Welcome to Comics Bulletin’s team review of Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s Daytripper. This is the eleventh 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 Paul Brian McCoy’s look at Chapter Nine of Daytripper, titled “dream”, here.
Read our Postmortem on the series here.
Today Daniel Elkin looks at Chapter Ten of Daytripper, titled “76”.
“Did you have enough? Are you satisfied?”
Life is a feast upon which we gorge, taking only the smallest bites if we are timid, ravenously if we are unafraid, all the while filling the void, marking our time, hoping that what we devour is good for us in some way, that this meal is worthy of our taste. At its end, are we sated with all that we’ve ingested? Do we want that one last bite by the end of our hovering fork right before the waiter takes our plate and leaves the bill.
Chapter 10 of Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon’s Daytripper is the final issue of the series, seventy-six years of Bras de Oliva Domingos’ life have passed and he is facing his final death, the conceit which had been punctuating the continuity of his life throughout this narrative now draws its final panel. Here, finally, one can say that his has been a life lived fully, to its natural conclusion. Bras has supped deep from the menu and can push back his chair. The question, “What are the most important days of your life?” can now finally be answered as all of the days have a full accounting.
No more truncation. No more dramatic stops on the verge of becoming. Bras has spanned large and can now look behind him to understand where he has been.
His entire journey, finally, he realizes has been headed home. “It’s where he can rest. Where he finds peace.”
Chapter 10 begins, of course, seventy-six years ago, with the miracle of birth; his birth being part of the family myth – the blackout and “The Little Miracle” – “People have always believed in miracles.” Through an amazing nine-panel transition of complete darkness that blankets the second and third pages of this issue, Ba and Moon transition us from the moment of birth to the moment of death. We come from the darkness, only to return to its embrace – what we have in the middle shines a brief candle.
The present time of this final story begins with Bras facing an enormous wall of images of his brain, MRI portraits of the nest of his soul wherein all his memories reside. And there in these backlit photos are masses, tumors or metastases – cancer. Brain cancer. What once was surely a death sentence is, now, through advances in medicine, treatable to stave off for a time but, as Lou Reed noted in his song The Sword of Damocles, “… radiation kills both bad and good / it can not differentiate / so to cure you they must kill you / the Sword of Damocles hangs above your head”. At seventy-six, Bras doesn’t want to end his days suffering through “another treatment” – instead he just wants “to go home.”
He descends in an elevator, smiles at a child, boards a train and reflects, finally, on what he has discovered about life. What is important, Bras realizes, is finding your rhythm through the courses, the table at which you sit as you feast, the setting to aid your digestion – your home. “Not a physical place at all, but a group of elements like the people you live with – a feeling, a state of mind.”
There among the hummingbird feeders, the bamboo chimes, the koi wind socks, the palms, there is his home. Here is his wife, Ana, who has helped define who he is. Their watches beep simultaneously as they come together – they are synchronized – time has enmeshed them down to the very second.
Of course, the watch alarm is to remind Bras that it is time to take his medication. That Ana has her watch set to this moment as well is a beautiful piece of subtlety – speaking volumes about their relationship – she is caregiver, mother, nurse – her concern for her husband is paramount, equal. There in her garden she marks time by tending to the needs of those she loves, and in that, sustains them and sustains herself. It’s a beautiful moment that speaks to comic craft, to the skillfulness of the creators.
Guided thus, we see the complexity of the rapport between Bras and Ana after so many years, and we understand their devotion and love for one another. It is at this moment that he tells her he is done with treatments. And then this:
Once again it is the silent moments that move in this book. Once again it is the eyes that speak the words for which we have no lexicon. Bras and Ana: here then is home. After all the journeys and the worries, the searching and striving: here then is home.
“Did you have enough? Are you satisfied?”
Now comes the time of reflection. Bras envisions the ghost of his father, Benedito, smoking by the tree. The father looks over his shoulder, looking back at Bras, still passive in affect, still judging in the way the ghosts of fathers do to their sons (“Do not forget. This visitation is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose,” says the Ghost of Hamlet’s father), as Miguel, Bras’ son all grown up now with children of his own asks him,“Did you have enough? Are you satisfied?” The question resonates, given the context and the enormity of the decisions being made, but his answer, too, says so much. Bras tells him yes, of course he wants more coffee, because remember there, back in Chapter 3, right before he first laid eyes on Ana, when he thinks “there’s always peace in a strong cup of coffee.”
Here at the end, what are the most important days of your life?
Home. Family. “It’s who we are.”
Miguel and his family have moved into Bras’ childhood home, and Miguel’s son has ensconced himself in Bras’ old room. In the process of cleaning out Benedito’s old studio (“he always kept that side door locked”), Miguel finds an envelope inside of Benedito’s copy of Bras’ first novel, Silken Eyes. It is a letter from a father to a son, left on the day the father died, left on the day the son becomes a father, left within the pages of the book the son wrote to be more like the father. It is found by a son, addressed to his father. It spins drunkenly round on this paternal/filial axis, gathering momentum in the moment and, after Miguel leaves his parents standing by the side door holding hands as the sun sets behind them, it becomes the narrative focus for the rest of the issue.
As is fitting for a book about fathers and sons and home.
“You’re holding this letter now because this is the most important day of your life. You’re about to have your first child.”
And so it revolves. Bras has to read the letter in silence, meditatively at the beach. These are the words he has been longing to hear: “the big secret … the miracle.”
Here at the beach, all the previous moments in Daytripper flood back as motifs. Symbols of past moments wash over the panels like the effluvium of waves. The kites, the sunset, the sea itself all point backwards as Benedito’s words look forward, written though they were in the past. Late that night, Bras goes back to the beach alone under the huge night full of stars. He lights candles in the sand, evoking the celebration of Iemanja, the Orixa, the spirit of the waters, the goddess of the sea, the focus of Chapter 2, and Bras’ meeting with Olinda.
On the beach this night, here at the end, Bras carries with him the same three red flowers that he brought to Olinda on the night of the gift giving, the offering so that wishes may come true. Now, instead of carrying them in his left hand as he did fifty-five years ago, he holds them in his right as he walks to the edge of the sea.
He throws them into the water as an offering. He looks up and sees a shooting star. It’s all there, here at the end. The miracle. “Only when you accept that one day you’ll die can you let go … and make the best out of life.”
The journey is complete. Life is fleeting, you ground yourself by taking on the responsibilities of caring, of giving yourself to others. It’s in your smile. It’s in your eyes. Though you stand alone in the vastness of the where the endless ocean meets the eternity of the heavens, you are still home.
What are the most important days of your life? All of them, as long as you understand their significance. You separate yourself from the burden of existence and individualism when you find the place that gives you peace. Home.
What Bas and Moon seem to want you to understand is that peace can be found anywhere as long as you have someone to share it with. Your father may burden you with expectations, but he does so out of hope and out of love. You meet people and connect and in that you share your humanity, find solace in the journey, gain companions to make sense of experience. Then you find love – and in that you can never be alone because in love you emanate that which is best in you; in love you become soft in the hard places you carry within; in love you are washed in the river of solace and ravishment and are baptized, reborn; in love your thoughts begin to escape the bars of the prison of isolation.
And then there is the highest love, that of a parent for a child, and here you lose the primacy of ego:
“This baby is the new master of your life.”
“You’ll surrender your life to him … so when he finally rows older, he won’t need you.”
It’s all significant. It’s all important. It’s out there in the unknown. It’s beneath your feet. It’s behind you. It’s in front of you.
Let the feast begin.
Daniel Elkin trips over all sorts of things during the usual course of his day. You can find him on twitter @DanielElkin blithely missing the point.