The graphic Novel Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba features 10 short chapters, all in which follow the life of Bras de Oliva Domingo, a writer and the son of a famous writer, but unlike his father, he writes obituaries for the local newspaper. Bras has always struggled to feel important to his father, who often put work before family, and can’t seem to escape the shadow in which he still lives. Our first introduction of Bras is dark and ominous, portraying him as a man who has not yet begun to look at life the way it should be looked at. The interesting part of this story is that Bras actually dies at the end of each chapter… and sometimes in a very sudden and tragic way (the last page being the obituary in which Bras would have written for himself). Then, in the next chapter, we follow Bras again, but this time he is a different age, and experiencing a different time in his life. However, this isn’t a fantasy novel, he does not come back from the dead. In fact, it actually focuses very much on realism with its beautiful imagery and strong sense of narrative. The best part of each chapter is that we get to experience these moments of life over and over again. It sort of shows us in the end that we tend to narrow our lives down to what can be said about us in words, and when we let go of that and realize that death is just as much a part of life as anything else, we can learn to enjoy what we can experience right now.
Part of the reason I enjoyed this novel as much as I did was the beautiful artwork that captured the page and surrounded it in every aspect. The characters in Daytripper are what I believe to be the best part of this whole novel, drawn in a way that shows concrete emotion without the need for any words or speech bubbles in particular instances. I often found myself looking at certain pages longer than normal because there was so much to absorb in just a single frame. Apart from the characters and their vulnerable emotions, the colors that were used also add to what make this novel feel more like a comparison with reality rather than a visit to the past. The reason I say this is because the colors appear to be very vibrant and seem to pop off the page immediately. In certain frames, or chapters rather, the authors use lots of tertiary colors, like turquoise and magenta. These colors stand alone and represent the variety of complexion we see everyday in the world around us, much like watching a sunset. They convince me that these scenes are not simply flashbacks, but rather that these are real moments happening right now. Then there are plenty of scenes in which use analogous colors, which tend to represent certain moods, such as being at a funeral and coming home to an empty house—lonely and dark.
A major theme in Daytripper, is experiencing life for what it is, which is what makes setting an important component of this novel. Often times, the setting is a full bleed on the page, and frames are then strategically layered on top and in between. I think this does a magnificent job of surrounding the reader within the scene. It forces awareness and triggers empathy, making you feel as much involved as the protagonist in which you are on the journey with. It also establishes a form of hierarchy within the frame because it is size and context. It is clear that the author wants you to be aware of the setting as it might be very important to the story as a whole.
The authors also used a form of hierarchy when it came to the symbol of the tree (always a full bleed off page when present). The authors use this giant but beautiful tree as analogy for Bras’ life. He feels that he lives in his father’s shadow, until the end of the novel where he sees that he has come to escape the life he so feared for himself, only to experience the same result…which is death.
This novel focuses heavily upon the existences of life, so it is no wonder that time and motion were heavily emphasized. A famous philosopher named Alan Watts once said, “life and death are not two opposed forces; they are simply two different ways of looking at the same force, for the movement of change is as much the builder as the destroyer”. Life is constantly changing. In fact, it changes so much that we are never truly able to grasp it or even explain it! Words can try, but they are merely symbols for constant movement. The way the authors present this change I thought was really cool. For instance, there are many shifts in scales. Rarely ever is a character drawn completely parallel with the edges of the page. Nearly all the characters in every frame are in some way diagonal or cropped to imply movement of some short. Since Bras is a different age in each chapter, his size varies depending on the context so the reader knows there has been a shift in time. The authors also illustrated many frames that contained what appeared to be a pivotal moment in time for Bras. Finally, color was also a contributor for change because each chapter carried it’s own color scheme that set the mood for the whole chapter. When the colors began to change, so did the mood, indicating that we were now at a different moment in Bras life with him.
I thought this novel had some of the best illustration I had ever seen in a comic book. I suppose I really havent read that many comics, but I believe if I had, I still would think this is one of the best. The story was a great read, the characters felt real and true to life and the colors were able to tell the story better than the words could at times. It isnt an easy thing to capture life in words or even images, but these guys did a pretty great job at trying with their visual appeals and insane attention to detail. Im glad I picked up this read and expanded my concept of design a little bit more.