Welcome to Comics Bulletin’s team review of Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s Daytripper. This is the eight 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 Jason Sacks’ look at Chapter Eight of Daytripper, titled “47”, here.
Read Paul Brian McCoy’s look at Chapter Nine of Daytripper, titled “dream”, here.
Read Daniel Elkin’s look at Chapter Ten of Daytripper, titled “76″, here
Read our Postmortem on the series here.
Today Chase Magnett looks at Chapter Seven of Daytripper, titled “38”.
“If it weren’t for people, life would be a desert.”
Those words spoken by a young Jorge meeting Brás for the very first time present an excellent starting point for an analysis of Daytripper #7. Since the very first issue Jorge, Brás’ best friend, has been a notable presence in his life. In that first issue, he is the only one of Brás’ loved ones to appear in full view, while his son, mother, wife, and father are either not present or obscured from sight. Whether journeying through Salvador or working in the newsroom together, the two are inseparable in their adventures. They follow one another through both comedy and tragedy.
Yet Jorge does not become a focus of the series until he disappears in Daytripper #6. It is only in this issue that Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá begin to emphasize his importance to Brás. When he disappears, Brás is cast adrift unable to focus and worried sick that his friend may be dead. His mind is so consumed by the loss of Jorge that the merest hint of his survival is enough to cast another tragic death in bright light at the conclusion of chapter six.
When chapter seven begins Jorge has been gone for five years. Despite his absence, Brás is more fulfilled than at any previous point in his life. Every previous chapter has begun by showing Brás as a man in a state of transition, unsure of himself or reevaluating at least one aspect of his life. Here he is presented as a fully formed adult, aware of who he is and what he desires. He has broken away from the drudgery of the newspaper and published a hugely successful novel in Silken Eyes. His marriage to Ana is also presented as being a portrait of contentment. Brás, who has struggled in so many previous chapters to find what he wants, has finally created the life he desired at the age of 38.
His rise is marked by Jorge’s descent. Jorge’s early appearances as a college student and young colleague mark him as a successful individual, both socially and professionally. In his final appearance in Daytripper #6 that depiction has begun to radically shift. He is shown with an unkempt beard and speaks in a less than lucid manner. Five years later and he has essentially disappeared from society. Brás has made multiple attempts to discover his friend’s whereabouts, but has failed to find him. Not only has Jorge left Brás’ life, but Jorge has legally become a missing person. As Brás has become better defined, Jorge has lost all definiton.
The issue is framed with two flashbacks to Brás and Jorge when they are young, one presented a few pages after the issue begins and one shortly before it ends. The first flashback reveals their first meeting during the fall semester of freshman year when they were both entering the world as adults for the first time. Their personalities sharply contrast one another. Jorge is everything that Brás is not: outgoing, lively, decisive. While Brás sits with his arms crossed not engaging the world, it is Jorge who extends his arms and his speech to invite him to live. The body language in their initial encounter provides all of the information necessary to understand who is helping who. It is in this scene that a character again provides the earlier quote that explains the narrative of the chapter. Jorge, when explaining his philosophy to Brás, tells him, “If it weren’t for people, life would be a desert.”
Brás journey begins in a quixotic fashion. His purpose seems impossible and his loved ones seek to dissuade him from the task. He hopes to find Jorge based on a postcard sent from far away inscribed with only a single sentence: “I can’t do it without you.” Based on so little information the task already seems impossible. Ana then implores him not to go because of Jorge’s extended absence. She points out that if Jorge wished to be part of his life, then he had ample opportunity. All logic and reason reveal the quest to be foolish in nature, yet Brás is determined to go anyway.
When Ana tries to tell Brás that Jorge has given up, his response is quick and sharp. He refuses to accept this obvious conclusion and declares that he has not given up on Jorge. It is a rare moment of defiance from Brás, who is typically passive in his interactions, a sign of newfound maturity. In this panel, he resembles his father Benedito. His face, specifically his jaw is much more sharply defined in this moment, as are his nose and eyebrows. It is as if he is shifting from being a boy cowed into following others to being a man who determines what is possible. In this panel, his father’s ghost ceases to hover above him and he is able to become the commanding figure in his own life.
He begins his travels aboard a plane surrounded entirely by people. Some passengers even approach him to speak and request autographs, recognizing him from the jacket of his novel. The plane creates a setting that is packed with people and entirely removed from the earth. Brás is symbolically placed in the very center of humanity.
After landing he arrives at a small village on the edge of the desert. This is where the transition away from humanity begins. Although various buildings help cover some of the ground and some people wander the streets, the setting is much less dense. The roads that run through the town are covered in sand and recall the desert imagery that young Jorge mentioned in college. It is in this town that Brás discovers what has happened to his friend.
