Hello, and welcome to another segment of Comics You Should Have Read By Now. Today, we’re going to be branching out a little bit and take a look at a book that isn’t about super heroes. It features no supernatural elements, and does not take place in a fantastical setting. There are no high-octane action sequences or high-stakes shadowy intrigue. It came out only recently (2010), and so hasn’t really achieved “classic” status, and therefore probably won’t show up on too many “All Time Great” lists. But in spite of this, today’s featured graphic novel is definitely a comic you should have read by now.
This is because Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon is quite simply one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
On its surface, Daytripper follows a very basic concept stemming from a simple question: What are the most important days of your life? To this end, the book examines the fictional life of Brazilian writer Bras de Olivia Domingos, but does so in a very atypical fashion. First of all, each chapter of the book represents a different time of Bras’ life, but the years are presented out of chronological order, so that we first meet him in his early thirties before traveling back to see him at age 21, after which we move 7 years into his future, and so on and so forth, taking us between the high points and low points of his life with no fixed pattern.
And in addition to this, Bras dies at the end of every chapter.
More on this in a moment.
As stated before, Daytripper is not a book about epic battles, dark secrets, or otherworldly powers. It’s about something more familiar yet larger than any of these: life. When all is said and done, Daytripper is a book about life, both simple and profound, mundane but unique. As a concept, it’s a fairly ambitious thing to try to depict in a meaningful, organic way without resorting to heavy-handed symbolism or artificial gravitas. I would argue, though, that Ba and Moon pull this off and then some.
This is because they make a number of intelligent choices when crafting the narrative, the most important of which is their choice to keep things grounded, simple, and sincere. At no point does Bras hold the fate of the world in his hands; rather, we simply move through the small moments that make up his life. While some of these moments are ones that you would expect (the birth of his son, meeting his true love, his first kiss), there are others that are less obvious but which also have a great impact upon his life (meeting his first, doomed love, and a search for his estranged friend, for instance). Throughout the story, the imagery and writing bring the reader into Bras’ world, into his culture, family, and emotions. The effect is that the reader is naturally inserted into the events and feels the weight of them.
But just as the creators understand that life can be defined by small moments and choices, they also understand that life can be a fragile thing, tragically cut short by any number of surprises. Which brings us back to the way almost every chapter ends with one of the many ways Bras could have met his untimely end, all of which come down to the choices he makes. What if he decided that he couldn’t wait until the end of the night to get another smoke? What if, in his excitement to talk to a beautiful girl, he walked into the street without looking first? What if he zigged instead of zagged, or went down any number of different paths in the small, seemingly insignificant decisions that affect our life in unseen ways? Sometimes, yes, these choices cost us. Sometimes, they cost us everything. And while this is an extremely sobering thought, Daytripper also reminds us that these same choices are the very things that make life worth living, and that they give us happiness along with heartache.
More than anything else, the thing that makes Daytripper so special is the emotional experience it conveys to the reader. It makes you ponder life, both your own and life in general, asks foreboding questions about mortality, and in many ways makes you appreciate the small things that most of us take for granted. For every moment of somber melancholy, there’s a moment a sublime joy, engaging your heart in both directions. Some of the most powerful scenes in the book have a purity to them, depicting moments in life that are too big for words, saying more with a simple picture than any paragraph ever could.
Just as life has its highs and lows, this book runs the emotional spectrum from end to end, and while this means that there is pain and there are moments that break your heart, it also means that there is triumph and moments that lift your spirit.
Daytripper is indeed a book about life. But it is just as much a book about death, and how death is a part of life. And while death and other tragedies may always be out there, this story reminds us that this mustn’t prevent us from truly living. Perhaps our choices could bring about misfortune, but they are also the only way we can find joy and meaning. More than anything, Daytripper is about how wonderful life can be when we spend it with those who are special to us.
Every now and then, you come across a work of art that reminds you of simple truths that need to be remembered, and does so in a profound way. Daytripper, to me, is just such a work. Perhaps it won’t change your life, but it is beautiful, and something that you should experience for yourself. Try to do so when you can.
So there you have it. Sorry if things got a little sappy this time around, but hey, it feels good to write something sappy every now and then. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and thanks for stopping by!