Sunday, April 29, 2012

GN Review -- Daytripper / Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

I can only imagine how confusing the individual chapters of Daytripper were to its readers when they were being released in single-issue format by Vertigo, but it would be impossible to make the argument that twin brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá's metaphysical musing on life and death wasn't interesting enough that it kept you coming back for more.  Thankfully, the ten issues are collected in one trade paperback, and make the whole reading experience a compelling and fulfilling, though at times no less confusing adventure.

Daytripper follows the life of Brás de Oliva Domingos, an obituary writer who is also the son of a famous Brazilian writer.  Considered a miracle birth by his mother, Brás's musings on life, death, friendship, loss, love, inspiration, and destiny often leave him with the unsettling feeling that he is missing something in his own life, and he constantly seeks to find that missing thing.  We see him at various phases of his life, each of which ends the issue with his death at a particular age, and we almost never see things chronologically.  In the first issue we see him at age 32, shot to death by a desperate young man, and in the next issue we see him at age 21, mysteriously drowning in a ceremony while pursuing a romantic interest.  The body of the work shows him at significant points in his life: when he received his first kiss, the time his first love left him, the birth of his son, his search for a lost friend, and so on.  In the final story, we are given a life-affirming look at Brás's life and how he's found meaning in it, through the final days of his old age and a lost letter from his father, bringing his life full circle.

The most intriguing narrative device in this work is the many deaths of Brás, each of which is depicted at the end of each issue--except, significantly, in the last one.  They seem to serve as touch-points to the significant moments in Brás's life and courses his path could have or nearly did take, as well as subtle reminders of the constant uncertainty we should always respect but not necessarily fear in our lives.  Death, even though depicted, is always avoided as the narrative continues, usually intimating that the choices Brás made were unchanged.  For example at the end of one story, he dies after being hit by a car while on his way back to the store to tell a woman he was in love with her; in the next story, they are together and building a life.

The theme of fathers and sons plays subtly into Daytripper as well.  Brás is heavily influenced by his father: he smokes the same brand of cigarettes his father preferred; he has taken a career as a writer, at first only tangentially, but eventually following in his father's footsteps to become a novelist; and feels the touches of his father's influence, realizing that his life and his influence on his own son, while not identical, in many ways paralleled his father's.  It is a poignant reminder that we can't choose our family, and that they leave an imprint on our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not.

Artistically, this story is a success as well.  The brothers' drawing style is stark and realistic, with plenty of room for the divine and unknowable to permeate their expressions.  Brás and the significant people in his life are depicted consistently and identifiably across a range of ages and circumstances.  Setting vary considerably, from crowded cities to hospitals, to abandoned beachfronts, and they all convey a sense of immediacy to the narrative.  You always feel like you're really there.

Overall, this comic conveyed a similar feeling to me that the film American Beauty did when it was released.  It seemed to say, "Live life to the fullest.  Do what makes you happy.  And know that your life will impact others."  It's a powerful message, and one that is masterfully conveyed in Daytripper.  A delight to read.  Highly recommended.

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