The premise of Daytripper is fascinating. Bras de Oliva Domingos is an obituary writer. It is fitting, then, that in each issue this man, whose vocation is death, would himself meet his end. Ba & Moon have masterfully written a unified arc that is unexpectedly cut short in every episode. I can only imagine they began by writing the life of Bras, and then explored what it would have looked like had he perished in various circumstances that came to define his life.
The stories are not chronologically arranged, a detail which shines light on the grown man before considering the possibility of a much earlier demise. It is helpful to catch a glimpse of the man Bras will be before looking, for example, at his childhood.
The series itself stands, in the writers’ own words, as an honest meditation on mortality. They’ve succeeded. Daytripper raises wonderful questions as to the significance of a life, and the value of knowing the full story before casting a lasting judgment.
I can honestly say that the final two issues of the series take an interesting story and infuse it with meaning. Without them, the story would be far more tragic. These final reflections frame the authors’ efforts and make the story extraordinary. I share this, not as a spoiler, but as an encouragement to see the parts in light of the whole. In that regard, their story writing mirrors the story they wrote.
As a fair warning, the book does contain panels that are inappropriate for children. As much as I’ve grown to love the graphic novel as a medium, I sure wish folks believed they could write a real story without necessarily showing everything. It’s almost as if there’s an unwritten code in the industry that there must be at least a few nude panels, some blood, and curse words. As it turns out, humans have been blessed with a certain creativity that enables us to fill in blanks. But that’s a commentary for another day.
Ba & Moon, by varying the timing and circumstances of death, demonstrate their point, that the end casts its shadow over the minutiae of the middle. What might have seemed a tragedy in the middle becomes a mere stepping stone, and what appeared to be the best day proves to be nothing more than a dangerous snare. The final perspective is set by the instance of death. Unforeseen fatalities keep the tragedy a tragedy, and the best the best, removing the opportunity to see growth dependent upon survival.
Were the authors to lay out all of the possibilities and then choose a particular instance of death and declare, “this is how it really happened,” (something like the end of one of my favorite movies, Clue) they would have introduced an entirely different effect. In light of the proposed possibilities held within the life of Bras, this would have stirred a set of emotions and forced a particular judgment. But by merely exploring the possibilities, Ba & Moon have instead raised a number of wonderful questions on the effect of mortality and the valuable process of life.
Daytripper calls upon the reality that moment by moment our stories are being written, as are the stories of all humanity. Every encounter might be a piece of tragedy, or a slice of the best. The final determination will become clear when death enters the picture. In many ways, Daytripper awakens the sense that our limited human perspective means that we rarely (if ever) understand the purpose, effect, or alternative possibilities of any given moment. We cast our efforts, be they in love or enmity, without any substantial perspective. We inherently lack divine perspective.
As an honest meditation on mortality, the effect of death upon life is central to Daytripper. Ba & Moon offer encouragement to embrace the reality of death, without being so bold as to suggest exactly what that will look like. Instead, their engaging efforts allow you to walk away into meditations of your own.
If you are not easily offended or tempted by the more depraved panels, I would highly recommend the series. The challenge within is compelling.
A Christian Consideration
Our brains may acknowledge death, but that doesn’t mean our hearts are prepared. In reality, we fear death. Death raises questions we aren’t, by nature, excited to answer. But just because we fail to see the baby grand piano hanging by a frail thread above our heads (a la Looney Tunes), doesn’t mean it’s not there.
I am thankful for Christ. He has not only conquered death, but the fear of death as well.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself [that is, Christ] likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Death has no hold upon the Christian heart. Death has been defeate, losing its sting. The slavery of fear has been eternally broken by the Son of God who died in our place. This does not mean death is no longer a reality. Sadly, we must still face death until Jesus returns to make all things new. However, death has been put in divine perspective for the Christian. The work accomplished by Jesus has enabled the Christian to see death through God’s eyes, and to rest confident that the enemy has been defeated, that resurrection is the final reality. Resurrection and life embraced by grace through faith.
For the Christian, the consideration of death being in a state of care by the Lord Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, the concern moves as well to the life and death of others. I meet Bras every day. Men and women, created in the image of God, growing by their experiences, unwilling to face the fear of death and unaware of the hanging piano.
Even with a hint of divine perspective, though, I am incapable of fully discerning the heart condition beneath the surface. What I see as tragedy, God may be working for their glory. What I see as joy may be nothing more than the deep and dangerous snare of sin. How do we move forward in such ignorance?
Love meets the tragedy and the joy as a single facet of a much larger picture over which we have no control, and over which Jesus is Lord.
When we reach the end, I mean the REAL end, the picture will be clear. The moments will make sense. The minutiae will have had a purpose. And Jesus will be praised.
For now, I rest my ignorance at the foot of the cross, gaze upon my Savior, and go out to love.
Make no mistake, Daytripper will awaken something in your heart.
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”