So we’re running a little behind this week, but better late than never, right? As it is, though, I’m thinking that I may just have to abandon that plan I had to talk about the rest of the books that came out while I was on blog vacation. Or I will if people keep putting out such interesting new comics as this one, anyway…
by Jonathan Hickman and Mike Huddleston
With the recent end of East of West, I suppose it was only natural that Jonathan Hickman’s next funnybook epic would launch soon after. And here it is: Decorum, a far-future science fiction adventure strip with art by Mike Huddleston.
This first issue launches with a daunting array of Hickman’s now-familiar info-graphics, explaining the basics of this new series’ reality, filling in thousands of years of history and even giving us vague maps of known space that I’m sure we’ll want to refer back to as the series progresses. I love this aspect of Hickman’s work, but it was a lot to take in all at once. It’s still better than painful expository dialogue, mind you, and I do think it’s all info that’s good to have before the story proper begins. But I did find my attention wavering at times. Of course, that might be because I tried reading it before bed, and this kind of stuff is perhaps best-tackled when you’re not already half-asleep.
Hickman and Huddleston do seem to realize that it’s all a bit much, though. They break the graphics up with a short wordless sequence illustrating the machine intelligence Singularity’s destruction of native cultures preserved by their enemies the Solar Empire.
Heh. They don’t explain why there are Conquistador Robots and Alien Aztecs. I suspect it’s just symbolic imagery meant to tell you immediately how you should feel about what’s happening. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter why they look like that. Because it’s CONQUISTADOR ROBOTS fighting ALIEN AZTECS. And that’s so cool I don’t really need explanation.
That sequence also shows off the wide variety of styles used by artist Mike Huddleston, who is entirely comfortable going from, in the space of a single page, sketchy black and white line art to lush painted color (YE GODS, look at those CLOUDS!). That variety might be a mess in many artists’ hands, but Huddleston makes it work because he’s careful about what he uses various coloring styles for. Those lush colors, for instance, are reserved for the lush natural setting of that opening sequence, and don’t return later in the issue. Outer space, meanwhile, gets wilder psychedelic coloring. But most of the actual story is done in black and white line art, with nothing more than accent colors used to express emotion, make certain important props stand out on the page, or to make a visual point about an individual character. This guy’s prismatic pink outfit, for instance, really makes a statement:
It’s a nice mix of styles, at any rate. And it’s something Huddleston has done on every book I’ve ever read by him (his and Joe Casey’s Butcher Baker being the first that comes to mind). I dig it, anyway.
I dig it storywise, as well. Some of the machine intelligence stuff from the history puts me in mind of the ideas Hickman was exploring in Powers of X in regard to the Sentinels and the cosmic machine societies of the far future. It’s unclear at present how important that’s going to be in the long run, though, since the real story in this issue takes place on a sort of frontier planet run by criminals. We get some expository graphics on that place, too, of course, but mostly we spend the back half of the issue following a young courier named Neha, who’s apparently doing this work to make enough money to get her little brother out of cryo-freeze (a healthcare racket, it’s explained to us, that’s even worse than the American insurance industry). This time out, Neha’s delivering a package to Pink Jacket Guy, who in turn is in the middle of a meeting with someone I assume is going to be a very important character in upcoming issues: a dreadfully polite assassin named Morley.
I’m guessing, of course, but it kind of looks like Morley will be taking the courier under her wing, and together I assume they’ll be exploring this strange future Hickman took such great pains to explain at the beginning of the issue. Or, you know, she might just kill her for being rude.
We’re in new territory here.
Anything could happen.
Future events aside, though, Hickman does pull off one neat trick in this issue. The story being told is very light. Like, EXTRA light. Like, barely even there. Neha picks up a package, Morley confronts Pink Jacket, and those elements then proceed to explode into an orgy of appalling violence. And that’s it. It’s not even really a story so much as it is a vignette. But he’s packed the issue with so much backstory, and so much information about even such tiny details as the bowl of noodles Neha stops to eat on the way to her delivery, that the issue FEELS like it’s packed.
And to be fair, it IS very information-dense. Telling a more complicated story alongside all the information you’re being asked to absorb might not have worked so well. But as it is, slight as the story may actually be, it’s still a satisfying read. Not God’s Gift to Comics or anything, mind you. But a nice beginning to a new Hickman epic nonetheless. I didn’t feel like I’d wasted MY five dollars on it, anyway.
As always, your mileage may vary.
Aaaannddd… I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got time for this week. Life happens to the best of us. So I will now bid you adieu. Hope to see you back next time.