Fàbio Moon & Gabriel Bà, Daytripper (Vertigo, 2011)
This is the last of the comics I was given at Christmas. It’s another beautifully compressed gem I’ve read in counterpoint to Frank Moorhouse’s slow Cold Light. Its hero is a newspaper obituary writer, and – skip the rest of this paragraph if you hate spoilers – each of the 10 original comics collated here tells a different story of his death, each occurring at a different age, and each ending with a paragraph or two from his obit.
Bà and Moon are described in the blurbs as twin brothers from Brazil, and though I couldn’t find an acknowledgement that the book was first published in Portuguese, it is set in Brazil, and it has a Latin-American magic realist feel to it – not fantasy as such but a way of seeing the actual world as magical. The art is beautiful without pretending to be other than comic-book art. The cumulative effect of the narrative(s) is a profound meditation on the fragility of life – or not so much the fragility as the conditionality: we all knowingly or unknowingly have frequent brushes with death, so the life we have now is something of a miracle.
The book isn’t perfect. In the final section, these two young men try for a vision of acceptance of death by an old man, and (in my not-yet-as-old-as-the-protagonist opinion) manage only a romantic empty gesture. So according to Randall Jarrell’s definition of a novel as ‘a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it’, this is a graphic novel. It’s an excellent one.
Fàbio Moon & Gabriel Bà have a blog in English.