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Decoy: Storm of the Century 1-4

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2003
By: Ray Tate



Writers: Buddy Scalera; Michelle Harman
Artists: Courtney Huddleston; Pablo Villalobos(p), Mostafa Moussa;Victor Llamas(i), Mike Gacia(c)
Publisher: Penny-Farthing

Penny-Farthing was kind enough to send me a whole packet of stuff to review, and I apologize to them for the delay. My reviews of the Victorian and Zendra are available in the archives. Storm of the Century is the new Decoy series by the same people responsible for gracing us with the first series. I have to admit that I passed this one up because I thought it was a reprint of the first series with different covers. Fortunately, Penny-Farthing took steps to see that their material would be reviewed.

Decoy is a little difficult to describe. Mix one part Martian Manhunter, one part grey mythology and one part Shmoo, and you may end up with a royal mess, but Courtney Huddleston, the creator, somehow managed to pour all those ingredients into a different mold to form something highly original and mostly entertaining.

As a rule sequels fail to match the power of the original, but this isn't always the case. Superman II, Batman Returns and Aliens for instance all were superior to their predecessor. The original Decoy mini-series was a mild amusement and not much more. The little fellow's adventures were pleasant to read, but the series never struck me as necessary reading. If you had the three bucks to spare, you could do worse. Killraven immediately springs to mind.

Storm of the Century is a superior story in all respects. First, you need not know the characters from the first series in order to enjoy the second. In fact the second series seems more like a rewrite than an actual sequel. The characters are reintroduced fairly painlessly, and the interactions link the story's strong core plot.

Luck and Decoy are still friends and partners. Decoy's existence still is a secret from all the humans in Luck's world including his official partner Officer Tessa Moreno: a classy female character who features prominently on the cover but not quite so much in the story.

Writer Buddy Scalera and artist Ms. Huddleston downplay the trite idea of Decoy's existence being discovered by the unwary humans, and this is a big bonus for science fiction fans who have seen this theme trotted out before to a yawn-inducing stand-still. They instead work on the friendship between Luck and Decoy. They jeopardize the friendship in a unique way that brings in new characters that while looking ominous actually seem to be quite reasonable yet still a threat lurking just around the corner.

This threat hints at something Ms. Huddleston explores more in the B-Side of the book. Storm of the Century though one story takes place in two halves. Ms. Harman wisely introduces new material concerning Decoy's origin, and she should be commended for not contradicting what was written before. Vaunted DC writers can't even do this. The origin of Decoy impacts on the alien's present, and this naturally involves the head villain of Decoy's world Dr. Alloy.

Dr. Alloy in the past series seemed like just a typical nutso mad scientist bent upon conquering the world. In Storm of the Century we see there is much more than madness in character. The grafting of fresh elements to the villain's personality does more than simply deepen the story and the characters, it also helps shed the mood of the super-hero genre into which the first series teetered. If you have a villain who looks like a horror movie host and turns his madness into lethal genius, then you have entered super-hero or pulp territory, but the creative team finds a means to take him out of that area. Don't misread me. I love the super-hero genre. It is my favorite form of fantastic literature, but Decoy never really belonged there.

The move plants Decoy's further adventures into the realm of pure science fiction. We have two alien races, two different species and a fight for survival. Decoy's race is a caste-based system reliant upon genetically determined color codes: a simple idea and expertly executed.

The artwork in Decoy always was professional and exhibited moments of brilliance, but there's a greater quality in the work and a tighter attention to the progression of panels in Storm of the Century. It may just be that the more dramatic story gave Ms. Huddleston greater inspiration, but everything simply looks better. Stand out scenes however have nothing to do with the characters; though the character designs are proportionate, less cartoony and well thought out. The "storm" itself impresses. The water in these static panels seems to torrent, cascade and even roar. If you're going to call your story Storm of the Century these are necessary and welcome attributes. Highly recommended especially for somebody looking for something a little different.




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