Welcome to Comics Bulletin’s team review of Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s Daytripper. This is the ninth part of an ambitious twelve-part series of articles on this powerful and much-loved series.
Read the introduction here.
Read Jason Sacks’s look at Chapter One of Daytripper, titled “32”, here.
Read Keith Silva’s look at Chapter Two of Daytripper, titled “21”, here.
Read Chase Magnett’s look at Chapter Three of Daytripper, titled “28”, here.
Read Daniel Elkin’s look at Chapter Four of Daytripper, titled “41”, here.
Read Keith Silva look at Chapter Five of Daytripper, titled “11”, here.
Read Paul Brian McCoy’s look at Chapter Six of Daytripper, titled “33”, here.
Read Chase Magnett’s look at Chapter Seven of Daytripper, titled “38”, here.
Read Jason Sacks’ look at Chapter Eight of Daytripper, titled “47”, here.
Read Daniel Elkin’s look at Chapter Ten of Daytripper, titled “76″, here
Read our Postmortem on the series here.
Today Paul Brian McCoy looks at Chapter Nine of Daytripper, titled “dream”.
“Wake up, before it’s too late.”
Chapter Nine of Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon’s Daytripper is perhaps both the most problematic and intellectually satisfying chapter at the same time. Entitled “Dream,” the chapter is exactly that, opening with a callback to the opening page of Chapter Two with our hero Brás de Oliva Domingos floating in a boat on a darkened dream sea, accompanied by who we now know is Iemanja, the Goddess of the Sea. We also now know that she was a symbolic representation of his first true love, Olinda.
Here, in the opening to Chapter Nine, Iemanja has a more specific message; one that we’ve seen repeated both literally and metaphorically throughout the previous eight chapters: “In order to go after your dreams, you must live your life. Wake up, before it’s too late.”
However, waking up is not in the cards for Brás this time. Bá and Moon have trapped him in a cycle of dreams that revisit most, if not all, of the key scenes from each of the previous chapters; a greatest hits montage that serves to drive home the theme of Daytripper, just in case it’s slipped past you. The only thing missing is a guest appearance by Dr. Frank-N-Furter lustily mouthing “Don’t dream it, be it.”
Dream sequences are tricky beasts for a writer. They can come off as a slight of hand trick that cheapens the underlying point of a work, they can establish mystery for the story yet to unfold, or they can enhance and enlighten the mysteries that have already been laid out. Coming at the end of a work, a dream sequence has different demands and purposes than a dream sequence that comes earlier in a work, and with the way Daytripper‘s chapters are jumbled chronologically, Bá and Moon made a conscious choice to place this chapter in the Ninth slot.
I’m not sure I agree with that decision; especially when we get to the last page of the chapter and are greeted with an old Brás accepting his death and writing his own obituary. It is a beautiful moment that actually rises up and mostly surpasses the sentimentality and obviousness of the preceding pages.
But those preceding pages…
Again, we open with the dream on the seas with Iemanja/Olinda. Again, as at the beginning of the series, we are introduced to the thematic concept of our dreams guiding us. That first time around, the narrator made it plain: “Even when he was awake, he would carry his dreams with him. They reminded him of who he is and what he wanted out of life. His dreams would tell him what to do. How to navigate in this world.”
Chapter Two then became a dreamlike experience of first love, lust, and magical beauty. By Chapter Three, however, things had changed. As Olinda left Brás, she told him, “Our relationship was nothing more than a silly dream that wound up ending like a bad nightmare. A nightmare… and it’s time to wake up.”
And with that, we stopped referencing dreams or nightmares and Brás began to float through life as though asleep. And with each chapter, as he comes to various realizations in his life, each time he begins to wake up and chase a dream, he dies. This pattern repeats itself for each of the first seven chapters, although the rigid narrative structure to which Bá and Moon have tethered themselves begin to loosen from Chapter Six on, slowly shifting Brás from the center of the storytelling and allowing first Jorge to intrude and then his wife Ana and son Miguel to completely become the focus of attention — with Brás not even appearing in Chapter Eight.
It’s as if Bá and Moon are easing him away from us; distancing him so that when the final actual death arrives, we’ll be ready to see it for what it is, rather than another narrative device.
So when Chapter Nine begins with a return to dreams, it is startling. And then it becomes intriguing, as Brás finds himself unable to wake up, shifting from scene to scene, reliving his anxieties and failures before finally finding his footing. The early transitions, however, border on the cliché, as Bá and Moon use the old, “beginning each new dream by waking” motif for the first three shifts before finally settling into more dramatic and satisfying transformational landscapes through which Brás travels.
But what are we to make of the dreams themselves?
Brás awakens first from that seductive sea and the sensuality of the Goddess to the life of a middle-aged man whose wife is practically seething with hostility toward him and his dreams. This doesn’t really sync up with anything we’ve seen in the rest of the series, and is, in fact, so far removed from what we’ve seen, it gives a remarkable insight into the psyche of Brás; the paranoia and anxiety about how his choices have impacted those around him. Is he a bad husband? A bad father?
Coming so quickly on the heels of Chapter Eight, where the love of his family was so clearly represented, this is quite shocking. And for the first time reader, this scene initially appears to be reality. It’s not until four pages later that the reality begins to slip and we get the return of the waters — no inviting future events this time, but a drowning surge as Ana berates him for dreaming instead of partnering with her to live their lives together.
