Sunday, March 04, 2012


A Blast from About one year ago. Daytripper is a great series and well worth getting the trade. Thomm's Review one more time.

I don't claim to be fully versed in the great literature of the Western world. I've read Shakespeare, Twain, Dante, Doyle, Dickens, Poe, and lots of other dead white guys, but by no means all the pantheon. I've read even less of the more modern writers such as Oates, Miller, Hemmingway, and Roth. In fact, I rather like the crime novel explorations of society of Lehane, Mosley, Hillerman, and Pelecanos better. Laura Lippman even more so.

The List every month it was out. Here's the long and short of the whole story.

Bras de Oliva Domingos is the star of this life story. The linear telling is that he is the son of a famous Brazilian writer. He's born during a blackout, which his mother tells him makes him special because the power came back on just in time for his birth. He spends his youthful summers at a ranch owned by his grandparents. He befriends Jorge while at college, forming a close bond. After college, the two of them tour around Brazil, expending youthful wanderlust. Jorge is a photographer while Bras isn't quite sure what he's about, though he wants to write.

He meets a woman on the trip and falls in love. She moves in with him but seven years later they have an ugly breakup. But, shortly thereafter while in a grocery store, he meets the woman who'll become his wife.

Throughout these early years he's working as an obituary writer. A pivotal moment in his life comes when an airliner crashes, killing all aboard. He writes moving obituaries for all of the passengers and from there rises to writing a novel. However, his friend Jorge was also supposed to be on that same flight. Jorge's near appointment with death causes him to flee contact with all his family and friends. Years later, Bras tracks down Jorge who is living on a hut on a beach. Jorge is surrounded by postcards he wrote to Bras but never sent, and his mental health is beyond repair.

Bras has a son of his own, who is born on the same day that his own father dies of a heart attack. Bras becomes an acclaimed writer and lives a happy life with his wife and son, raising the boy to a happy adulthood of his own.

By that description, it's a fairly mild tale. Of course, the big kicker that everyone's heard about is that Bras dies at the end of each of the first 8 issues. His death is always in some sudden, unexpected manner. There's a shooting in a bar in the first issue. Later issues have a heart attack and a maniacal attack by an insane Jorge. Each time there's an obituary written for his life to that point. One death is even when he's a child, electrocuted while flying a kite. Everything that happens in these issues carries forward into the next, except for the death. The deaths that aren't deaths are markers of significant points in his life. Each chapter title reinforces these significant events, as each is the age Bras has reached at that point in his life story.

Chronnological order is not the way of this story. The chapter titles, in order, are 32, 21, 28, 41, 11, 33, 38, 47, dream, and 76. The last two are both at age 76, actually. We skip around in the life of Bras, learning who he is by our visits at these points. My favorite may be 47, where Bras doesn't even appear. By this time we know him so well that his presence is felt as we follow the lives of his wife and six year old son. He's on a book tour when he dies this time, the final time he dies in the series. He's caught between his importance to his readers and his importance to his wife and son.

Of course, by 76 he's nearing the end of his life. He has tumors that he isn't going to have treated. He's writing, as always. With his own death near, it appears that we're looking in on his life as he's remembered it. Like real memory, his skips and bounds from one time to another as assoiciations are made in his mind. Going to an award ceremony for his father becomes his own wanderings after college, leads to his breakup with the woman he met in those travels, morphs into the birth of his son, dropping him back into his own childhood, bringing up the loss of Jorge, coming to the publication of his first novel, dredging his regrets at being away from his family, and winding up in his reflections, where we started.

It's a life story told through it's lead character's own mind's eye. And yet, it's coherent, beautiful, and moving. It's a small story writ large. The beauty is in no small part due to Moon and Ba's art. They not only are both credited for the writing but for the art, too. They're simple renderings with incredible depth. Their use of perspective to slowly develop the story at the pace the writing is also developing is so spot on it's easy to take it for granted. There's no more description I can provide that isn't far superseded by seeing the art for yourself.

To top it all off, there's the bonus of Brazilian culture. It's not integral to the story because it could have been set almost anywhere, but it wouldn't have had the same flavor. There's the racial aspect because, like the US, Brazil has some racial history between European decendants and African decendants. There's also class, with Bras coming from a privileged position. These aren't the important parts of the story. They just add realism and mileu.

So, if you want to get your non-comics reading friends to give the medium a try, you couldn't start them off with anything better than daytripper. Not that Scalped, Stumptown, Northlanders, Fables and a lot of others aren't equal or close, but daytripper has the advantage of being relatable to just about any reader, at least in North America, Europe, and South America.
My admitted limitations in first hand knowledge of all things literature notwithstanding, I don't think anyone who reads daytripper by Brazilian twins Gabrial Ba and Fabio Moon can dispute that this 10 issue series is anything but literatutre. Oh, the argument can be made that Watchmen, Swamp Thing, and The Dark Knight Returns are all literature, too. But, each of them involves a super hero grounding that makes it hard for the less open minded to accept those works as such. They were all groundbreaking and brought in new readers to the fold, but a certain element is still going to denigrate them for their men in tights roots.

A work like daytripper, though, is accessible to the wider world. There are no super heroes. It's our world. Well, if our world is Brazil and there's a touch of magical realism about.

Most readers have probably heard about daytripper already. If you're reading this, you should have because it came up to the top or near top of
If you want to play a game with friends who haven't read the book, try laying out all the covers, in order, in front of them. Ask them if they can put together a story with those covers. Once you've already read the book, it's easy to see how much of the story is encapsulated just in those 10 covers, but there's a myriad of interpretations you could get from someone who hasn't read it. It would give a new reader some investment to see how his or her own creation of a story from those pictures departs or matches with Moon and Ba's tale.

No comments:

Post a Comment