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Daytripper: A Gorgeous, Heart-Breaking Comic Gets Even Better as a Book [Review]

Daytripper was the best comic book mini-series I read last year, one of the finest comics I’ve ever read, and one of the most emotionally powerful experiences I’ve ever had with visual storytelling. I could praise this book forever, but writer Kieron Gillen summed up the quintessential experience with the story within Twitter’s 140 character limit:

I can’t say if Gillen’s reaction is universal, but I certainly shared it. In my case the only difference was that I wasn’t on public transportation when the force of the work hit me full on and didn’t have to hold anything back.

Published by DC’s Vertigo imprint, the book was created, written and drawn collaboratively by brothers Gabriel Bá (The Umbrella Academy) and Fabio Moon (Casanova), and they have produced a masterpiece. Their story of Bràs de Oliva Domingos, a son, a father, a friend, a lover and a writer, told through glimpses of pivotal moments in Bràs’ life, is beautiful on every level.

If you missed Daytripper in single issues, you’re actually in luck. Vertigo released a trade paperback collection of all ten issues this month and the series has a significantly greater impact as a complete volume than it did in a serial format.

Each of Daytripper‘s issues is a window into a moment in Bràs’ life and ends as if he were to die in that moment. With these events presented out of any linear forward or backward chronological order, the reader is left to slowly piece together information about Bràs and what matters most to him: his failed romances leading to his relationship with his girlfriend and eventual wife Ana; his decades-long friendship with Jorge; his desire to become a published novelist, and, central to the book, his relationship with his father, accomplished author Benedito de Oliva Domingos.

New revelations of past or future events ask the reader to continually reevaluate moments they’ve previously read, while the story itself builds on its examinations of family, friendship, love and life. And from the moment the first issue opens with Bràs’ work writing obituaries, it’s an examination of the inevitability of death, of preparing for death, and of how no amount of preparation is enough for those left behind.

Throughout it is gorgeously illustrated by Bá, Moon, and colorist Dave Stewart. There are beautiful rural, urban and coastal landscapes of the brothers’ native Brazil, mixed with surreal touches when appropriate. I could go on, but your experience with this book should come from reading it and seeing it for yourself. And if you’ve already read it in single issues, go set aside a few hours to experience it all at once and read it again.

In comics journalism there’s a tendency to hail every enjoyable work that comes along as the most awesome thing ever, to the point where that kind of hyperbolic speech is the norm. While it’s not awful that we’re so excited by our medium, its fans, and its creators, this approach does often mean that in those rare moments when something truly special appears, we can’t adequately describe it. The words we would ordinarily use have been devalued.

Daytripper is one of those books we should set aside specific adjectives for, to be used only when a book this incredible is created. It is an intense work that draws readers into their own moving and deeply personal journey as they follow Bràs on his.

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