Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daytripper – The Clock Stands At Midday

We are halfway through Daytripper, the 10 issue Vertigo series from twins Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, with colours from Dave Stewart. Their series follows Bras de Oliva Domingos through days of his life, almost like one day per issue. But these days are not presented in any specific order, they are simply chosen because of their crushing meaning to what Bras’ life means. Any further talk than that right here and it might spoil a bit of the magic for the reader. I will spoil those moments, I’m just a man who likes to bury his lead under a few feet of dirt first so hit the jump to find out how this series is going from month to month so far. There will be some SPOILERS ahead, so beware.

I want to review the first half of this series because I know many people thought of the art, and writing, of Ba and Moon and instantly thought to trade wait. This book will look gorgeous in a nice big hardcover, though Vertigo haven’t solicited any form of collection yet. I wonder if they plan to get all 10 issues within the one cover, or break it up into two? I’m here to present what you are getting if you have delved into the monthly experience instead of waiting it out. Especially seeing as this is a $2.99 series I feel we should support this kind of endeavor.

The First Day - 32

This was a very intriguing first issue. Fascinating considering we, as a consumer, weren’t spoon-fed a lot of information as to what this series was about. We just knew it followed a Brazilian man and that it would most likely be well made. The fact that many readers were in on this premise alone shows you what a wild card the twins are and what trust we have in them.

This opening issue presented us with Bras, a man on his thirty-second birthday going to a literary gala event for his novelist father. Bras is in the trade of words as well, he knocks up the obituaries for the local paper. He always wanted to be a writer but instead of chronicling the delights of life he’s stuck announcing the death knell of each man and woman. Bras clearly isn’t happy in his life and we are quickly shown this through his interactions with those around him, his oppressive mother, his absent father, his fantastic best friend, Jorge, and a mysterious lady whom he loves.

Just because Bras life kind of sucks doesn’t mean he’s not an interesting character. We are shown Bras through images and words and we can feel the desperation in his soul screaming to be free. We can see the locks within his life that will always chain Bras to the ground when he wants to fly. Bras is surrounded by death and sadly due to a series of innocent moments Bras ends the issue by coming face to face with death. It’s a poignant moment, and yet an inevitable moment. There is sadness and none of the release that you would hope for, only the whispers of a wasted life in the reflective red pool of blood left by someone else whose life wasn’t what it could have been.

The first issue leaves us with a dead main character at its final panel and, considering there are nine more issues to fill, this is a bold move. The tale is one of a lost soul and the release of such a being. It’s sad and a great introduction to Bras. I had no idea where Daytripper would go from here but I knew I was along for the ride. To be so bold as to offer the end up as the first dish made me salivate for the next course, what could it be?

The Second Day – 21

This issue is the ultimate romantic, boy-meets-girl tale. We see Bras on his way to Salvador with Jorge, both using their youth to travel the world and conquer it one sight at a time. Bras uses the morning of his twenty-first birthday to take in a stunning sunrise across a perfectly drawn and coloured canyon. It’s at first alarming to see Bras as a long-haired youth as the previous issue showed him as a much more defeated and square adult. Bras here feels like he can do anything purely because that is his mind set. He convinces me through pure force of will. It’s a very impressive feat for Ba and Moon to give us the same character in such a different mind-set and still make it believable and consistent.

Olinda is a beautiful (and I really do mean beautiful, just stunning) girl sitting in a boat. Bras stumbles across her when he swims out from the beach and ends up in the boat with her. They talk and the dialogue and back-and-forth create a connection instantly. The twins know how to use real words to set the scene as well as true images. Bras spends a day with her, just one day, and it’s enough for us to see just how much difference a day can make. We all fall in love with Olinda, yet we know that this trail is fraught with danger external and internal. And we know, just like Bras, that we’d go down it without a second thought for concern.

The end of this issue is much more open with much to interpret and ponder. There are many different meanings to what we think we see or read. It’s a tale that rewards repeat readings and in the end all we are seeing is another snapshot of Bras and what has formed his life. Each issue is like a painting of one important aspect of Bras life, and his death.

