Friday, August 9, 2013

What I'm Reading: Daytripper

Daytripper is a graphic novel by Brazilian brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.  The two have illustrated American comics in the past (notably the Umbrella Academy series from a few years back that was popular with the artier portions of the comics readership), but I think they might be better known in other parts of the world.  I remember Daytripper receiving quite favorable critical reviews when it appeared in serialized single-issue form in 2010, though I passed it by at the time.  I think now doing so was a mistake and am glad that my brother sent me the collected version last Christmas.

The story follows Brás, a journalist in his early 30s whose career is stuck at a small newspaper in Sao Paulo, where he writes the obituaries.  To make matters worse, his father is a famous and respected novelist in Brazil whose accomplishments will always overshadow Brás's, no matter what he does.  He's depressed over having to attend a reception for his father, although things are looking up when his best friend Jorge, a staff photographer, also ends up assigned to the reception.  At the end of the first chapter, Brás is unexpectedly shot in a robbery at a bar near the reception hall, and the final words are his own obituary.

This sets the pattern for each of the ten chapters (corresponding to the ten original issues), each of which visits Brás at a certain period in his life and ends with his death, giving the overview of his life up to that point in obituary form.  Obviously, the point here is not a straightforward narrative of his life; indeed, the chapters are not even in chronological order, jumping around to various important points in his childhood, adulthood, and old age.

Rather, I think the purpose is to show how the meaning of Brás's life changes with the context, his roles as lover, friend, son, father, husband, employee, and so on coloring the way his life is interpreted with each succeeding obituary.  It's not surprising that Brás has a certain everyman quality about him, allowing the reader to easily identify with his different life stages.

It's perhaps a little odd I should have gotten this far in the review without discussing the art.  After all, it is a graphic novel, and one with spectacularly good art.  Perhaps it's because the art so perfectly fits the story, realistic but loose, catching all the little details and illustrating characters' emotions so well, it hardly seems necessary to comment on it specifically.  Odd, but I think perhaps making art that is unobtrusive is harder than something that really calls attention to itself. 
Some nudity and sex makes the book inappropriate for younger readers, but it's not salacious in nature and shouldn't put any older readers off.  I would recommend Daytripper to any adult or mature teen-ager who is interested in a quiet but beautifully told and drawn story delving into what life means as we assume different roles as we age.

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