Above all else, Decorum is a grand world-building experience: similar to Hickman’s series East of West, but even bigger. But the good news is that the reader does not have to be fully invested in the descriptions of the galactic sectors, the competing organizations (the Church of the Singularity and the Union of Frontier Worlds), or the many worlds in the story to follow the narrative. It’s enough to understand the basic setup on the planet where the action takes place. For example, one of the earliest stories takes place on Daeldus, which was originally an entirely liquid world. Since terraforming it is still subject to tidal patterns, which causes its cities to constantly rearrange themselves.
This is the world where Neha (who is working as a courier) meets the deadly assassin Imogen. Neha is rough and literally unwashed, but Imogen sees potential in her, and sponsors her entry into the Sisterhood of Man: the elite school for assassins where she was trained. Neha is clearly a poor fit–even surviving the training looks dicey at various points–but eventually she graduates to training assassinations accompanied by Imogen. What she lacks in killing techniques she makes up for in spunk. As this is happening, there is also a parallel narrative involving a cosmic egg and a resurrection cycle. Both the Church and the Union want to control it.
These two narrative threads come together when the Union hires the Sisterhood to either find the Egg unhatched, or bring them the dead body of the occupant if it has hatched. Imogen, Neha and the hatched creator of the God-A.I. have a different idea: they convince the Sisterhood to assault the robot world where God is located, so they can reprogram it. Things work out, in an especially surprising way for Neha, setting up the next chapter: Decorum and the Womanly Art of Empire.
It’s a complicated, sprawling saga. But Mike Huddleston’s stunning art absolutely sells it. The illustrations range from intimate character studies, to dynamic fight scenes, to big abstract cosmic events. Monochrome line drawings give way to shifting areas of color to lurid color sequences (this is especially true of cosmic events). All of it is absolutely beautiful, and the constant shifts in drawing and coloring techniques provide regular surprises for the reader. The collection ends with a large collection of terrific covers.
This collects the first half of a twelve-issue maxiseries that brings back Christopher Chance, the Human Target. Created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino and introduced in 1972, Chance is a private detective and bodyguard who assumes the identities of his clients in order to protect them. My history with the character dates entirely from the Vertigo minseries, graphic novel, and ongoing series written by Peter Milligan, with art by Edvin Biuković, Lee Loughridge, Javier Pulido, Dave Stewart, and Cliff Chiang.
As the story opens, Chance is impersonating Lex Luthor. As always, he manages to capture everything: Luthor’s physical appearance, voice, and mannerisms. Chance is so preternaturally good at this that it is almost a superpower. But in this case things have gone seriously sideways: someone has poisoned him (thinking he was Luthor) with an exotic, slow acting poison. He has twelve days to solve his own murder. And his suspects must all be members of the Justice League International, as they are the only ones who could have had access to the deadly compound.
Chance finds himself romantically involved with Ice, which puts him in conflict with her jealous ex, chauvinist Green Lantern Guy Gardner. He and Ice meet with the JLI members one by one, looking for clues about who hated Luthor enough to assassinate him. Everything about this is radically different from the Vertigo series, which had no connection to the larger DC Universe. But the classic detective noir tone is present, so the character of Chance feels real. And the mystery is waiting to be solved. King and Smallwood present a recognizable Chirstopher Chance, one who could be expected to solve it. I look forward to reading the conclusion.