Injection #2: Lethal Decompression [Close Read]
August 14, 2015
Decompression has been long misunderstood, a boogeyman of a phrase that has been misused for years. Fundamentally, decompressed storytelling is about letting a moment breathe, whether it's a deep, emotional conversation or the final blow of a knock-down, drag-out fight.
Generally, the more important something is, the greater the real estate it takes up on a comic's page. There's a reason why splash pages and double page spreads tend to be reserved for big reveals or bombastic action. Decompression works on a similar wavelength. The longer the amount of time you spend with something, the more significant or distinct it appears in your head. The act of cooking and eating a steak is different from simply eating one. Decompression tricks your brain into contemplating an idea or action for longer than you normally would, a shift in gears mid-stream for dramatic effect.
In INJECTION #2, as seen above, a man named Simeon Winters invades a hotel room. Summarizing the page is simple. "Winters tricks another man into looking through a peephole, presses a collapsible baton up against it, and crushes the man's skull, killing him." But in action, the trick takes three panels, comprising an entire conversation. The latter half of the summary, the part that would take but a split second and a half in real life, gets almost the same amount of real estate in the form of three stacked panels.
The first takes place just after the baton punctures the man's forehead, the second immediately after it is withdrawn, and the third as he's falling to the ground, lifeless. The lettering stops and eventually the background drops out, giving us a chance to sit and examine this man and his plight.
Ellis, Shalvey, Bellaire, and Fonografiks are expertly communicating an idea with this sequence. Winters, the man with the baton, is scarily competent, described just a few pages before as the type of person who "starts fighting a war before the other side knows there's a war on." That was telling; this is showing.