Thursday, September 12, 2013

Memory Loss Storylines: Why some aren't as compelling as others

This has come up a couple times in the books I read. While one's passable since it wasn't a complete memory loss the other is a mess. The only thing that makes that trope worth a damn is if the character's emotions are explored properly. Their confusion, their self beliefs and what they think of themselves/the characters around them. If done right this is a great character piece and can be very moving. If it's done solely to get the characters to the plot points it's not nearly as engaging. This has been used to good effect in the Cassandra Cain Batgirl series.

In my RHATO reviews I've said that memory loss plot needs to be longer and I think my phrasing of it didn't properly convey my meaning. I didn't mean that it needed to be stretched out 7 or more issues. I meant Jasons' amnesia needed to be explored properly. He's all over the place never focusing on his growth just going to where he needs to be for the next issue without dealing with it in a meaningful way. Sure he runs away from his friends when he discovers them keeping secrets but his uneasiness came about off panel. Now I mentioned Batgirl and the issues I mean are a two parter Batgirl 35 and 36.

In it Batgirl has to deal with a man having no memory of his past that she assumes is the assassin that put a bomb in Gotham. Cassandra has to figure out the truth and try save the day. Through a series of events the man starts to come up with his own version of his ID. It deals with the same basic idea of Jason's amnesia which is redemption and finding one's true identity. The execution is vastly different which changes how enjoyable the story and the characters are.
In Batgirl we have a man they assume to be Alpha, the killer for hire. This character makes his first appearance here and never becomes a co-star or a supporting role. He's a blank state yet we feel we know him because Cassandra has gone through the whole "trained to be an assassin" bit and has taken a life. We empathize because she does and we see his struggles. Although Batman and Oracle want Cassandra to push the issue to find the bomb she doesn't. She doesn't force him into any role just goes along with his conclusion and asks for his help. Who this man was and who he becomes is left entirely up to him. Their his choices, she knows this and although she offers a different path it's still his decision to make.
RHATO doesn't give Jason the same respect. Right from the start his wants and desires are ignored. First by S'aru who takes away all his memories so he can be a pawn between the League of Assassins, the Untitled and what's left of the All Caste. Then by Roy who refuses to listen to what Jason wants, in fact Roy does this several times. First by knocking him out with a drug when Jason wants to keep his past forgotten. Then Roy and Kori refuse to tell him it once their behavior tips Jason off to something being wrong. Then again when Roy attacks him when Jason tries to reason with him. No one really support him and everyone is pushing him into being something else. What Jason wants is never the focus, not for long, just the game he's caught in the middle of. A game that's not nearly as engaging as the story being ignored.
Jason's identity should be the focus but it's not. What's given instead is a clusted mess where few characters have a real voice or purpose since so much is throw in at once. Jason himself is lost and a shell of himself just going through the motions. This story started in RHATO #19, was in the annual and will go on for at least 26 if not longer. (25 doesn't count since it's a Year Zero tie in.) Character is key to making this idea work and so far Jason's been lacking it. Two issue of Batgirl made this "Alpha" interesting and complex. Seven or more issues of RHATO that haven't done much with the idea and mash it with other plots. Needless to say editing would have helped the latter.

I should feel for the character I know and his friends who had their relationship built up over 17 issues. But I don't feel connected to them, they barely have shared any scenes together during this arc. None in which Jason remembers them and their not treating him like an idiot. Shouldn't I feel more for them than for two strangers?

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