Cliffhanger Endings & Ba & Moon's Daytripper

Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of the comic book storytelling form is the cliffhanger ending. While it was once comics' bread and butter and indeed, still packs a fun wallop when you read Golden, Silver, and even Bronze Age comics, even in collected form--meaning, even when the cliffhanger is immediately resolved--it's simply schtick when dropped into the deeply knowing, all-encompassing irony of the contemporary comics world. Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth would be one recent example, where each and every issue ends on a "Oh man, what will come from this?" revelation. It's grown tired. Once the deer girl showed up, I wasn't even interested in where it was going to go.

And so, it's all the more impressive that Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon's new mini-series Daytripper ends with the ultimate cliffhanger--the murder of the main character--and doesn't leave you cold and annoyed by the calculation of the guys behind the comic. We'll see how this all turns out, but it seems that what Daytripper's gonna do in the next nine issues, is bounce around to bits and pieces of the main character's life in some attempt to have us understand and empathize with Bras de Olivia Domingos, obituary writer, aspiring "real" writer, and yeah, on the final page of the comic, victim of a gunshot during a robbery.

This ending is also less cheap, less schticky than most because it's a comic book about causality and random-ness and so, there's nothing contrived about the odd shift the comic takes on its last page. The reader has been following Bras since the morning and well, this is how his evening played-out. It's "unexpected", it's odd, it's abnormal, but that's the whole point! Ba and Moon tease readers not with "How will Bras get out of this one?" or wow, "my understanding of [insert wonky comics universe here] has been totally flipped upside down" but with, "what new deeply personal pieces of information and experience will I glean from the next issue of Daytripper?" It's about mortality and the whole "one day you're here and then you're gone" contingencies that we just try to ignore most of the time because if we didn't ignore them, we'd go insane or just off ourselves.

And so, all the stuff slyly crammed in between the casual, rolling narrative of Daytripper--his relationship with his father and mother, his father's fame, is rather thinly-sketched out girlfriend--will slowly poke out here and there, in each issue. The cliffhanger still hangs on our desire for "facts" and "closure" and all that and it additionally hangs-on our natural desire for dirt/gossip on people, but all for the noble purpose of explaining a person as best one can and exercising our empathy/sympathy muscles...a noble goal for comic books.


Sean T. Collins said...

The way the 21-pages-plus-cliffhanger structure undermines the otherwise lovely art and compelling ideas of these two series is a real argument against that format, you're totally right. (I'm not quite as sold on Daytripper #1's ending as you--I think it was the weakest part of the book by far.)

brandon said...

I kinda agree it's weak at the same time as seeing the potential it might have for the series.

I sorta wish he were just hit by a car or something, you know? It's too much.

That said, it may just work out and I'm kinda hoping it does...

samuel rules said...

A strange thing about these kinds of cliffhanger endings, in the case of ALL comics, is that it's why a lot of people read comics in TPBs and not issue to issue. They feel like the story is more well put together when they can grasp it all at once, and some writers (specifically Millar) seem to write for this effect. Movies don't work this way, and even "regular" books have chapter breaks. I'll never get it.

I remember you dropping the Sword for this reason, especially since the next issue's cover was on the back of each book. I sorta think with Sweet Tooth it's kept me interested in something I didn't care about, and the issue after the rabbit girl is pretty good.

I sorta hope #2 doesn't start with the nephew killing himself or Bras just barely dodging the bullet or something.

Vee (Scratch) said...

Just a thought, why does death have to be an ending?

Many people have larger lives after death. Bras' death may be the beginning of something new.