Daytripper, the ten issue maxi series comic by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, is an almost-surreal life study of one man, Brás de Oliva Domingos, and how he has lived his life. Each issue is a slice of life tale where we are presented with one day in Brás’ life. Sadly, however (and this shouldn’t be spoiling anything since the title has finished), at the conclusion of each issue Brás manages to die. Each death represents how any moment can be our last and we never know when that moment will really come. Each death, I feel, also represents how aspects of our lives can, and will die, and how they probably should.
It’s very important to place importance upon these deaths and look for the life and meaning behind each of them. There are no gag demises in Daytripper, this isn’t a Kenny McCormick set up. Watching Bras dies makes me think more of the deaths of Tyler Durden, Rorschach, or even obi-Wan Kenobi. Death means something, and more than just the end for that character. It’s a lesson and we are all supposed to learn from it. If we don’t then the story is still good but after scratching the surface and staring into the emotional abyss below you can’t help but have your life changed.
Ba and Moon have managed to craft a comic that tells a story; it tells 10 of them in fact, but overall it tells one story and it does it well. It then also uses that story to make you think. It doesn’t tell you to think, that would be forceful, instead it simply presents you with the world. It’s up to you to understand and appreciate it. This comic is easily one of the most emotional comics created for some time. There are no capes or powered people, this is just life. One day at a time.
The first issue studied Brás and his relationship with his life and his family. Brás plods through life and is not happy with any one aspect at all. His work does not inspire him, and ultimately he didn’t have enough gristle inside himself to change the world around him. It’s the sad image of the clown trying to smile through a lifetime’s worth of pie crust in his eyes and kid’s shoes in his shins. He wants to be more but doesn’t think he can do it. At the end of the issue, Brás is killed by a gunman holding up a pub. It’s a random act and Brás’ death means about as much as his life did.
This death is the first real lesson about the world. It signifies acceptance that the world is random. Fate is fickle and you never know how, when, where, or why your end will come. Most of the time, death doesn’t mean much to people and the world continues to turn as if nothing has happened. Out of nearly seven billion people not much actually has occurred. There are more people being born as you die and the wheel will forever turn. This is Brás’ first lesson, as well as ours, death is everywhere. Avoiding it requires just as many variables to come into play as succumbing to it. You can be careful, you can be vigilant, you can prepare yourself constantly, but you never know. No one does.
At 21 years old, Brás spends the second issue showing us fleeting matters of the heart. Love, like death, consumes us all at some stage and it’s not a quantifiable commodity. There is a female who suddenly appears in Brás’ world view and he is completely taken. Their romance is sudden, fierce, and passionate. Brás discovers that the variables in the world can also be extremely pleasant and it’s worth the risk to go out hunting, not knowing what you’ll get, if there’s a possibility you’ll come home with something like Olinda. With salt on your lips and sounds in your ears, you’ll fall in love with a girl and the world.
Love is all in the small details. It’s the eyes, the thoughts. These pages might show you Brás’ new love but they’ll remind you of your own. That’s the power of Daytripper, pages and scenes will trigger reactions within yourself and while there won’t be a detailed clip show within you there will be a feeling. It rocks your stomach and sways your brain and you know something’s happened but there’s no scientific definition of what, exactly. That’s love, even just in a memory or on a page.
As Brás leaves the mortal world at the end, we see that love is something you never see coming. You can hunt, you can prepare, you can hope, but in the end it will find you when you least expect it. And when it finds you it’s all over. Your world is changed, everything is different, and you’re not going to be the same again. A little part of you dies just as a new part is born. The wheel still turns.
The third issue still resonates as my personal favourite. Brás and Olinda break up and the depiction of the removal of one’s soul via this separation is a chilling and real scene. Whenever you get close to someone, you run the risk they’ll one day leave you. Then the space they occupy in your world implodes and sucks everything into it like a black hole of confusion and depression. You lose that limb and have to learn how to function without it. You get the phantom pains throughout your life and your job is to ignore them, no matter the pain they cause. When Brás sees the underwear Olinda has left behind his soul is on fire, and though living in that moment he is thoroughly dead inside. Or wishes he was.
The death at the start of the issue, not of Brás but of his relationship, is the real demise that warrants study. It’s only a few pages but Ba and Moon use every panel to show the ghosts that will haunt Brás for the rest of his life. You never forget the life you lived and it makes you who you are for every life you live after that. Brás is the only mourner at his internal demise and it is heartbreaking. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship, and toe-tagged its demise, knows that it is the little things that matter afterwards, just as it was at the beginning. Small moments stick with you, single lines repeat on a loop in your mind. Just seeing their favourite food again can bring everything back. It’s a haunting you never get over and it’s the actual death of Brás at the end that gives hope more than anything else which is a brilliant juxtaposition. When Brás lives, but without the girl, he is miserable, but when he dies it is something so much better for him.
