W) Jonathan Hickman, A) Mike Huddleston
There are many assassins in the known universe. This is the story of the most well-mannered one.“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what knife you use.”
First off, Decorum is a little different from most comic books. There’s a lot of plain white space and a lot of straight prose. Like, really a lot. Some folks aren’t going to like that. But that prose explains a lot of history and a lot of setting that would have taken entire issues to convey in any other way. And when things finally do get rolling, the pay off is fantastic.
The unusual story telling is slightly off-putting – nearly half the book is either silent back story or white-backgrounded information dump. People will think that’s a problem, I suspect, or be simply bored by it. But that last half of the book really shines. The characters are well written, unique, and interesting. Each has a clearly different voice that makes the dialog stand out more than I expect from even the best comics. It doesn’t sound like much in review, but it’s got a powerful impact on read-through. Once the stage is set and the action explodes, you’ll be happy you stuck with it. Of course it’s a cliffhanger, and we’re left wanting more, but I didn’t feel for a second that any tricks or traps had been used. Build up. Pay off. That was great! I want more!
And the art is just a thing of beauty from cover to cover. The style and backgrounds change heavily with the tone of the scene, but they never fail to impress. There’s too many cool effects to even begin to cover, and the first few pages feel like they’re from an entirely different book than the last few, and yes, I do wish some of that plentiful white space had been used for more amazing visuals… but the book never disappoints in the visuals department.
Decorum #1 has a few problems, taken as a single issue. But taken as an introduction to what’s to come, this book is full of promise and potential. Going into issue #2, the stage is set for two characters to run with the story, the reader has thousands of years of background into the factions, and the universe it’s all happening in feels solid and real. And the bar is set HIGH for the artwork. There are no problems in any of that. Decorum #1 may have bit the bullet for us, so that everything beyond can shine even brighter. I don’t think I’ve been more excited for any other book this year.
Something Greater Than the Total of its Parts
Yes, the story telling method is an unusual one for comics, and yes, there are some failings here, but taken as a whole, Decorum is a giant tease to something great. Getting a sense of the stakes, of the playing field, and of the players starts off very slow, but the ride is enjoyable, and the promise of things to come is enormous.