This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on July 17, 2014 as part 4 of a 12 part series.
Welcome to Comics Bulletin’s team review of Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s <em”>Daytripper. This is the first 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 look at Chapter Two of Daytripper, titled “21” here.
Today Chase Magnett looks at Chapter Three of Daytripper, titled “28”.
“Each day we watch as our city turns into a desert, one in which we are all lost looking for that oasis we like to call love.”
Benedito, Brás’ father, presents this idea to an auditorium after the opening sequence of Daytripper #3. The people filling the auditorium reflect the audience reading the comic. His speech serves as the central metaphor for the entire issue, relating to each moment and capturing all of the beauty and pain presented in twenty-two pages.
This metaphor does not present the truth of love. It does not address the work necessary to maintain a romance, nor does it address love as a long-term commitment, one that is constantly evolving. What it does reflect is how we perceive love. By focusing on the singular moments, it presents the romanticized notion of love that is often presented when couples are asked cliche questions like “how did you meet?” or “when did you know they were ‘the one’?”. These are the sorts of stories that often define love, whether or not they reflect the full truth of a relationship and all it entails. The oasis in Benedito’s story is the moment that comes to mind when someone attempts to summarize a relationship so significant and impactful that it can define a life.
Daytripper #3 hinges on two central moments that are reflected in every interaction and sequence throughout the rest of the issue. Like the ripples from a stone thrown into a pool of water, these brief moments manage to affect everything that surrounds them even after they are out of sight. The first marks the end of a relationship defined by intense pain, the second is associated with hope, even if it is ended by a tragic irony.
The first moment is summarized in the third panel of the issue when Olinda shouts at Brás, “I hate you – you piece of shit!” It’s a cruel thing to say, especially in the context of ending a seven-year-long relationship. It becomes the moment that defines the relationship for Brás. And no matter how much built up to that moment or what was said afterward, it is only that instant which is left. Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá present the issue from Brás’ perspective. Placing that moment at the front of the issue places it at the forefront of his mind as well. The story is not told in entirely chronological order, but in order of importance and it is this moment that defines his perspective. Even when flashing back to the fight in greater detail later, those same words are what connect the present to the past, defining Brás’. It is the moment that leaves Brás to question the value of love. He is left alone to ask: “You think it’s for good, for life, forever… and for what?”
Moon and Bá focus on how this moment defines Brás’ life, rather than on the moment itself. Only ten panels feature Olinda, but almost every other panel in the issue features her presence as defined by her absence and its effects on Brás. Immediately following her departure, Moon and Bá construct a beautiful visual metaphor for Brás’ emotional state. On page three a series of four narrow panels reveal Brás and his vision. Only able to focus on a piece of Olinda’s abandoned clothing, both Brás and the panties are captured in this sequence with no background to interact with. The panel below is much wider and reveals the entire apartment and the sliding windows that open to the outside world. However, Brás is still trapped as he is framed by the doorway to the kitchen in exact proportion to the panels above it. The revelation is startling. The world has not changed, but Brás view of it has. It may still be open and full of opportunity, but he has become a prisoner to his own emotional pain, unable to look outside.
Dave Stewart’s colors provide a visual dynamic that supports this idea as well. For the first thirteen pages of the book, the only panels to contain warm colors are those featuring Olinda. Although they focus on her leaving Brás, it is still apparent that she was the source of joy and love in his life. Her absence is felt as the absence of warmth from the pages. Whether it is in the auditorium, at work, or in the gallery showing, pale blues, violets, and whites construct a cold world. Throughout Daytripper #3 the only panels to feature any warmth are those where Brás is in the presence of someone he loves.
After this intense private display of emotion, Moon and Bá provide a wider lens to Brás’ emotions through the arts, specifically prose and painting. Benedito’s speech provides a central metaphor for Daytripper #3. He explains the world in very bleak terms, comparing a city to a desert and people to grains of sand that others are incapable of holding onto. It constructs a lonely picture of existence that echoes Brás isolation on page three. Then he raises the idea of an oasis, of finding someone who will take away the pain of solitude. In stark contrast to the desolate imagery of the desert, the oasis is an Eden-like heaven, so is love in comparison to normal existence. This metaphor pivots on the moment in which someone is able to discover the oasis. People continue to exist whether they are in the desert or out of it, but the moment of discovery is important because of the incredible change it creates.
Benedito reinforces the romantic notion of a defining moment when he repeats to Brás a story about him and his wife, Aurora. His parable fills page five and ends on a rare display of tenderness from Benedito. Throughout Daytripper Benedito is characterized by hard lines and the obscuring of his eyes. To Brás he is often unknowable and unreachable. In the final panel though, Moon and Bá soften the lines of his face and reveal his eyes, pointing them out toward the reader. He is humanized by the story he shares and his reaction to telling it.In spite of his presentation as an absent father and philanderer in later issues, Benedito’s marriage to Aurora is a constant in Daytripper. However flawed Benedito may be, his relationship with Aurora notably improves his character and provides rare moments like this where he is capable of acting as a father to Brás. His analysis and response provide further evidence to the romantic notion of how single moments can define a life.
