Created by: Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon
ISBN: 1401229697 (Amazon)
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Let’s get this out of the way up front: Daytripper may be the best graphic novel I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Consider yourselves warned.
Perhaps Daytripper‘s biggest success is that it saves itself from being cliche. All the things that people want to say about it (e.g. “The book is life-affirming” or “The book shows that death is just another part of life”) are exactly the kinds of things that could be said about that new movie that you don’t want to see, the one that is bound to be an oasis of sentimental schmaltz in the desert of valuable storytelling. Daytripper could have been one more lazy expression of what we all want to believe despite ourselves and despite the present evidence pouring incessantly from every media faucet, namely: that life is worth it.
That’s what Daytripper could have been.
Instead, Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá actively work to suppress cliche and to reign in formula. At least I imagine that they worked hard at it, because they deliver such a completely compelling work that I have to imagine bloodied sweat staining everything in their vicinity save for the gorgeous art. Daytripper is moving without contrivance or manipulation. And that right there is something.
In trying to pin down the crowning achievement among all Daytripper‘s perfections, I find myself struggling. There are so many wonderful things about this work that to attempt to elevate one above the others seems juvenile, a task for children who aren’t really concerned with absorbing the book for what it is. So then, let’s speak broadly.
As mentioned, the art that fills and wraps the book is just wonderful. Through the pen and the brush (tools I imagine have been used here), the creators craft a world that is wholly believable, one that holds as much life as the characters that inhabit it. The set designs are so varied and detailed and appropriate that it becomes easy for the reader to just pass by never considering the time and thought that went into planning these breathing environments. I would recommend all readers take an hour after finishing the book and just flip through the pages and take in the world of Daytripper without the press of narrative or dialogue or exposition or monologue hurrying attention on to What Comes Next. It would be a shame to miss what Moon and Ba have done here.
The degree of life invested in these characters and—specifically—into our protagonist is something special when one considers that we are only given ten short chapters with which to acquaint ourselves with those who comprise the world through which Brás (our protagonist) explores his own life, purpose, and meaning. Well before the final page, Brás feels like a character fully revealed—as if, were the creators to free him from the shackles of the page, an attentive reader might be able to predict the course of his life. Or at least write a believable excursis on one’s own. It is to Moon and Bá‘s credit that I never felt that I had been handed a stereotype or stock character. Both art and writing conspire to build a portrait of an individual in whom the questions of the world populous might be asked.
With all the talk of life-breathing characters and art, it may be inevitable that some mention be given to the life-affirming nature of the work. I am hesitant here only for the fact that I find it may be impossible to, in some small paragraph, describe the nature of the book’s accomplishment without resorting to the cliches that Daytripper ably overpowers.
Certainly, the book expresses a rounded philosophy that presents life as something both valuable and worth pursuing. And argues not according to reason or the comparison of premises but by simply presenting the stories of Brás’ life. Daytripper asks a single question relentlessly. It demands answer from every moment of life, from the big to the small. What was this life and how shall it, in death, be valued?
Brás is occupied as the writer of obituaries and it is through this peculiar vantage that his own story unfolds. It is established early on that death is a part of life—perhaps largely so that we might get that out of the way and begin exploring what that precipitates in a meaningful way. Through the book’s constant return to the obituary, we are able to gradually piece together a philosophy of living, a valuation of lifespans. Moon and Bá present a carefully constructed yet simple meditation on what it means to be us and how life, death, and society conspire to bring meaning to the purposes we may invent for ourselves.
Brás’ answer may not be your answer, but respect must be given to his search for and then development of that answer. Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá have done the literate society a boon by allowing us to explore these questions alongside Brás, allowing us to take part in his life while he discovers its directions, purpose, and passions.
This is something I do not do, but: I recommend that everyone read this.
Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:
3 Stars = Good
2 Stars = Ok
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I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.
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