Daytripper is not a story about death. It is a story about life, using death as a framing device that we are all familiar with, albeit on different levels.
I remember finishing the first issue of Daytripper, being very confused and not entirely sure what it was that had just happened. There was significant loss for me, as I had become quite attached to Bras as a character. Of course, the start of issue two (with Bras alive, well, and exploring Brazil) made me go back immediately and make sure I had read the first one correctly. Once you catch on, you should notice a pattern emerging.
When does Bras die?
Not actually die, but specifically, when does Bras die? His deaths are always mundane. His first death, shot in a robbery, might be his most egregious. The rest is fairly unspectacular and completely without purpose. Hit by a car, electrocuted, drowned, etc. But still, when does Bras de Olivia Domingos die?
He dies each time in search of something. Escaping his father, he searches for solitude, and is shot. Chasing a girl, he is both drowned and hit by a car. Even as a child, he chases after his toy and is electrocuted. It is only the final issue that ends with Bras alive. Of course, this is a mirror image of the prior issues in more ways than one. Bras is informed in this issue that he is dying of cancer, and actively denies himself any medical treatment. When he tells his wife this, she begins to cry and hold him. It is so tragic, so heartbreaking (reminiscent somewhat of the first twenty minutes of Up ) but also revealing. It’s the first time he isn’t out looking for something. The arc of the story is finished. It’s the only chapter that ends without an obituary. Bras de Olivia Domingos is going to die, and that means he doesn’t have to die anymore.
The theme of fatherhood is also a strong presence. Bras always resents his father for being so persistent with his writing, to the point of… not negligence, not indifference, but of mild discomfort. As a child, he treats his father’s writing with reverence, even getting his first kiss underneath a tree that his father writes under. But as his own writing flounders (until he begrudgingly takes a job as an obituary writer, where he writes about—you guessed it—death), he begins to resent his father more and more.
His father dies the night that Bras’ son is born. One in, one out. When researching the cause of his father’s death, he finds a copy of his book (his creation) on the table, and he has a heart attack and dies. He begins smoking, just like his father. His son lives far away, and he is distant to his grandchildren. There is also an ancient theme chugged up here in the relationship of Bras and his best friend, echoing the Epic of Gilgamesh. The emotional relationship that two men share (be it familial or friendly) is something Daytripper plays with. Makes sense for a comic that is the brainchild of twins.
Daytripper was one of the best books I read all last year. It hit me on a very personal level (for reasons I can’t quite explain; I’ve never had a major family member die, I am without children. Perhaps this enhances it further?) and—I will admit it— it made me cry. I’m not the only one to think this highly of it, as Daytripper has won several awards, including the Eisner Award for Best Limited Series this year. You can hear Gabriel Ba’s words about what it was like to win it here.
What was your favorite part of Daytripper? Anything I missed? Let us know in the comments.