In addition to his father’s work, Brás also reflects on the work of painter Schlomo Lerner. Schlomo is the first character to appear in Daytripper, featured in an obituary written by Brás. He is an artist renowned as much for his skill as the pattern on which it is focused. He paints a single portrait of every woman he loves, but names all of them Lola. The reasons behind this choice are as mysterious to the characters in Daytripper as they are to the reader. Whether Lola was a deceased companion, an unrequited love, or only an idea in Schlomo’s mind is never revealed. The lack of detail creates something of a Rorschach test for readers to fill in, where they are encouraged to complete the story and draw their own conclusions.
Brás focuses on the continual use of the name Lola in all of Schlomo’s paintings. He perceives this to be a lesson that no matter how many lovers he may find, there will always be one that is on his mind. His obsession with Olinda’s departure and the moment where she left continues to define his world view. Alternative reasons for the use of the name Lola never enter Brás’ mind and he is shown to be looking past the beauty in the art that surrounds him.
Yet the breadth of Schlomo’s work (274 paintings of 274 women) suggests a different story as well. Each of the individual paintings captures a single moment, one that compelled the painter to capture it and profess his love for an individual. The moment that defines Brás in the first half of this comic is singular, yet he stands before the work of a man defined by hundreds of such moments. These moments are incredibly powerful, capable of creating great works of art, yet they are also not entirely unique. The concept that a person can only love one individual or only experience one defining moment of love is disproven by the paintings on every wall of this sequence.Brás is incapable of recognizing that lesson in Schlomo’s work; he needs someone worth painting to do so, a Lola of his own.
After having so thoroughly explored Brás’ state of mind, Moon and Bá opt to create a one-year break in time rather than continue to follow his recovery. Three words, “A Year Later…” provide enough reference to understand that even if Brás is still affected by Olinda’s departure that he has had ample time to heal. Although he is still shown to be morose, comparing his soul to the dark and bitter character of coffee, it is not inconceivable for him to experience something new. It’s an important and believable piece of shorthand, necessary for connecting the two moments which this story revolves around.
There are other clues that life has changed for Brás as well. Stewart’s colors mark that the world is a figuratively warmer place than in the previous sequences. For the first time since Olinda’s disappearance the page is graced by a sense of warmth. In the cafe, lime greens and sea blues return to an orange background. After an extended absence, the warmth in these panels radically shifts the tone of the comic. This is no accident.
The comic changes in a significant way when Brás first sees Ana. Everything leading to this moment is thoroughly analyzed, whether it be through the thoughts or depiction of Brás, Benedito’s speech, Schlomo’s paintings, or the advice of Brás’ friends and families. Everything after Olinda leaves him in one terrible moment has been explained and examined. Yet when Brás and Ana first lay eyes upon one another, only a single word is left on the page: “Heart”.
That page is allowed to breathe because it is the core of the comic, the thesis which all of Daytripper #3 has been building to, the moment. The top and bottom rows of panels frame the exact moment when Brás and Ana make eye contact. In panels one and four she is looking at her shopping. In the middle row they are looking out directly towards the reader. This is perceived as seeing one another, but also functions to add the reader as a third party to this moment. They are placed in the shoes of both characters to recognize that the other is staring back. In the act of closure, they connect Brás and Ana for the first time and experience that moment with them.
When Brás steps out of the shop and returns to the outside world, the color palette shifts back to the pale blues and violets of the previous year in the form a cold grey city with overcast skies. The store with Ana inside of it is bordered on both sides by cold, unfeeling pages. It is shown to be an oasis in the solitude represented by Johnson’s cool colors. Both Brás and the reader are able to recognize after he leaves the store that he has discovered something truly special. The final sequence of the comic is Benedito’s parable of the desert and oasis illustrated
Daytripper #3 is not only about the nature of love and how we perceive it, but also the value of seeking it. The dramatic changes brought about by Ana’s introduction reveal the power one person can have upon another. It is not only the change in Brás’ attitude and his willingness to engage with the world once more, but in the look of the comic as a whole. The change of Stewart’s colors and shift from pages filled with panels and prose to ones where only a few pictures are allowed to carry the story forward all enhance the impact of the single moment when Brás and Ana see one another.
Brás death as he runs back to find Ana feels like a cruel joke at first. Only as he is preparing to start his life anew and rediscover the warmth that he had been without is he killed. The panel in which he is killed is almost entirely colored in red. It portrays the violence of his death, but also speaks to something more powerful. As he is running, Brás feels more alive than he has throughout all of Daytripper #3. He is happy in a way that he previously professed he thought was impossible. Although he is killed, at the moment of his death he is filled with passion. The red that fills his final moment can be perceived as representing violence, but can also be seen as the vigor of life reignited in Brás.
The obituary on the final page is laced with dramatic irony. It states that Brás was searching for love, yet those of us reading the comic know that he already found it. There was, and in later issues is, so much more potential to come, but the important part of Daytripper #3 is that Brás found the moment he had been seeking. He found love.
That’s the thesis Daytripper #3 is constructed around, the romantic notion of the oasis. It is filled with oases in the paintings of Scholomo Lerner and the stories of Benedito de Olivia Domingos. Even in Brás’s suffering, the concept of the oasis is defined by its absence. All of this leads to the final pages in which Brás discovers an oasis, a perfect moment when he could find love. The idea of that moment is treated as so rare and precious that when it happens no words are needed to describe it. The connection of two sets of eyes is enough to transform the world from a cold and uncaring place to one worth living in. Moon and Bá tell a deeply romantic story about the value of love.
The truth of Daytripper #3 is not that certain moments are worth dying for; it’s that those moments foster the value of living.