Brás catches eyes with a girl in a shop and as he is still in mourning he’s happy to just look. It’s a quick eye flirt and yet it means the world to a man post-breakup. This girl represents a future of love. Proof another one is always right around the corner. He pauses, just for a moment, afraid as usual, but then he goes after her. He’s chasing the world rather than hiding from it. Even though he then gets hit by a van, you can’t help but notice the smile on his face the panel before impact. It is better to die chasing life than to live waiting for death. This death is life affirming and shows that Brás should not stop. No one should.
Next, Brás is an older man and the birth of his child is imminent. He has married his coy mistress from the store, Ana, and as she waits in the hospital to bring more life into the world Brás finds out some has just ended. It’s a strange coincidence that Brás’ father dies just before his grandson is to be born. It’s a cycle of life and death and the void one makes can possibly be filled by the next person to enter your life. It’s all a balance and though there’s no specific weight you should have on either side of you there is a natural order that will show itself. It can’t be calculated, and it can’t be counted upon, because Brás himself dies of a heart attack at the end of the issue.
It doesn’t seem fair that Brás dies just after his father, and right when his son is born, but you can never get complacent. Just because one person dies doesn’t mean your number isn’t straight up next after them. Death doesn’t do the rounds and spread it out evenly and equitably across the families, cities, countries of the world. Death can take two in a row and maybe you should just be thankful that it didn’t take a third. Brás’ newborn son, Miguel, is proof that life goes on. Maybe not for you but in the world there is always the next step. You can’t be selfish and expect to be around forever. Sometimes you have to pass the torch. And sometimes you have to do it far sooner than you think so be prepared.
The fifth issue marks the halfway mark and we finally get to see where Brás came from. His childhood is brightly coloured and friendly and exactly how everyone’s childhood should appear. Or at least appear to them. He learns about the world and about his family. He connects with those his age and plays games. He even experiences his first sweet and innocent kiss. He starts to collect the pieces that will make him the man he must be when he grows older, if he is going to get the chance.
Brás’ mother calls him a little miracle and it’s important to realise that every moment we manage to stay alive is a miracle. Brás runs through the streets free as a bird and there isn’t a malicious bone in his body. He’s having fun, living life without knowing how or why, he is a creature of instinct. But he isn’t careful enough and so through no fault of anyone’s his life ends before he can even become a man. Is it better to live a life of purity and brevity rather than live seven times longer but experience soul rending heartbreak and sorrow? It’s an important question with nothing but trick answers.
Living a life of complacency without challenge can be good, maybe even yield some fun, but it will never be great. Brás has his lady, the true love of his life, and his writing is going well, or well enough. The closest glimpse to greatness he has had is writing the obituaries for 93 families after a major plane crash. It’s a storm in a tea cup and nothing like Brás claiming the greatness he so longs for. It’s not a great life Brás has, but it’s a safe one. It’s another complacent trap where you find a side road and you turn off. You think you’re just having a nap, and the sleep becomes eternal. It’s while wondering if he should keep on driving, literally, that Brás encounters the end of the road. He was on his way to actually do something that would matter but he never arrives as a car accident claims his life.
Killing your life of complacency is a hard murder to commit. You have to give up so much, you have to gamble an entire life in the hope you will get something better. People do it every day and turn over new leaves but the actual crime is when a person doesn’t do it. After watching Brás struggle and suffer it is nice to see him grab life by the horns, though then sadly get gored. But it’s a start. Brás will be the man he wants to be and he’ll die a dozen times to make it happen. There is fortitude within the man and we see it shine through like the boss chrome on a junker car that just needs the right polish and a new map.
We next see Brás five years later. He has turned his words into actual novels, words to be loved instead of thrown away with the daily news, but he’s still hung up on one aspect of his past that hasn’t cleared up. Brás wants to save his friend Jorge who went missing and has struggled through a life that has not played fair. Brás tracks him down based on old postcards, words of friendship that draw him near. Words that lead to his death.
Jorge has slowly and surely lost his mind in a cabin on the beach. He views the world differently and Brás finds this out too late. Friendship can be a great thing but if it turns sour it can also be just about the worst thing in the world. The demise of the connection between Brás and Jorge is all about reliance. If you become too dependent on your friends then they can drag you down with them. You need to care, to help, but you have to be independent as well. You have to look after yourself first and always ensure your own safety and wellbeing before others. Life is like those oxygen masks that drop down in plane emergencies, it’s very important to fit your own first because if you pass out then you won’t be helping anyone else. It’s not being selfish, it’s being smart and surviving.