The Third Day – 28

This issue would be my favourite so far in that I love a good break up tale. And this is a great break up tale, if there can be said to really be any. The beauty of Olinda is back, and this time juxtaposed against the cruel ugliness of heartbreak and the aftermath that love always leaves us. She has just left Bras and he is left alone in their apartment. Ba and Moon use single panels to tell us so much, an opaque Olinda haunts Bras’ memory, a picture on the fridge shows him that though some things stay the same other things will always change and decay, and a forgotten hanging pair of underwear signals what once was and shall never be again. We see Bras as a crushed little man with far too much space around him to ever find the needle of happiness in the world of a haystack that we find ourselves in.

Seven years together is enough time to not know how to live life without her now. Bras floats through his days, Jorge even jokes that he is the walking dead, and we get the feeling that Bras is forever doomed to die, one piece at a time. While wandering, and stewing, and doing his best to try not to move on with his life, Bras stumbles into that defibrillating moment that many know so well. The next look of love that makes you think you’ve invented the concoction all over again for the first time. He catches the eye of a pretty young thing and it’s enough to show him that there’s more out there. The only thing more sustaining than love is the knowledge there is the possibility for more love.

With the shining light of life guiding his heart, Bras guides his legs straight into the front of a delivery van. It’s another issue and another death for our lead man and suddenly a very frightening trend is appearing. If we are going to see the life of Bras then we also have to see the death. It sucks and it’s not fair and so it’s a perfect portrait of just how the world so often turns.

The Fourth Day – 41

This is the oldest Bras we have yet met and his life seems good. His wife, presumably the woman glimpsed in the previous issue, is pregnant with his child and they’re on their way to the birth at the hospital. This Bras seems a fair bit more in control of his world and able to cope. Though he still is a slave to the cigarettes and when he pops out for one he finds his mother is also at the same hospital. His father has just died, a grandfather out as the grandchild comes in. It’s a circle of life that concentrically flows around Bras.

It's a striking difference to see Bras be the rock in the situation while everything else around him is in flux. There's life and death and Bras is simply doing his best to weather the storm and get everyone through to the other side. It was nice to yet again see a different side to Bras. Just like real people you know can change dramatically from decade to decade, here we have the many faces of Bras.

Bras suffers through a coffin showing and then discovering his new child is born. He is happy yet exhausted and when he returns to pick up a special item of clothing for the child from his father’s study, the place where he died, Bras keels over in the exact same place that only hours before claimed his father. Another ripple of life going out beyond the world we know and another chance to see Bras given such good in his life and then have his life pay for the pleasure.

The Fifth Day –11

We finally see Bras as a child and this issue feels the most like a montage of images and scenery, much like many childhood memories are. Bras is a young lad and yet he still unmistakably looks like the person we have seen in such other adult ages. This tale is very much a valentine to the sort of upbringing, and child holidays, that most of us can relate to. You don't need to have chased an Angola chicken, eaten the same foods, or had to crap in the yard to conserve water to understand what you are seeing and what you are feeling. Everyone's childhood is special when in actuality we all have one, it's just that it is so special to us that makes the difference.

Bras plays constantly with his cousins on the family ranch. Every moment is an adventure even through rain or meal time. We see Bras' father differently because Bras sees him differently at this stage in his life. We even meet the grandparents and the tree of this family grows out even more than it already had over the four previous issues. There is a simple set of panels where we see a return drive him looking up through the windows of the moving car. The POV remains the same but the outside scenery changes; this grabbed me as being hugely effective because I can remember using these sorts of input to gauge how a trip was going. It is this ability of Moon and Ba to get into the younger scene so effortlessly that impresses me. They understand the feeling of childhood all too well.

It is eye-opening to see where Bras has come from. We have previously met all of his family, however because they were all much older the relationships were already established, all of the ideas they had of each other were set. Here we get a much more fluid understanding of everyone, and Bras even finally comes to understand that everyone grows old. A sad understanding for a child to come to as we, the reader, have the odd feeling that Bras won't be getting any older. We know what happens to Bras at the end of each issue and for it to happen to an eleven year old boy is sad. Moon and Ba handle this exit to the tale well. We know what happens but we don't need to see it, we instead leave with an image and a few words that really make you stop and think. It's sweet, as usual, and possibly more heartbreaking than usual.


