A Beginner’s Guide to Vertigo Comics: Daytripper

So you’re curious about graphic storytelling, but you’re not big on superheroes. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and other genre fare isn’t your bag. Luckily for you, there are lots of comics that deal with everyday life – take a look at widely-lauded graphic memoirs like Fun Home, Persepolis, or Maus. If you’re starting to read comics it’s important to remember that this is a medium with lots to offer, not a genre of stories about folks in spandex.

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Winner of the award for Best Limited Series at two of comics’ most prestigious ceremonies, the Eisner and Harvey Awards, Daytripper by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon is a meditation on life and death that’s nothing short of beautiful. Supported by stunning colour art by Dave Stewart, the Brazilian wonder twins take a concept that could easily feel trite and treacly in lesser hands and create something bittersweet and touching.

Over ten issues, Daytripper examines a life as a series of moments – some significant, some mundane. The series is told non-chronologically, each issue examining a moment in the life of obituary writer, Brás de Oliva Domingos. Each issue ends with Brás’ death; not that he’s regenerating (sorry Who fans), but his life could have ended at any of these moments, reminding us of the preciousness of life – the good and the bad. Each death is followed by an obituary, showing the different ways his life and death are framed depending on when he passes.

The concept may sound unsubtle, but the comic is brimming with restrained, quiet moments accompanied by wordless panels that service the mood if not the plot. These silences punctuate talkier panels where characters discuss death, life, love, and family, but setting much of the story around events that invite such conversation – births, deaths, break-ups, and beyond – means that the dialogue doesn’t feel too forced. Tackling broad concepts through the lens of specific situations, Daytripper invites readers to mull its themes over within the story and within their own lives.

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In his illustrated introduction, Craig Thompson (creator of Blankets) notes that Moon and Bá “dance” between escapist fantasy and stark realism. Moon’s art is stylised but concrete, never straying too far from a sense of grounded reality; but creative angles coupled with Dave Stewart’s awe-inspiring colouring imbue the comic with a sense of magical realism.

Together, Moon and Stewart create something evocative and expressive, telling a whole story in a single panel. The art perfectly complements Bá’s script, which is in turns funny and heartbreaking. As brothers and frequent collaborators, their work together has an incredible synergy in both written and visual storytelling. The story has a lyricism that could never be captured in any other medium.

 

For the most part, Daytripper uses very straightforward, panel structure. Each panel is a perfect window or snapshot of a moment, freezing each gesture and expression. On a micro level, each page demonstrates what the comic overall is trying to show us, the way important moments stick in our minds, immobile, and become memories. We become the authors of our own narratives, remembering only those significant moments, and dispensing with much of the trivialities. However, the creators posit that triviality is not without merit – those quiet moments make the louder ones seem more important, but an uneventful family vacation or a voicemail from a loved one can be rendered momentous by circumstance.

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Daytripper is all-around a lovely read for long-time comics readers to folks who are just dabbling in the medium. The story would feel at home on the indie film festival circuit, but it couldn’t be told as effectively in any other medium. The art is clean and accessible, so everyone can pick up this lovely story and understand it without being perfectly literate in the medium. With a new deluxe hardcover on the stands, it’s a beautiful comic and a great place to start with comics, and one that will leave you with high expectations.

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Allison O'Toole

Part-time superhero, space bounty-hunter and crayon-colour-namer. When not reading everything from the classics to comics, you may find me watching old horror films or looking at pictures of puppies on the Internet.

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