Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Mike Huddleston
Publisher: Image Comics
Age Rating: M
Original Release Date: Jul 22, 2020
Decorum issue #3, “And The Re-education of Deviants,” from the creative team of writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Mike Huddleston depicts the continuing adventures of Imogen Smith-Morely, a deadly assassin, and Neha Nori Sood, a delivery girl who’s life has been in flux since meeting Imogen. The story takes place in a hellish future where the galaxy is overrun by greed and injustice. Issue #3 breaks the pattern set by the previous issues. There is no B story this time around. We follow Neha and Imogen for the entire issue as they traverse the galaxy and arrive at the assassin school Neha has agreed to attend in exchange for Imogen’s help with the pharmaceutical megacorp exhorting Neha’s family.
Issue #3 is completely devoid of any story not directly involving Neha and Imogen. We get no new information about what’s going on with the Ship of the Celestial Mothers, the portentous egg the Celestial Mothers are caring for or the Church of the Singularity that pursues them.
We pick up with Neha and Imogen aboard an interstellar spaceliner. The two trade barbs over the subject of good manners. Imogen vows to housebreak Neha as Neha bristles in the face of domestication. Hickman uses this exchange to further develop Neha’s character. Neha so far has been shown to be little more than a courier caught in the orbit of Imogen since the two met. This issue Neha shows herself to be a rough, uncultured street rat who despises pomp and pretense, virtually the opposite of Imogen’s elegant and composed personality. The thing these two do have in common is wit and sarcasm which makes for some pretty humorous dialogue.
As they disembark the spaceliner Neha manages to extract why she was chosen to be drafted into the assassin profession. Imogen explains her ideology for recruiting. The school where Imogen trained, and is presently delivering Neha to, deliberately recruits desperate young women. Imogen fears making monsters of women who have had their humanity stripped away. She would rather a woman who despite their hopeless circumstances is still essentially a good person be made into a kinder, gentler sort of assassin. Imogen reveals that someone once helped her and in an effort to pass that kindness forward Imogen will help Neha into a better life, albeit as an assassin. Imogen endeavors “to do right by unfortunate women of quality.”
After leaving the spaceport and traversing a maze of portals Imogen and Neha arrive at the secret entrance of the Sisterhood of Man, the school where Neha is to train. At the school Neha is subjected to an orientation where she is one of four new students. The other students are terrifyingly accomplished in murdering for hire. Neha’s complete lack of experience causes a lot of controversy. I can’t imagine what it will be like to be the pariah of a school for assassins.
Huddleston’s art never fails to excite. There’s so many pages suitable for framing based on composition alone. A sort of fun pop culture easter egg in issue #3 is the spaceliner Neha and Imogen travel on. The ship obviously gets it design queues from John Berkey, an influential scifi artist from the 70s that heavily affected the production design of Star Wars. The school orientation scene goes full Ashley Wood with visceral and expressive lineart to complement the bonkers conflict over Neha’s lack of qualifications.
The whole issue is basically two conversations. The first conversation between Imogen and Neha as they travel reveals more about who these characters are than the previous two issues combined. Neha is a boorish but tough kid. Imogen is really shaping up to be a killer with a heart of gold. The second conversation, the orientation, sets the tone for the next stage of the story which is the school, while setting Neha up as an outcast.
It’s super fun to have these characters take verbal jabs at each other now that the characters are more established. The zingers they throw at each other are excellent. The wry humor of Decorum is of course secondary to the world building, but it’s entertaining none the less. Moving forward I expect to see Neha struggle to cope with structure and authority in her new academic environment and I suppose we’re due for an update on Celestial Mothers and the egg.