I am very much stricken, for obvious reasons (see: Alzheimer’s), by stories where memory and its loss or deliberate disruption is a centerpiece. Remember Me, Dreamfall, Remembrance of Things Past, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind…and all the memory-centric parts of stories not directly about it, like What Dreams May Come or Life Is Strange or Logan. It’s so predictable that I can see people wince or grow leery, if they’re with me at a movie or during a cutscene in a video game, and content starts turning that direction. Maybe in a few decades we’ll all know better how to deal with this, but right now everyone just gets uncomfortable and doesn’t know what to do when they know stuff that makes me sad is now playing out on-screen, trapping me, and them by association, somewhere none of us wants to be.
Books and comics are easier. Your private pain remains private. No one is there experiencing it with you, forced to either acknowledge or desperately ignore (itself a sad sort of acknowledgment) the anvil that’s sitting on your heart. But these mediums also make it easier for stuff like this to creep up on you. Fewer people read, which means fewer spoilers, and no one’s making trailers for physical comics that I know of. So this bit in the last collected Batgirl of Burnside caught me by surprise. We had already dealt with memory issues several issues ago, so I thought it was past. Nope.
Look, though, at that beautiful visual rendering of memory disintegration. You know how this would play out in a moving medium. You know how the sound would change, how the screen would distort, how the voices would fade in and out. And here it is done visually, on one still, flat page.
As a grim connoisseur of such portrayals, I gotta say: this is pretty fantastic. You have movement, the notion of a center that’s starting to fray at the edges, and geometric rigidity that suggests a mental stability that turns out to be an illusion. Things are orderly but they’re still falling apart. Sound doesn’t line up with image doesn’t line up with time, even though it should. Even though everyone wants it to, it doesn’t.
Seriously. I love Batgirl of Burnside, but this may be my favorite panel in the whole run.