Saturday, August 6, 2011


            Take a second right now and think of the most important day of your life.  Was it the day you had your first kiss?  Was it the day you met the person you would later marry?  Daytripper takes a man’s life and takes it down into these days.  You skip between him at 37, him at 21, each of these moments being one of the most important of his life.  And in 10 issues, it creates one of the greatest books Vertigo has put out, period.
            Brás de Oliva Domingos is an obituary writer for a Brazilian newspaper.  He has problems living up to his father’s legacy as a writer, and doesn’t seem to be making the mark on the world that he wants to.  But really, his life is fairly normal.  Besides the unfortunate fact that, at the end of every chapter, he dies.  He dies on his 37th birthday.  He dies at 21, after meeting his first girlfriend.  He dies at 11, after his first kiss.  At the end of the next chapter, no matter when it is in time, he’s back and he’s fine.  It’s the perfect little fantastic twist that makes the book really good because of how nuanced this twist alone is.  There’ll probably be some questions early on, like why this keeps happening, a hook to keep reading.  Eventually, there might even be a guess about how he’s going to die this time.  But the writer makes sure the concept doesn’t ruin the book.  It’s not done for shock value.  You don’t even see him die in most cases.  You’re given an obituary, a reminder of how his life ended this time.  Not in the physical sense, but the state of his life.
           Because that’s really the point of the book.  It’s not about how you die or when you die.  It could be anytime, anyway, and it could be very unexpected.  It’s about how you lived your life.  It’s the brightness in a book that deals with a very dark concept.  Nobody wants to face their own mortality head-on, but the book asks you to, in a very polite way.  Brás is such a sympathetic character that you like him easily, and so you can feel not just for when he dies, but for the really important moments of your death.  His job as an obituary writer isn’t to just say how people died, it’s to say how they lived, a reflection of the themes of the book as a whole.
            Vertigo’s books, from my experience, tend to be either pure fantasy or realism so dark and gritty that there’s little hope to be found.  Daytripper gives you realism that doesn’t get dragged down.  It lifts itself up, deals with a heavy topic in a way that’s easy to digest, but still hits your heartstrings.  It hits life on an emotional level.  It’s an instant classic and a must-read.

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