Twin brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon are phenomenal artists. Anyone who has seen their work in “The Umbrella Academy,” “Sugarshock,” “Casanova,” and “B.P.R.D. 1947” should know that they excel in realizing the strangest of worlds while giving the characters that grounds them, and the reader, in the work. Before this, I had never read anything they’d written as well as illustrated. After I’d finished, I can say that their writing is almost as good as their art.
“Daytripper” is the story of several days in the life of Bras de Oliva Domingos, the son of a very famous and successful Brazilian writer and an aspiring writer himself -- when he’s not at his day job writing obituaries. These days in his life aren’t covered in any particular sequence. We first see him as an adult at 32 struggling under the weight of having a famous father and the dawning realization that he’ll never realize his own dreams. Then the story goes back to show him at 21 on an eventful trip with his best friend Jorge. The next stop showcases a spectacularly bad breakup at 28, followed by his discovery of the love of his life. They continue on like that while sharing one thing in common -- Bras dies at the end of each day.
Don’t take this to mean that he’s some kind of superhero, or that the book is secretly a supernatural thriller. It’s just a device that the brothers use to underscore the unpredictability of life. A freak accident may cause you die at a young age, your promise snuffed out forever. Or you could wind up at the wrong place at the wrong time on the downside of your life and get shot in the head. Or, just as you find your voice... well, you get the picture. It may seem like gimmickry, but Ba and Moon use it to great effect throughout the story, creating some great, tragic episodes of dramatic irony when you know how that issue’s story is going to end, but don’t want to see it happen. Your expectations are further tweaked in the later issues, and that’s just another example of how well they use this device.
Another great thing about the book is the relatability of its main character, Bras. I’ve never been to Brazil, and the only Brazilian I’ve really gotten to know is an aspiring skateboarder rather than a writer, but the events he experiences still struck a chord with me. I could empathize with the way he felt at certain points in his life, even though he lives in another hemisphere and had a completely different upbringing than me. Even for the parts that I had no personal understanding of, Ba and Moon really sell those moments with the expressiveness of their art to the point where I felt, “Yeah. That’s what it has to be like.”
Your mileage will undoubtedly vary, but I really liked what the brothers did here. I know most of the American comics I talk about here are of the superhero variety, but this was a very satisfying change of pace. Some people might be turned off by its methodical, character-driven narrative, others might have trouble getting past the “dies at the end of each issue” hook. However, if those things don’t bother you, or you can summon the willingness to accept or look past them, then this collection is something you’ll want to add to your library.