Hello and welcome to my first article for Biff Bam Pop! Before we dive into this week’s title, I just wanted to take a few quick seconds to thank you for giving this article a read. While I’m new to comics journalism, I’ve been reading and discussing comics for over 25 years, and it’s my hope that my weekly columns will help you to branch out from the big two and try something new! Anyways, it’s great to be here, so let’s get moving.
What was Firefly?
It was almost 20 years ago when Joss Whedon’s cult classic tv series first debut on network tv. The show, a blending of sci-fi and western genres, followed a ragtag group of former rebels living life on the edge of the galaxy and surviving job to job. The episodes were shown out of order, in odd time slots, and after a single, brief season the show was cancelled due to poor ratings.
Like many other shows cut down before their time, Firefly has lived on as a cult classic; however, despite numerous attempts at reviving it in other media, including an excellent but underperforming sequel film, little of it has actually managed to capture the feeling of the original. All too these attempts at recapturing the show’s former glory instead feel like a hollow imitation of what we once loved. We want that western outlaw spirit in a sci-fi universe, and unfortunately, that blend is hard to get right.
Which brings us to Decorum #1 from Image comics. While I’ll freely admit I did not know much about this book before going into it, I did know was that it was written by Jonathan Hickman, an industry veteran with some serious indie cred, and honestly, that’s all I need to get on board.
You see, I’ve been a fan of his work for quite some time, and he has rarely let me down. I first took note of Hickman’s work way back in 2006 with The Nightly News, an Image comic that skewered mass media empires and showed me that you didn’t need superheroes, or really any heroes, to write a compelling comic. I have since really enjoyed following his career as he bounced around writing for Top Cow, Image, and most recently Marvel Comics. His current X-Men run has breathed fresh life into a major but frequently neglected, part of the Marvel Universe, making Marvel’s mutants relevant once again, attracting new readers while also bringing old readers, myself included, back into the X-Men fold.
This is what Hickman excels at. Like Whedon, he can take a stale concept and make it interesting. When he is given a property from someone else, he can redefine it while also honouring it in such a way that he not only keeps current fans happy, but also brings new readers in, and like Whedon, when given a chance to create something new, from the ground up, he can deliver something as beautiful and compelling as Decorum.
So what’s this book all about? Well, as I said, Firefly fans will find a lot to love in this book, but fans of shows like The Mandalorian will see a lot they recognize as well.
Here’s the plot synopsis from Image comics: There are many assassins in the known universe. This is the story of the most well-mannered one. “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what knife you use.”
Brief, beautiful, and all too short. While the introduction of our assassin character is a significant plot point, this book has so much more going on in it. We are introduced to a future where Earth has expanded its reach far out into the galaxy, and, in typical Earth fashion, really made a mess of things. Humanity attempted to form and follow their own version of the Prime Directive, only to have the reality of colonization destroy any hope of that succeeding. Primitive societies are either destroyed on purpose, or by accident, and only a handful are able to survive long enough to join our new civilization. Add into that a disastrous war with robot conquistadors, conflicts with rival alien federations, groups of human defectors, and underpaid galactic package carriers, and you have just the start of the story that Hickman has crafted here.
Decorum is broken into multiple story arcs, each setting up different aspects of this universe as well as setting up plot points for future issues. The book is also full of charts, historical records, data entries, and even a proto-alphabet that fans of his X-Men run will no doubt have just as much fun playing with here as they did over there.
The artwork is also masterfully done by artist Mike Huddleston, whose style and range are on full display in this book. The panels jump from bare-bones sketches to painted masterpieces, lending a fast-paced and frenetic feel to the action scenes, and more depth and resonance to those scenes that require much more of our attention.
The plot is fun and interesting, with more questions than answers in this first issue, and yet at the same time, it feels like we already have a solid understanding of the rules of this universe. Good and evil still exist. Money and power are still forces to be reckoned with. Robots are evil and need to be defeated. We get these rules.
And yet as familiar as all this is, Decorum still also manages to be unique and interesting in its own way. The characters are fun, interesting, and relatable. The settings are sweeping and epic, and the stakes are compelling and realistic. All in all, Decorum is the perfect book for any fans of science fiction, and should definitely be on your pull list.
So check Decorum out. If you love Hickman’s X-Men run you’ll love this too, and if Hickman is a new author for you then you’re lucky to get to dive into his world-building for the first time!