daytripper (DC/Vertigo)

Eisner Award-winning Brazilian twin brothers Fábio Moon (Sugarshock) and Gabriel Bá (Umbrella Academy) use the inevitable fact of death to explore the realities of life in this impressive short story collection.

 
256 pgs., color; $19.99
(W & A: Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá)
 
Brás de Oliva Domingos has a pretty nice life. He has a steady job with a newspaper in São Paolo, a beautiful wife and son, and family and friends who love him. Yet like many of us he tends not to notice these blessings but to dwell on what he doesn’t have: a career as a writer equal to his father’s, for instance. This is the paradox explored in daytripper by the prolific Brazilian twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, a series of short stories in graphic form set in different periods of Brás’ life.
 
Each story ends with Brás’ death, making them sort of like Six Feet Under episodes in reverse and, like that television series, daytripper uses the inevitable fact of death to explore the realities of life. It’s a terrible cliché to advise someone to "live each day as if it were your last" and it’s much, much worse to tell them to "stop and smell the roses," but both of those hoary sentiments point toward an important truth, which is that the meaning of life is found by living it. See, even that sounds stupid, but the stories in daytripper are not stupid and the greatest accomplishment of this series may be that the authors found a way to embody that sentiment in their stories without ever seeming to be delivering a sermon or self-help message. Instead, it feels like you have been granted a window through which you may view the life of someone who is perhaps not that different from you and in the process can realize, perhaps slightly ahead of him thanks to your detached point of view, certain things which normally would take a lifetime to learn.
 
When we first meet Brás, he’s 32 and experiencing a personal crisis—he wants to write an important book, but so far all he’s managed are obituaries for a daily newspaper. Worse, his father is being honored for his exemplary career as a writer and of course Brás is expected to attend. He resents his father’s success, then feels guilty at his resentment, and even the good-humored efforts of his best friend and co-worker Jorge to snap him out of it are not entirely successful. Arriving early at the Municipal Theatre, Brás finds himself out of cigarettes, heads to a bar to purchase some, has a conversation about fathers and sons with the bartender, there’s a stickup and shots ring out…and then we are reading his obituary, which ends with the lines "Just like Shakespeare, Brás died on his birthday. He was 32 years old."
 
I’m not concerned about giving away the ending because although each story ends with Brás’ death, it’s how the authors get to that point that is of interest. There’s nothing mechanical about these stories and I’m willing to predict that you can’t predict where each one is going until the authors take you there. Each chapter is labeled with Brás’ age and they hop back and forth in time (32, 21, 28, 11…), a circling progression which lets you build up a picture of his world with chronologically earlier episodes supplying information which helps to explain aspects of those set later in his life.
 
There’s nothing fancy about the art of daytripper, and it works perfectly in terms of communicating the mood of each story without calling attention to itself. It’s all pretty straightforward and semi-realistic and the sense of place comes through strongly, yet choices of palette and framing convey emotional content that is only implied in the text. A lot of the frames look like film stills (the film would be a noir, of course) and I mean that as a compliment. For instance, there’s a million ways to show a writer at his desk but not all of them say, at a glance, "frustrated man approaching middle age feeling dwarfed by his father’s success, unable to make any progress on his own creative work, and feeling guilty about both." Moon and Bá are multiple Eisner winners, and it’s easy to see why because daytripper offers a seamless blend of narrative and visual storytelling. 
 
daytripper was originally published as ten separate issues in 2009 and is now available as a one-volume collection from Vertigo with an introduction by Craig Thompson who calls it "an honest meditation on mortality." You can see a preview at http://vertigo.blog.dccomics.com/2009/09/21/daytripper/  and can keep up with Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s projects at their blog (http://fabioandgabriel.blogspot.com/). | Sarah Boslaugh

 

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