Daytripper is a graphic novel by the Brazilian twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. When the book opens, with a chapter entitled “32,” Brás de Oliva Domingo is the son of a famous novelist. He would like to be a writer, too, but instead he’s stuck at a literally dead-end job, writing obituaries for the newspaper. He’s good at it, but he’s resentful: why can’t he be more like his father? Why does no one recognize his talent? His wife Ana and his best friend Jorge encourage him, and he is just beginning to think about breaking free and exploring a new kind of life when his is brutally ended by a robbery gone wrong. The chapter ends with his own obituary: Brás died on his birthday. He was 32 years old.
The next chapter, “21,” finds Brás at a different time in his life, on a road trip to Salvador with Jorge, finding love and mystery. This trip also ends in death, this time, of course, at the age of 21. (It took me this long to understand the pattern.) Each chapter shows Brás at a different age, with different accomplishments. Sometimes he’s just a child, sometimes an old man. Sometimes he’s become a successful novelist, sometimes he doesn’t seem to have done much at all; sometimes he’s deepening a relationship with the love of his life, and sometimes he seems clueless. Each chapter is a sort of meditation on the way mortality takes us by surprise, no matter where we are in a long lifeline.
This is a book about quiet moments, and about the meaning we can, or should, find in our everyday lives, since death is around the corner for every one of us. But I found it a little unbalanced. The art is certainly strikingly beautiful and imaginative. The use of just a touch of magic along with the color, light and shadow makes for a wonderful feast for the eyes. In “21,” for instance, there is a character who always seems to have a double of himself just behind him. Is it a demon? A shadow? It’s never explained, but the effect is wonderful.
But the writing — honestly — is a little trite. In “38,” Brás goes to Sao Paulo to look for Jorge, who disappeared after Brás published his first novel.
He never came to terms with Jorge’s decision to leave or understood why he just vanished like he did. But life goes on, as they say. Brás had his family, his work. His book had been keeping him busy, so after a while, he just let it go. But good friends don’t go away that easily. They stay with you, stuck in your memories… like pictures on the wall. Brás wonders if Jorge has become just a postcard to him, an image frozen in time that he visits in his memories. The questions he wanted to ask for all these years seem pointless now. It’s been too long and a lot has changed. What if they’ve grown too far apart? What if they’ve become strangers? Would their friendship survive?
Would it, indeed? This kind of banal prose disengaged me from the book a bit. Compare it to Maus, or to Persepolis, or to Craig Thompson’s Blankets, where the voice rings as clear as the art.
Still, I enjoy reading obituaries (yes, I’m that kind of person) and I enjoyed my stroll through this life, or lives. It was an interesting concept, and the artwork was lovely. If you think you might be intrigued by this, do pick up Daytripper.