Graphic Novel Review: Daytripper


You are born and then you die. That is the story of every life on earth. It is the template from which all thought and action is rooted. And yet, do any of us really take full advantage of all that life we’ve been given to live, or are we bogged down by trivialities and a false belief that life starts when we want it to?

For twin brothers and collaborators Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, that is the central question which plagues their main character Brás de Oliva Domingos in their graphic novel masterpiece Daytripper (2010).  Equal parts philosophical dialogue and non-linear speculative fiction, Daytripper is a 10-chapter (really 10 short stories) narrative about the life and many possible deaths of its main character, Brás. Each chapter represents a different period in Brás’s life, be it childhood trips to his grandparents house, meeting his future wife, and a memorable vacation in his twenties.

In the book’s introduction, graphic novelist Craig Thompson posits a question that he believes Moon and Bá’s magnum opus asks: Does art enhance our lives or distract from it? With a melancholic protagonist whose job is to write obituaries, while at the same time driven to finish his own novel, it may be easy to believe that the work falls on the yea side.  But the events that occur and repeat don’t show a man obsessed with a singular drive to be some great novelist. In fact, the writers do a balancing act, infusing every page with the beauty of the written word and, of course, interspersing the narrative with poetic moments that conjure up the literary. At the same time, the banalities and misfortunes that are part of existence aren’t ignored and have a real effect on the richly drawn characters.

As each chapter closes, the weight of all the tragedies that have been piling up in the story dissipate – not due to some revelation resulting Brás’s deaths and suffering, but from the pain that was carried, day to day, like an overstuffed wallet in our back pocket. The hard part about living is experiencing the present before it vanishes into the ether. Once Brás has that epiphany by story’s end, the aha! moment is framed as a sequence on the beach, with the last panel of the book placing him in the water and wading towards the direction of night, alone but not alone.

Moon and Bá have a real talent for infusing each panel with a visual density. Facial expressions, the clutter on a desk, and the expressionistic use of color all contribute to making the entire book a mood piece, or as Tom Waits would say, “a beautiful melody with tragic lyrics.” By the end of each story, the staccato-style prose that dots the caption boxes on each page and melts into a sobering poetic obituary about the ripples a life can make to those around them.

Daytripper is available on