Brás de Oliva Domingos, the protagonist of “Daytripper,” doesn’t appear in this issue and it’s the best so far. Instead of focusing on an event in Brás’ life, Moon and Bá focus on events where he’s absent. His lack of presence being his presence. While he’s never shown on panel, he’s felt throughout the entire issue as his wife, Ana, and son, Miguel, miss him while he’s doing a book tour. It’s a heartfelt issue and, if you’ve read “Daytripper” so far, you know how it’s going to end, but that doesn’t stop you from getting sucked in and feeling the hurt and heartbreak on that final page. That Moon and Bá can elicit such a strong reaction is an amazing and wondrous thing.
Part of what makes the issue so powerful is how Moon and Bá focus on the small moments. Beginning with the narration, “As far as his memory would reach, Miguel can remember his father reading bedtime stories to him,” the initial scene has Ana reading a letter from Brás to his son, telling a story. It’s such a touching moment made better by the broad, evocative brush strokes of Moon’s art. The tenderness in Ana’s face as she reads to her son or the contented, peaceful look on Miguel’s face as he’s fallen asleep to his father’s words before Ana goes to bed, the other side of the bed noticeably absent, so much of the emotion and story is told through the art.
Much of the issue is just day-to-day events in Ana and Miguel’s lives. Going to work, to school, to grandma’s, the typical things that a mother and son do with their days, but the overwhelming nature of Brás’ presence and the knowledge of how every issue of “Daytripper” has ended to date grant these days a larger importance. As does a key scene where Brás is compared to his dead father as Ana and Brás’ mother discuss the presence of both men, especially how Brás is a reminder of his father. Here, Moon and Bá also drive home the idea that Brás has become his father in many ways, but is different in a few key ones. His attentiveness and desire to be in contact with his wife and son being the largest. The issue is an almost never-ending stream of notes, letters, texts, e-mails, and phone calls from Brás. His presence is large.
I don’t know how Fábio Moon draws people so well. There’s a tender, soft quality to his people. His art is so expressive and purposeful in what and how it presents itself. It’s not afraid to linger on people or places, to move silently through the world. It’s hard to not see Brás as a child in Miguel, but there are subtle differences as Moon blends Brás and Ana in their child, her features diluting those that we’re more familiar with.
My favorite page of art has to be where Ana goes to pick up Miguel during a heavy storm and slips in the water. It’s great physical work, but Moon does great facial expressions and the panels flow effortlessly to the final one where Miguel stands alone, small, looking at his mother.
“Daytripper” is a comic that’s surprised me. I knew that Moon and Bá working on a book together would be great, I just didn’t expect this level of poetry and humanity, the sort of comic that can break my heart with its final words even if I see them coming. This is a masterpiece and we’re all lucky to be here as it comes out one issue at a time, month after month.