Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba are two of the best artists working in the industry today. Their work with Matt Fraction on “Casanova” catapulted that series onto my “Best Comics of the Decade List” (which won’t be announced for a couple of weeks, so consider this a sneak preview), and Dave Stewart is the best colorist working in comics. Period.
But “Daytripper” isn’t the kind of explosive start to a series that you might expect from any of them. Sure, if you’ve read Dark Horse’s collection of some of their Brazilian stories, “De: Tales,” then you might be accustomed to Moon and Ba’s leisurely, naturalistic storytelling style, when they are in control of the writing. Still, the first issue of “Daytripper” is anchored by a single great visual — the protagonist, Bras, at a bar in a tuxedo, blood splattered across his chest like paint — and that’s about it. It doesn’t so much reach for thematic connections between fathers and sons, between life and death, as it does splatter those themes across its surface.
The subtext is the text here. And because of that, it feels thin.
Maybe there’s more going on here that we can’t quite see in the context of this single issue. Nine more will follow, and based on the publicity Moon and Ba have done for this series (even within this very issue), it seems as if the protagonist in “Daytripper” #1 is a character we will come to know more about as the series unfolds.
The ending of the first issue would cause us to expect otherwise.
So is this going to become a series with a dose of magical realism? Is this a series about an unreliable narrator? Is this a series in which time will flow backwards instead of forwards?
It’s impossible to tell after this first installment, and that’s problematic, because while the story has a pleasing literary bent (Bras is a writer and has a strong narrative voice presented through captions), and the artistry is there on every page, there seems to be too little here to compel further reader. Unlike pretty much every Vertigo series in recent memory, there’s no hook at the end. If anything, the finale seems to make this first issue feel self-contained.
Yet, I expect that the ending is not what it seems, that the story is not what it seems.
But right now, that’s based more on faith than actual evidence.