Daytripper by Gabriel Bá
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Daytripper is a mysterious little book. I read the first three issues when they came out, and though I was absolutely intrigued by what was happening in the story, the way each installment came and ended without explanation made me not want to have to work through the serialization. Rather, I wanted to get it all at once. It’s a book where the payoff is going to require some faith, and where the individual moments matter to the cumulative whole. I didn’t want them lost in the gaps between.
This creator-owned comic is by the Brazillian twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, who have electrified the world of graphic literature over the last several years with their work together, separate, and in collaboration with others. Daytripper is their first truly substantial work as a solo team. It tells the story of Brás de Oliva Domingos, but it does so in a fractured fashion. Time bends here, the narrative pieces are scattered. When we first meet Brás, on his 32nd birthday, he is an obituary writer on the way to see his father, a famous novelist, receive a lifetime achievement award. In chapter two, he is 21 and seeing the world. The youngest we see him, not counting the oft repeated tale of his birth--a blackout baby who emerges into the darkness like the light, or even life, itself--is at age 11, the oldest age 76. We jump through time to watch his romances and failures, his family benchmarks and even the lows of an important friendship. Each chapter of Daytripper has a definite end, finite in its way, and one which I shan’t reveal here, but you’ll discover it soon enough. Fittingly, only the very last ending deviates from the pattern.
It takes a while to get an explanation as to what is happening. The book is a string of second chances and missed opportunities--though never squandered ones. For as spectacular as some of the failures, they never come with a sense that someone wasn’t trying. It’s more that things just don’t turn out as expected. It’s why you never wait to go for whatever needs going for, events may turn before you get the opportunity to seize it. It’s at the end of the eighth chapter when we start to get a sense of what it all means, how Brás’ each and every action creates a reaction, and Daytripper is the study of that resonance. I could have done without the penultimate entry, but that just might be personal taste. The dreamy ninth chapter is the only time where I feel the book has to strain for its mood, the only time the creators are trying to create the feeling of strange wonder that so naturally blossoms in the rest. I feared it was the last chapter, actually, and was frightened that the whole thing would fall apart.
Thankfully, we had one more step to go, and honestly, had I jumped from eight to ten, from age 47 to the big 76, Daytripper would be just about perfect. It seems a minor complaint, however, like whining that an otherwise spectacular car race is ruined because no one crashed during the second-to-last lap. Plus, that eighth chapter also has some of the most beautiful artwork in the comic. The duo’s impressionistic linework and Dave Stewart’s striking, painterly coloring really come alive when let loose to roam the unbridled realm of imagination. Then again, that seems so wrong to say, because it’s very much alive throughout. Daytripper isn’t a comic where you ever wonder why its creators opted for this particular medium. Every watery ink scratch undulates with passion for the form. Perhaps it’s because they are twins that Bá and Moon manage to inspire two diametrically opposed reactions at the same time. Every panel of Daytripper compels you to stop and stare at the beauty of the drawing while also pushing you on to the next. You want to stop and smell all the roses, and yet you must go forward, you have to see the ways the scenes play out.
In that sense, while reading the book, we are also living the lesson that Brás must learn. Don’t let any of the details of this existence pass you by without noticing them, but also don’t ever accept those details as being the last. There is always more to be seen just out of frame.
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All text (c) 2011 Jamie S. Rich