Decompressed Comic

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Six panels to show a guy eating shortbread.

"And then what happened?"

"Uhhh... about 30 pages of explosions and tidal waves."
Scott Pilgrim & Ramona Flowers on Akira.

A trend that flourished in the late 90s and early 00s in the wake of Trope Codifier The Authority written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Bryan Hitch. Heavily inspired by long-form Manga series, Decompressed Comics rely heavily on Splash Panels, Aspect Montages and minimal dialogue to maximize the visual effect of a story. The Authority aimed to mimic the widescreen action of a Hollywood movie by creating images that were as big and as striking as possible.

This trope is also used by people who want to add a slower, cinematic pace by, for example, using an entire page to show someone walking silently down a corridor in numerous panels, in order to create tension or otherwise express a mood.

When used well, decompression is a useful tool that can not only give artists a chance to stretch their wings but also alter the pace of the issue in order to tell the story more successfully. Of course, like any tool it can be used poorly. Some writers (including, arguably, Ellis himself in later years) used it to pad out thin plots or to blindly mimic then-fashionable trends. Such writers were often accused of Writing for the Trade.

Examples of Decompressed Comic include:
  • Akira. That's 6 manga volumes and over 2000 pages. All of them are painstakingly detailed with so many Scenery Porn, Scenery Gorn and action sequences you know Katsuhiro Otomo was Doing It for the Art.
  • Gunnm Last Order has the ZOTT arc with whole chapters describing just a few, or even a single punch. Running for at least 80 chapters (7 years in real life so far) the event takes place over a period of six days.
  • Cerebus did this as long ago as the 1980's, minus the big splash pages. Many, many issues have had no "plot" other conversations. The final volume The Last Day" (which shows the last day of Cerebus' life) is several hundred pages long. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Blame lives and breathes this style. The protagonist talks so little that chapters featuring only him may contain a lot of action but no dialogue at all.
  • Bleach has shifted into a milder form of this midway through the Hueco Mundo arc, slowing down and adding more details to fights. Most fans disapprove.
  • Everything Brian Bendis does.
    • The most annoying example would be Marvel's Secret Invasion, wherein a few hours of comic-book time were stretched out over almost a year... and the ending wasn't worth the wait.
    • Lampshaded in the intro for the second issue of the Ultimate Spider-Man story where Spider-Man and Wolverine switch bodies. Bendis appears on the first page and says "This is the last part of the story, I promise. I mean, even I couldn't milk three issues out of this."
  • Samurai Jack is the cartoon version of this.
  • Much of Ultimate Marvel.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe comics about the Emperor's rebirth, written in the nineties, are infamously disliked because they aren't decompressed, and many, many important events happen off-panel or else happen very, very quickly.
  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, featuring a world After the End, where nature is reclaiming the world, and a main character that is a Robot Girl that mostly lives alone, only occasionally getting visitors, naturally has entire chapters with almost no text at all. Another recurring character simply doesn't talk or have thought bubbles, simply relying upon actions and facial expressions to convey her intent.
  • Paul Pope is fond of this technique and while his comics so far have have made use of it to a certain extent his current project Battling Boy has according to Word of God 40 page fight scenes. Apparently the graphic novel is taking so long because it is going to be a truly epic Doorstopper.
  • Ironically enough Geoff Johns, who supposedly left Marvel so he wouldn't be forced to write like this, has started to adopt this writing style into more and more of his works. The most notable examples as of late has been Legion of 3 Worlds and '"Flash Rebirth.
  • Ever since Transformers: All Hail Megatron, most of IDW's "main" Transformers comics have suffered from the negative aspect of this trope, with issues feeling more like half or even a third of an issue than a full issue. Needless to say, "Speed up the pace!" has become an increasingly common post to be seen on the IDW Transformers forum. This has also been parodied extensively, most notably by David Willis here.
  • 365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice consist of a panel taking up each page entirely and storytelling focused on mood and atmosphere.
  • While not too bad, Tnemrot is quite decompressed.
  • Lately Misfile has been including more and more establishing panels. Thankfully it updates five pages a week, but it still gets annoying.
  • Copper (here) is made of this, though pages are self-contained and some are wordier than most of these.
  • Osamu Tezuka is arguably the Trope Maker (as with much else in manga). For instance, Astro Boy's origin story contains a few pages of Tobio driving around before he crashes his car, to build up tension and give the audience the feel of the speed of the vehicle.
  • Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force has been accused of doing this poorly.
  • While the whole book isn't a terrible example of this, the revelation of the X-Men's new costumes in Astonishing X Men is. In this two-page spread, the actual heroes in their new costumes could have taken up a small amount of one page. Most of the scene is the hangar wall as the X-Men walk in (the Blackbird's there, but you don't see much of it.) It's not even an awesome hangar wall that you'd get when the artists get to have their way at the cost of narrative. It's just a wall.
  • Vattu is incredibly decompressed; the first couple of pages are just a baby being tossed over a fire.
  • Deadpool plays this for laughs once, having Deadpool take a leak for one and a half pages. Overlaps with Overly Long Gag here.
  • Superman: The Coming of Atlas suffers badly from this. Despite being a four-issue story arc, it basically consists of one long fight scene.
  • The Manga version of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann does this a few times to emphasise the over-the-top-ness of the goings-on. For example, one Giga Drill Breaker (the standard Finishing Move of the series) once took 11 pages.