shocking intenseness in black and white, science fiction-esque blue tones and then the grays of older, pulp comic books.

In one particularly inventive scene, featuring the ostensible assassin protagonist, there are no colors in the panel with the exception of her target, who is seen in hypnotically dazzling hues -- and then, later, her assassination weapon of choice. It's only after her target has been taken out do colors bleed back into the room. Huddleston's art switches the perspective from chapter to chapter, and the changing art styles seem to reflect that. Without reading the credits, it would be easy to believe that multiple artists were involved in this issue, but Huddleston's wildly discrete stylings are perfect for a comic set in a galaxy of thousands of different culture preserves. 

From the first issue alone, the art and the expansive worldbuilding do a wonderful job of distracting the reader from how difficult it is to be able to tell what the comic's actually about. As a writer, Hickman is someone who is used to playing the long game, and this issue very much feels like being thrown into the deep end of a story. There's enough intentional vagueness in the scenes that do happen to give a reader the feeling that this will all make sense later, once the proper context is given.

The first half of the comic does the heavy work of worldbuilding -- though again, with just enough left unsaid to let a reader know that significant, vague pages here make a lot more sense in issues to come. 

The story itself doesn't pick up until the latter half of the issue, with the introduction of the courier Neha, who seems like she's the POV character for the series. All but blackmailed into a life of high-end delivery service to keeping a loved one alive in a cryopod, she's very much at the mercy of the system. The assassin, last name of Morley, has been billed in solicits as being the comic's protagonist, but she doesn't show up until the final scene, and it's neither clear what her role in the story is nor what role this strange galaxy Hickman has detailed fits into her life.

It's a comic that requires some faith in Hickman's long game. Mike Huddleston's art is what sets the comic apart from other Hickman works, however, creating a truly strange galaxy filled with vibrant energy and an eclectic style of storytelling making this one of the most interesting comics out there, right now.

'Decorum' #2 releases on April 15, 2020, wherever comics are sold.

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