The awareness of mortality is the backbone of "Daytripper," Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba's exquisite little graphic novel that studies the many deaths of one man. Yes, deaths -- every chapter ends with his death. And all the focus on mortality, ironically, focuses all our attention on life -- its delicacy, its promise, and the strange turns it can take.
Bras de Oliva Domingos is the son of a famous novelist, and has become a writer himself. But as he laments to a friend, "I wanted to write about LIFE, Jorge. And look at me now... all I write about is death." And the comic follows him through his 32nd birthday, through parks, streets, his father's black-tie reception... and to a bar where he will be shot. But that's not the end... or even the beginning. Every chapter of "Daytripper" ends with a death, and each story just leads up to how Bras will die... or might have died... or has died in a parallel reality. It's a little hard to tell. We see him die in different places, in different ways (murder, natural causes, car accident, drowning, etc), and with different people.
And we follow Bras through different parts of his life -- his early work as an obituary writer, his love affair and marriage, his success as a bestselling novelist, his son's birth, and his life with his family. We seem him embittered, jaded, idealistic, loving and exuberant.
"Daytripper" seems like a graphic novel that is all about death. After all, the main character dies over and over in all sorts of ways. But ironically it's a graphic novel that focuses more on life -- as the sea goddess tells Bras at one point, "In order to go after your dreams, you must live your life." So while every chapter ends with death, it allows us to see the beauty, fragility and promise of our lives. And the art is simply stunning -- strong lines, semi-realistic style, and lots of striking images (fish windsocks swimming through the air). And the authors subtlely alter their style, depending on what life-stage Bras is in. As a child, everything is bright, colorful and sunny, like a picture book; in middle-age, things are grey and grimy; as an elderly man, the world is pale and faded, but hauntingly lovely in its realism.
"Daytripper" is a beautiful, haunting meditation on death, and the value of every person's individual life. Touching, lovely and subtle.