A hotel waitress tells Brás of Jorge’s initial arrival and that he was initially popular in the village. He spoke with everyone and was loved by the regulars, which sounds like the man present in previous chapters. The story descends into darkness though. Jorge runs out of money and refuses to work. He is eventually forced to leave the hotel and takes up residence in an abandoned hut at the edge of town. The waitress recounts that he left the hut to wander into the desert alone. She was the person who mailed the postcard having found it in the hut.
The story of Jorge’s descent easily lends itself as an allegory to a wide variety of problems. There are elements of mental health issues, addiction, and other problems that can cause a person to remove themselves from society, unable to ask for help or accept it when offered. The cause of Jorge’s change is left purposefully unclear. Readers may project their personal experiences with friends of relatives inexplicably transformed by an outside force onto Jorge’s story here. The specific cause is unimportant when compared to its effects.
While at Jorge’s abandoned hut, the sand becomes a much more prevalent part of the setting and Brás is alone with the exception of the waitress. His journey has led him from the heart of humanity aboard the place to the edge of the desert with no one on the horizon. Rather than turn back with the knowledge of what happened to his friend, Brás chooses to head into the desert alone completing his journey away from people in order to reunite with Jorge.
His path traces Jorge’s steps across Brazil to his current whereabouts. Brás still has his life and loved ones waiting at home, but he has come to understand how Jorge has been changed. Readers have watched the same changes take place as the varied colors of life aboard the plane have been washed out and consumed by the bleak beige palette of the desert. Jorge’s comment that without people, life is a desert has been transformed from an errant observation into a terrible prophecy.
What Brás discovers in the desert is truly terrible. Jorge is unrecognizable and initially incapable of speech. Once he manages to summon words, they are oddly spaced and disconnected from the moment. Despite his clear illness and disconnect from reality, Brás refuses to give up on his friend even in this moment. He places himself in the same role Jorge filled for him in previous chapters. When Olinda left Brás and when he found himself aimless upon entering the working world, it was Jorge who stood by him and was his strength. When Jorge begins to mutilate himself, Brás attempts to stop him and is stabbed repeatedly by Jorge.
And so Brás dies once again, murdered by his best friend. It is every bit as brutal and horrible as such an act should be. The knife repeatedly makes the sound “KT” as it is used to kill both men. Jorge’s eyes become two black pinpoints devoid of any humanity. Their blood provides the only bright color in the dark desert, a bright red marking the only two lives in vast wasteland.
During the murder there is another flashback to early in Brás and Jorge’s friendship. They are seen travelling together and speaking about the future. Brás reflects on what comes next, saddened at the thought of losing the adventure they are on. Jorge balances this reverie, though, encouraging Brás to focus on the present, to enjoy what he has. It is a lesson that did not come easily to Brás, but it is one that came with time. At the age of 38, he has overcome the spectre of his father and his various fears to seize success both as a writer and husband. The man introduced at the beginning of Daytripper #7, perhaps the best possible version of Brás presented in the series so far, only exists due to Jorge’s influence.
Jorge’s importance in Brás’ life from the very first chapter until this moment reveals that friendship is every bit as integral to life as relationships with family and lovers. Although Jorge is the man who takes Brás’ life in chapter seven, he is also the man who helped give him that life. Without Jorge’s influence, Brás never learns to seek love after Olinda or finds the courage to grow beyond his father’s long shadow. In this chapter when Brás face hardens and he becomes a fully defined individual it is because of his friendship. Everything the reader has come to love or appreciate in Brás is drawn from the strength of that relationship.
At the beginning of the chapter two women approach Brás as if they are friends. Brás is not put off by the attention, but defines them as “false friends”. They have read his book, but do not know him. They have not shaped his life. No matter how many people he is surrounded by, it is his best friend that remains in his thoughts. His friend is the man who guided him through the struggles of youth and brought him to the moment where he could become the man he wished to be. Daytripper #7 reveals the incredible impact a real friend can have on our lives. Brás and Jorge are inextricably bound to one another; they provide strength when the other is weak, and refuse to leave no matter what logic may dictate.
It would be fair to say that Daytripper #7 is a story about friendship, but not entirely accurate.
Like all great friendships, it’s really a love story.
Chase Magnett is a mild-mannered finance guy by day and a raving comics fan by night. He has been reading comics for more than half of his life (all 24 years of it). After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with a degree in Economics and English, he has continued to research comics while writing articles and reviews online. Don’t ask about his favorite comic unless you’re ready to spend a day discussing dozens of different titles. You can contact Chase on Twitter @ReverendMagnett or bug him at his own blog at chasemagnett.wordpress.com.