Opening with “The womanly art of assassination,” Decorum is a tale of an assassins’ guild, a church of artificial intelligence, and the mysterious being who will save or doom them all. Oh, and the fate of the universe—it’s in the hands of a girl who dislikes bad noodles and violence but is a pretty big fan of wearing shorts.

From Image Comics, Decorum opens with a bit of worldbuilding before settling onto its central character. Through an action sequence on a distant planet and related data sheets, we learn that one of the great forces in the universe is the Church of the Singularity—an artificially intelligent god fighting to prevent the return of the being which created it. Opposing the Church are the Celestial Mothers—a dwindling group of women protecting the existence and eventual rebirth of the Creator. Locked in conflict over the salvation or apocalypse of the universe, their clash will shape the lives of countless worlds around them.

However, that’s the big picture. Much nearer at hand is a young woman named Neha Nori Sood, a courier in the criminal underworld trying to scrape together enough money to care for her family. One bad job brings her face to face with the Lady Morley, an assassin of character. Impressing upon Neha the importance of both skills and manners, Morely inducts Neha into an organization of highly skilled contract killers. For Neha, it’s a way to survive. For Morley—she seeks a trainee driven by higher things than bloodshed to carry on the work. When the Church of the Singularity contracts their organization into the larger conflict, bonds will be tested, and it will fall to Neha to choose a side and chart a course toward the future. Let’s hope she remembers her manners.

Jonathan Hickman is already a well-established writer, and an ambitious book like Decorum shows him building a sci-fi epic of impressive scale. The story is interspersed with data sheets, maps, and supplemental information that build out the many worlds, lending a tone of analytical compilation to this story of artificial intelligences and corporate corruption. These story supplements blend well with the central narrative, entwining the three stories of Church, Mothers, and assassins across a hefty compendium volume. With a sophisticated tone, flashes of humor, and a complex sci-fi epic that never feels overwhelming, Hickman balances character and worldbuilding with skill and fanfare.

As strong as the writing is, much of Decorum’s uniqueness comes through the art of Mike Huddleston. Moving from realism to traditional graphic styles, then to abstraction and sketchbook minimalism and back, this shifting mix of palates and visuals could easily have felt disjointed. Instead, Huddleston brings the story to life, using the art to control scene, tone, and setting as he constructs each corner of this sweeping futuristic universe. Across each new chapter, each planetary overview or character bio, Huddleston’s visuals build on each other alongside Hickman’s text to fit these pieces into a realized and cohesive whole that conveys the scope of the story while never losing sight of the people who inhabit it.

For any fans of science fiction (such as Saga or Star Wars)—or spy stories (like Black Widow or James Bond)—Decorum has plenty to offer. With strong female leads, imaginative worldbuilding, and dramatic action, the story stays engaging from start to finish across sci-fi worlds as strange as they are fascinating. In both art and content, this volume might be a bit overwhelming to new readers of science fiction or graphic novels, but for those who are familiar, Decorum offers plenty of familiar delights and new surprises while also exploring the bounds of what a comic of this sort needs to look like.

Image gives this title a mature rating. With some strong language, graphic violence, and references to unsavory criminal behavior, it’s certainly not the most mature comic on the market, but it is best suited for older teens and adults. That being said, the subtle use of humor amidst more dramatic sequences is on point, the philosophical themes are suited to the genre, and the act of taking in each unique page is well worth the time it takes to read. While the series admittedly could have done even more with its story and themes over a longer run, Decorum is worth adding to any collection where readers enjoy sci-fi and/or comics that operate outside the norm. The miniseries is a visual feast and concludes as a standalone story. But with that in mind, it does tease a continuation of the series, so it’s a safe bet we’ll see these characters again down the line. I, for one, am not complaining about that possibility.

Decorum 
By Jonathan Hickman
Art by Mike Huddleston
Image, 2022
ISBN: 9781534318236

Publisher Age Rating: M

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

  • Josh

    | he/him Technical Services Librarian

    Reviewer

    Josh Gauthier worked a technical services librarian in Maine before taking a detour into the tech field. He has a BA from the University of Southern Maine and an MFA from the Stonecoast creative writing program. Beyond his day job, Josh is also a fiction writer and playwright. You can find him discussing topics such as writing, comics, fiction, and pop culture on various social media platforms as @JG_Writer.

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