The Book I Think You Should Buy if You Only Buy One Book This Year:
by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon; Vertigo, $19.99
Daytripper was my favourite comic of 2010. It was the book I found I looked forward to the most each month, and which I found my eye lingered over the longest. I always looked forward to reading the issue again (sometimes a few times) to soak up more of its nuance and beauty. It was also the only comic that brought me close to tears last year, and it did it a few times.
Daytripper is focused on the life of Brás de Oliva Domingos, a Brazilian man who has followed in his father’s footsteps to become a writer. Each issue of the mini-series was set at a different stage of Brás’s life, and the series was decidedly non-linear in its approach to his story, snaking back and forth across his lifespan.
Brás enjoyed family gatherings in the countryside in his childhood, traveled the country as a young man, wrote obituaries at the start of his career, and became a famous author. Along the way, he lived through the death of his father, the birth of his son, and the loss of his best friend. Somewhere in there he found the perfect woman, and started writing for real. In so many ways, Brás is an ordinary and almost boring man, but I think that was done by design, as Bá and Moon want us to examine our own lives, and the relationships that sustain them, through his.
Each chapter of his story employs a particular narrative trick that I don’t want to explain or ruin here, except to say that it helps focus the story, and trains the reader to feel a building sense of tension in each chapter that is not otherwise there. It’s funny, considering the usual subject matter of comics, but I consider this to be the first ‘magical realist’ series I’ve read in the Latin American tradition. This comic owes a lot to the works of writers like Garcia Márquez and Borges, and perhaps, in its focus on Brás as a writer, Roberto Bolano. This is a very literary comic, and while some found it to be a little pretentious, I felt it speak to me on many levels.
And now that I’ve already given the book some of the highest praise I can give, it’s time to talk about the art. Bá and Moon are perhaps two of my favourite artists working in comics today, and this book just helped cement that feeling in me. There work here is beautiful. They have an eye for architectural detail (I want to work in Brás’s father’s study) and convey a sense of Sao Paulo that gives the comic a grounding that is both foreign (to North American readers) and still very real. Their work on Brás and the other characters, as they age and de-age from chapter to chapter is also very impressive.
This book worked very well as an episodic and non-linear mini-series. I’m not sure how the different chapters will read one right after another, but I still recommend this book completely. I’m actually considering getting a copy, despite the fact that I already have the single issues, and don’t usually like duplicating things.
So, what would you buy Were Money No Object?
Tags: Daytripper, Vertigo