One thing I like about monthly comics is the constant delight of covers for each part of the tale. Sure, most collections put the covers into the deal as well, hell, they usually throw in some unused ones as well and some sketches just to really get you through the door. You can get the covers online or however you like but I really like seeing the covers in person and Gabriel Ba is one very big reason to hold this comic each month. Ba crafts a piece of art that gives you so much of the story in one image. He hands you an emotion on the cover and simply takes your breath away. Not once have I been disappointed with what Ba does with his tangled webs of Bras and his world.


This series has been exceedingly interesting up to the halfway mark and after all these words surely you don't need me to actually tell you this is a Must Read title. It is. We have seen five different days in Bras’ life that have made him who he is, the understanding that his life amounted to nothing close to what he wanted it to, the discovery of that one true destructive love, and then the crumbling of that love, we see the birth of his child and death of his father, then  we see his own childhood. Each day is structurally important to the holistic making of Bras as a man within our minds. Does this necessarily read better in floppy than trade, I think so, but I'm a man who likes the pauses in between the stories just as much. I wouldn't want to experience these glimpses into Bras life one after the other, I take the time to digest and really ponder Bras and his little moments. However, I can see that this series will make a brilliant collection, in whatever way they decide to do it, and I hope many will pick it up.

What Bras' deaths mean is yet to be revealed, whether it is all alternate realities or simply inventions by Bras the writer we don’t know. I, for one, don’t want to dwell on what it all means but would rather feel what it means to me. Daytripper is about eliciting an emotion rather than fishing for a response. It’s a series about us not Bras and I am welcoming the chance to view the world through the gorgeous eyes of Ba, Moon, and Dave Stewart. It’s a magical ride and one that might have lots of endings but ultimately it’ll only end when I want it to.

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Anonymous said...

What happened to reserving Must reads for BKV :P ? Lol jk Good review Ryan. Just know i was going to get it anyways because of Gabriel and Ba were doing the art.

Dickey said...

Excellent review Ryan. I've been wondering if anyone on the site was going to do something on this series. It's definitely one of my favorite series at the moment, right up there with SHIELD and Demo. This is the definition of what good, serious comics are all about, at least to me. I pity those who are deciding to trade-wait this though. They're missing out on one of the more beautiful rides I have been privy to since I returned to comicdom. The structure of the series is just meant for singles. They give us a self-contained peek into a day and year once a month, and we take that day trip with the brothers and company. If you wait to read it all collected at once the narrative flow will change completely.

Nice mention of the covers though. They're just a sign that the team is money, and they know it. It just sits there on the shelf demanding you grab it and take a peek into the life of Bras. Issue #3 definitely has to be my favorite. Yet another piece of art I would frame if a larger print ever come around. The juxtaposition between the white top half and deeply colored pools on the bottom is just sheer beauty.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Anon1 - you got me :) Let me reevaluate my stance. BKV is nearly always a Must Read, but others can also attain the top shelf, and this certainly does.

@Dickey - yeah, I agree (and I know trade waiters probably just think I'm saying this to justify my own stance) but this won't read the same in trades as it does in singles, and I mean that in a detrimentally way. You need time to soak up Bras' life. I'm finding the same thing with Scalped, which I sadly read in trades. It's just not as good, whereas I think Walking Dead reads fine in trades, though wish I did have the singles.

I'd definitely put this up as one of those series' where you could give it to a reader of any medium and they'd respect it, hell, possibly even love it.

Dickey said...

@Ryan - Funny that you mention Scalped reads better in singles. My local shop owner and I have discussed the benefits of trades vs. singles a few times. He's typically of the stance that the monthly rise and fall dynamic of singles is best for most series, but will concede that some titles read better when collected. And Scalped is one of his primary examples of a series that he feels is better in trade than singles. Interesting to hear an opposite opinion on that title, but unfortunately I haven't had time to delve into that world just yet.

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