Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Analysis of the Depiction of Memory in Batman Hush, Part Two

This is a continuation of my analysis of how memory is visually depicted in Batman Hush.  Click here to read part one.
The next example uses the present blending into memory that we saw in the Alfred page above, but introduces the extremely complex notion of memory fragmenting.  We are now, however, prepared to read it smoothly.

The green jade pendant is something the characters are encountering in the now.  But it is triggering Bruce's memory, and so we see it in color, but depicted in the looser watercolor style, as it pulls us into the monochromatic blue world of childhood. 
In addition, this page doesn't use panels in the same way as we've seen them in other memories.  In this case, it sticks with the standard nine-panel grid, even as image spill across gutter, and interlace with "snapshots" of objects in the room.  The speech balloons in the first tier help us understand how to read these as blended across the gutters.
This composition from fragments mimics the fragmentation of traumatic memory, thus preparing us for the most complex depiction of memory yet, which occurs on the very next page.

On the next page, Bruce Wayne observes Harley Quinn steal a pendant from one of his friends, a pendant that belonged to the friend's deceased mother.  And he remembers the death of his own mother.  Simple enough in words.  But the visuals rock such complexity!
I note how the nine-panel grid keeps the fragmentation introduced on the previous page, but in a much more visually complex way.   The watercolor, blue memories, are snaphots, fragments, from Bruce's memory of the murder and robbery of his mother.   Each of these gets only one short wordless panel.  Traumatic memory is preverbal, so this makes a lot of sense!  The white balls on the ends of Harley Quinn's hat meld visually into the pearls stolen from Bruce's mother (especially across the first two panels of the second tier, thus helping us understand some of the visual triggering Bruce is experiencing.  Even her speech balloons in the third panel of the second tier continue that visual string of pearls.  And then the bottom tier allows us to sink with Bruce into the full trauma, the first moment of his aloneness, the murderer gone, only the child left present with the bodies of his parents.  And the color scheme shifts to red for the first time.  Clearly, at this point it does not signal Metropolis (as we know this murder took place in Gotham) but overwhelming rage/trauma.
One final thought:  the red occurs in the memory, but not in the now of the story, because the gutters remain black.  This changes later in the book.

In a later episode, in an encounter with the Joker, Batman begins to remember all of the horror and trauma that the Joker has brought to his city and to individuals whom he (Batman) has loved.  And as he remembers, he becomes more and more enraged.  
At this point, the background color of the now of the story turns from black to red, and we see that red framing the memory sequences.  The memories themselves are pleasant and so remain in the familiar loose watercolor style framed in black.

However, as we see on a later page, when Batman's memories become horrific, they become awash in red, as with the murder memory.  These have no white in them.  
And I also see a red gutter appear, reminding us of the rage Batman hides from Oracle in the now of the story.

One last thing.  There is one (and I think only one) point in the story where Batman envisions a future scene which he fears.  It is depicted in a style and color that does not appear on any other page in the 300+ page book. 
Mostly hatched, with a little wash, it has a line quality and color reminiscent to me of a ballpoint pen.  Unlike the looseness of the watercolor used to depict memory, this uses a looseness that is like a "sketch," something that is in the making, but not come to fruition yet.  Perfect visual match, I thought, for a speculation about the future.
These sorts of interesting things happen over and over in the book.  It really was a great study for me in handling and cueing time and emotion... on top of being a fun Batman story!

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