Decorum Issue 5. Written by Jonathan Hickman. Art by Mike Huddleston.
Last issue, Decorum decided that sanity was optional, and threw some oddly disjointed but incredibly intriguing plot points at us. It was quite hard to process, but ultimately very, very cool.
This week, they've decided to return to something more akin to traditional storytelling. Which is nice.
This issue follows the continued education of Neha in her attempt to become the universe's greatest assassin.
Safe to say, it's not going TOO well.
In addition to her less that successful lessons, we also see Neha going on a series of less than successful missions... missions that involve very little actual killing and a fairly large amount of throwing up on shoes.
But, as this issue is set over the course of the first three years of Neha's education, we begin to see her make some small improvements (can learning to harden your heart and become a remorseless killer really be called improving, though?), slowly becoming the assassin that Imogen always saw inside her.
So the big question then becomes:
Once that dark seed has bloomed, what will become of the bitter fruit that it brings forth?
I guess we'll have to wait for the next issue, to find out.
Decorum continues to be a wonderful oddity. Like with so much of Hickman's current work, you're never 100% sure what you're going to get when you open the book. Will it be a roaring tale of heroism? Will it be an existentialist treatise on the nature of the soul? Will it be a murder-y montage of assassination training?
Or, will it be some mind-blowing combination of them all?
This time around, they've dialed back the craziness a little. The story focuses on budding assassin Neha Nori Sood, and her '80s-inspired training montage.
In classic movie montage style, there is no text for the majority of this issue, showing Neha's progress through her training through images and steady improvement. It makes me a little sad, seeing her brightness and humour slowly slipping away, as her skills improve. While I'd like to hope that she can retain her light, going through the kind of training she does makes that a fairly slim chance.
The other half of this issue focuses on Neha's training missions, with her mentor and my future wife, Imogen.
I'm really enjoying seeing how these two interact. Imogen makes sure to remain a stoic force in Neha's life. Showing her the correct way to execute the missions, praising Neha when she makes progress, and chastising her when it's required.
As usual, Hickman's writing is note perfect. It's like a textbook example of world building and character development.
As I mentioned at the start, you can never be totally sure what you're going to get, when you pull open an issue of Decorum. But, regardless of the contents, you can always be assured of the quality of the product found therein.
The subject matter this issue is about as grim as we've seen for the story so far. But Hickman manages to maintain the balance perfectly, injecting just enough humour in to keep the mood light, while ensuring that we don't lose the gravity of Neha's progress in her new line of work.
And, of course, in a issue where large chunks of the story are told non-verbally, you have to give credit where it's due, to the amazing Huddleston art. Seeing the contrast between the yellowed out pages of her training (tinted to feel like an old reference guide., much like one would use while studying), to the more vibrant, colourful pages of her missions, puts you instantly in the right frame of mind for each part. Then, seeing the tone and composition of the art get darker, as in each mission Neha progresses further and further, subconsciously darkens the readers mood. It's small touches like this that show just how much care and attention is put into each issue of this tale.
Overall, Decorum issue 5 was an excellent start to this back half of the series. I don't know how Hickman is going to unite the seeming opposed halves of this strange tale, but personally, I cannot wait to see how he pulls it off.
Decorum issue 5, from Image Comics, releases October 7th 2020.