As this dream ends, Brás finds himself speaking through the dog, signaling perhaps how he sees himself at this point in his life. Coasting through, allowing Ana to take the lead in both raising their son and keeping the home. If he’s not contributing, then what is he to the family? The dog is a loved and loving part of the family, for sure, but the dog isn’t helping out. The dog isn’t a responsible part of the family.
Let’s face it. Dogs are mooches.
The shift from this realization to waking up at his desk at the newspaper throws a harsh light on Brás’ sense of identity. We’ve had glimpses of this part of his life before, so this isn’t entirely new, but it may be the first time that his impending success is defined as a mercenary impulse. As he looks at pictures of the dead and wonders, “Would the deaths of these people help him become a writer?” it’s an explicit recognition of the experience we saw in Chapter Six, only without the positives that Ana brought to the experience.
Brás really is just a miserable person during these years. He’s self-involved and moody, filled with doubt and guilt. This is another dream, however, and before he can wallow in self-pity for too long he is approached by an attractive young woman in a schoolgirl outfit who loves his work for its honesty.
In a comic that has some issues with the way women are represented, this chapter is not doing that impression any favors. We’ve never seen Brás’ half-sister after her single appearance in Chapter Four, and we can only assume that it was his older sister Clarice who appeared silently at the funeral that same chapter, before being introduced as a child in the next chapter, never to appear again. His mother also leaves very little impression until she is finally just gone, off-screen, leaving her home to be claimed by Brás’s grown son — but even then it’s really his father’s study that is the treasure trove (as we’ll see in Chapter Ten).
So in his dreams, when Brás is finally recognized for his talent, his honesty, it’s by a sexy imaginary stranger rather than any of the real women in his life. If this is a commentary on the character then what exactly are Bá and Moon trying to say here? Are they being critical of the character or is this just a moment that wasn’t thought through completely?
From this point on, we’re in full-on dreamland without any more bobs or weaves as Brás awakens again to find himself on TAM Flight 3905, alone except for Jorge and a copy of Silken Eyes (did he ever write another book?). This seminal moment in his life is glossed over briefly as they then shift to the beautiful landscape that we last saw in Chapter Two and Brás begins to reject the dream; he rejects the beauty and innocence of that time. He struggles to wake up, but is told he can’t just run away; that he has a decision to make.
It is at this point that Bá and Moon stop toying with the reader. Brás returns to Benedito’s Tree where his father and son are waiting.
These pages are fan favorites. They are beautiful and expressive, laying it all out for those who weren’t keeping up. Brás has a story to tell. A story about death; a story about life. A story about the realization that everybody dies and all of our stories end. But death is not something to fear; instead it is the final stroke of the pen that completes us; allowing our lives to be looked back on and evaluated. Life was good.
Which is fine and dandy if you’re lucky enough to be the successful son of a national treasure who never really seems to have a hard time of it. Oh, he had a broken heart that one time. He had a crappy job that he hated — steady work while he found his muse (i.e. the deaths of a planeload of people). His father and mother were distant, but both lived full, successful lives. His wife and child are healthy and happy despite his not being around. As a message for readers, it’s a bit hard to swallow if you’re struggling to get by from paycheck to paycheck, dealing with violence or sickness, or living a real life with all the pain and suffering that comes along with those occasional good times.
It’s easy to say that life is good when you’re not experiencing the bad.
So when his father tells him to “picture where [he] wants to be and read the story until the end” it feels hollow.
When we see Brás old and on oxygen, with medical equipment by his bed (he doesn’t have to die in a hospital or on the street), get up, go outside to a beautiful beach where his faithful dog is waiting (not his wife, child, sister, mother, etc.) beside his typewriter, and then begin his own obituary, it seems like the end.
But it’s an end of self-obsession and self-satisfaction. An end that romanticizes Brás the writer so completely over Brás the man, the husband, the father, that my immediate reaction is to pull away. He’s a dreamer, he writes. His dreams help him understand where he came from and where he wants to go. It’s sentimental poetry that can’t help but strike chords with its seemingly inspirational message of living to achieve your dreams.
But he writes this alone on a beach with only his dog for company. His dreams tell him who he is, but throughout this chapter he has been anxiety-ridden, selfish, guilty, and oblivious to others.
And when his obituary ends with the poetic “This is the story of my life. Take a deep breath, open your eyes and close the book,” it seems to be the end — with a final shot of an empty chair before the typewriter, a cigarette burning in the ashtray, and the ocean fading into nothingness.
But this is not the end. There’s another chapter to go.
This is the problem with placing the dream as the penultimate chapter. For example, If this chapter had come as Chapter Two, bumping everything else up a chapter, it would be mysterious, full of portent, leading into the dream symbolism of the following two chapters and providing a sense that the events to come had meaning.
If it were shifted to the end as a final installment, especially coming after the emotional strength we’re going to see in Chapter Ten, it would carry another meaning altogether. Those family connections would illuminate the dream. Then we could see that those relationships had been satisfied and when he writes his obituary alone on the beach, it’s stepping beyond them, rather than possibly representing his isolation beforehand. If we could have experienced Brás’ connection to his family before this, we would get the payoff.
As a penultimate chapter, though, it doesn’t quite work, because when we get to the actual final chapter, this dream seems like a diversion. This ending comes too soon, and with no explanation — the exact opposite of every other chapter, where everything is leading up to and informing his death. Bá and Moon haven’t actually earned this ending yet. We need Brás to wake up one more time to bring us the closure this story has been building toward from the first page.
Paul Brian McCoy is the Editor-in-Chief of Psycho Drive-In and writer of Mondo Marvel . His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK , along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK ). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.