Everybody dies.

It’s a sobering sentiment to say the least and the kind of consideration that’s apt to be promptly shuffled away amid the tedium of the everyday. And yet this quiet, internal aversion to the concept of our own mortality is strangely juxtaposed by the cultural ubiquity with which death is explored and understood, particularly artistically. At first glance it seems like a matter of convenience; a double standard by which we can consume a mythos or story without affording the opportunity to examine mortality thinking critically.

And no critical thinking is needed to see why.

Death is by-and-large a bizarrely trite idea in popular media: television, movie, and literary characters routinely kill or die with such an inert kind of banality that what could be serious contemplations on the delicacy of life and meanings of it’s inevitable end are often relegated to a clichéd aphorism or summated to some diluted and somber variation of a rainy black-tie funeral on grassy knoll.

Yet nowhere is death treated with more disappointing frivolity than comic books. Consider that virtually every major comic book character in mainstream print has “died” (a laughably loose term to be sure) at some point in during their tenure, only to find themselves stumbling back to the world of the living thanks to some literary convenience or deus ex machina. And while it’s true that not every book needs to address the nature of mortality with the seriousness reality often demands, the precedent on death in comics is certainly affable at best.

Until, that is, consideration falls to the sublime ruminations found in pages of the Eisner, Harvey, and Eagle Award-winning series, Daytripper.

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Lovingly brought to the page by Brazilian twins Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, Daytripper is—at its beautiful core—a contemplative examination of everything mainstream comics actively gloss over with respect to death and mortality. But their ten-issue limited series is so very much more: it’s an absorbed and illustrative look at the fervent price of love, the ever-weaving bonds of family; the arduous nature of friendship and loss, and of course the inevitable conclusion of each of these chapters that each person must find the ability and courage to face and write.

That sentiment is more-or-less literal for Daytripper’s protagonist, Brás de Oliva Domingos, a struggling novelist and obituary writer who seems to follow death perpetually—until death inevitably finds him.

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Repeatedly.

Through the series readers are treated to meditative vignettes of Domingos’ life and while each of these milestones presents an outstanding perspective on what it means to be alive—and more importantly to live—each highlight also ends with his abrupt and untimely demise. In lesser hands a story like this would feel more pedestrian and syrupy than emotional but Bá and Moon rise to the occasion with Daytripper and offer up kind of Borgesian journey that finds the reader assume the role of the titular day-tripper—a visitor assuming a temporary odyssey through the life of someone, who himself is just a temporary, whether through the span of his own life or the pages of the story.

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So much so, in fact that—littered with symbolism and rife with allusion—Daytripper demands multiple read-throughs to diligently peel back the strata and appreciate the Shakespearian depth with which the writer-artist duo explore the thematic elements of the fragility of childhood, brotherhood, and fatherhood. Yet while Daytripper is a heavy opus, it is a worthwhile piece of work and manages to give to the reader as much as is willingly put in. It offers up a dreamy and unperforated examination of each portion of what makes a person whole—however momentary that person may be in the grand scheme. It’s an undertaking that borders on the epic and the non-linear storyline, draws inspiration and takes cues from the iconography of creators like Dante and Blake to meld an irresistible kind of tale.

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That’s a bold determination and Bá and Moon waste not a page in this effort and manage to curate the passion of their existentialistic writing with the solemn equanimity of their gorgeous artwork. The pages seem to bleed with the colorific intensity that the story is meant to impart, whether it be from the urgency of character struggling with a horrible truth or the muted moment of a personal contemplation. The line-work and shadow-play swims across each of the meticulous panels with compunction and purpose and the whole work seems dance under the incandescent glow of its layered and allegorical message.

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It’s clear then that the creators have meant to present their opus is an ode to life and it’s beautiful fragility but they possess the gravitas and empathy to simultaneously understand that their ideas are incomplete with the other half; that to complement everything valued in life, it’s necessary to accept with the acknowledgement that stories demand endings; that nothing ever begins that doesn’t find its way to a conclusion.

But what then, is the appeal in contemplating the inevitable temporariness of it all? After all, willful ignorance asks that we set aside such considerations. Perhaps because—as Bá and Moon have realized and as Daytripper demonstrates—the eventual finality or the lack thereof (because who can really say) is ultimately an exploration of the unknown and this is where ingenuity and creativity thrive for us all.

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And that—as Brás de Oliva Domingos will tell you—is the big secret.

Daytripper can be purchased at your Local Comic Shop, on Vertigo’s website, or at Comixology.

Overall Score
94 %

Daytripper is a contemplative tale that will strike indulgent readers with its dream-like qualities.

Story 95%
Writing 93%
Pencils and Inks 93%
Colours 95%

About The Author

Kabir Chauhan is self-professed lover of video games, photography, fine films, and Oxford commas. When he isn't indulging in any of that, he enjoys the occasional comic book or two...or three as well as talking about himself in the third person.

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