In juxtaposition to the previous issue’s tale of dependency, issue eight catalogues exactly what dependency is like. Brás is absent from this issue, except for the little messages he leaves behind via answering machines, text messages, emails, and letters in his son’s hands; he is reduced to the words left behind. But his impact is in every panel. Ana and Miguel are working through a usual week while Brás is off with his words and his audience. Ana’s life is completely changed by having Brás, and his love, in it every day. He has effected positive change and we all hope to do that indefinitely but it’s so often not the case.
With Brás’ death coming off stage, all we can do is watch the terrible aftermath it creates in his family. Much as Brás was often left with the little things of others, the clothes of loves and the scents of family, now he has left his imprint on a world where those who loved him cannot forget him. This is the death of Brás as a good man. This shows what is at stake every day and the legacy that can be left behind. It’s the good death but one still leaving so many options unexplored, so many chances not taken. You should never stop because there is always more to do. But once you are stopped, those you love will find a way to go on. Much as death is a constant, so is survival.
The penultimate issue shows Brás through the many dreams of his life. His dreams tell him where he is, and what he has done, as well as what he can do. Each situation we have found him in thus far throughout the series has been a dream sequence where he has witnessed the death of a part of himself throughout time. Brás knows everyone dies, and he knows everything dies as well. He has written a book about life and so on the flip side of that coin it details death in its many words, too. Brás understands that in his life he has learnt that death is everywhere. It claims everything in your life (and the list cannot be exhausted; innocence, love, fear, fathers, childhood, purity, complacency, friendship, dependency, the sense of your own importance) and the important part isn’t that something is gone but rather that something new can grow. Opportunities are found and experience is the key.
Brás steps away from his typewriter, he stops being the author of the life he lived, and he starts living his life. Brás wants to kill his dreams, murder his past, so that the blood can fertilise his future. The happiness remembered can spawn new happiness, the conquering of fear once felt can create a world in which you are open to anything. Brás is reminding himself that he is not dead and so he needs to continue to walk forward. He is also reminding us of the same thing. Do not dwell, in good times or bad, but simply make new times.
The final issue opens with Brás’ birth. The ‘little miracle’ born in a blackout and while this should be extremely difficult each breath Brás has ever taken simply proves the fact that life is amazing. It’s unsure and it’s precarious but wherever, and whenever, you find it you can be certain it is a spectacle of the true beauty of the universe. Life on Earth is proof that things can come together and create good in this reality.
The very end of Daytripper shows an aged Brás standing in the water and finally not dying. He has lived a full and happy life and he wants to end it in that fashion. Even though he’s been told that he needs further treatment to stay alive for longer, he understands that a life straggling along through treatments and chemotherapy is no way to live. He would prefer to go out happy and enjoying life while he can.
As Brás stands in the water, enjoying the little things, he shows us an important lesson. Life can end at any time, and in so many varied ways, and so it’s such a phenomenon each and every day when life doesn’t end. You need to celebrate every day that you’re around because at some stage you might not be, and eventually you definitely won’t be. That’s the certainty, one day you will not be here. You don’t know which day that might eventuate so you need to make sure you are there for every day you are there, if you know what I mean. The fact that Ba and Moon are able to convey this message without ever being didactic about it is an amazing feat. Not once do they hit you over the head with the overall message. It’s there if you want it and are prepared to take it. That’s the sign of great writing and Daytripper is near perfect writing. It’;s also matched with gorgeous artwork that echoes the emotion of the words.
Each issue distracts you with the electric emotion slathered on each page, within each scene, and between all of the people. Each issue gives you that one moment you can identify with and puts you back in that place. Loving your family and knowing they love you back. Loving someone else and finally understanding they no longer love you back. Loving a parent and knowing you have not shown it enough. Daytripper is about love and by cataloguing the times it is ignored and dies this comic hopes to create more love and celebration in the world. Love makes the world go round and it fills your days. And if it doesn’t then it should, or else you’re not really living.
– originally published 2/21/2011
Ryan K Lindsay is an Australian writer who finds time in nearly every day to get words of some description down. He was published by Marvel once, in a back matter essay in Criminal, but he can more regularly be found penning reviews and op/ed pieces on comic news website The Weekly Crisis. His favourites are; character, Matt Murdock; story, Y: The Last Man; novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay; movie, Chasing Amy; and woman, his wife.