The thing is, I always focus on the writing. Good comic book art is important, but for me the writing comes first. So I hadn't paid all that much attention to the brothers Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba before. Oh, sure, they were the artists on Casanova, one of my all-time favorite comics, but I'd ascribed my fondness for that book to Matt Fraction, who is another of those great young writers. Surely, the artists didn't have *that* much to do with the story's greatness?
Sometimes I'm dumb.
daytripper (which just finished from Vertigo) is... well, you know how a great story makes you feel? The fascination that won't let you stop reading, but every few pages you almost feel like you're going to break into tears? Not because of manipulative writing or simple pathos, but because it is getting so deeply under your skin in the way it deals with the universal realities? This is one of those.
(I will confess, I had to pause and read an issue of Anita Blake and suchlike from time to time, just to calm myself down.)
Our hero is Bras de Olivia Domingos. He's from Brazil (as, I believe, are the writer/artists), and at the beginning of the story he is 32 years old. He's gently in love, suffering under the fame of His Father the Author, but getting by. He is working at the newspaper writing obits, but he knows that that is a job rather than a career. And at the end of the issue, he gets killed.
Next issue, he is 21, reveling in youth and life, finding love in Salvador, knowing that his entire life is ahead of him. And at the end of the issue, he gets killed.
It sounds grisly, but it's far from that. This is a meditation on love, family and why we live. And the deaths? Well, the book says it best:
"Life is like a book, son. And every book has an end. No matter how much you like that book, you will get to the last page, and it will end."Death is omnipresent in the story, but in the end, not something to be feared.
The story bounces around Bras' life: he is 11 this issue, 42 the next, 33 the one after that. There is nothing random to it, though: little nuances and throwaway lines turn into the focus of subsequent issues, and the structure is subtle but pervasive. It's a rich biography of a life that is normal yet full of joy and melancholy.
I have to admit, I can't do this one justice -- anything I can say is trite compared to the story itself. It's fantasy, but more in the sense of Gabriel Garcia Marquez than anything you usually find in comics: beautiful, affecting and so *real* it hurts.
Probably the best comic of the year, certainly the best since Phonogram. I won't be underestimating the brothers again (it's unclear how Moon and Ba split the work, and I don't much care), and I *strongly* recommend picking up the collected edition when it comes out. I expect to pick up several copies for friends...