De: Tales (Dark Horse Comics), by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba*
Why’d I wait?: I actually bought a copy of it when it was first released, but as a birthday gift for a friend who speaks Portuguese and had taken a few trips to Brazil to visit his friend, who happened to be a twin (like the creators of this book). But I didn’t buy a copy for myself (or read the gift copy, before or after giving it to my friend).
Why not? I don’t know, exactly.
I remember being really drawn to the cover in the shop (I like drawings of telephone poles and wires), and the nature of the art when flipping through, as it had a Paul Pope-like (Paul Papal?) vibe to it. But I’d never heard of the creators or anything about the book before, and I remember finding the title annoying. Was it a Portuguese thing? Or a lame-ass play on words, of the sort College-Aged Caleb might have made in a bad poem and thought was really clever?
Whatever the reason, I didn’t buy it at the time, and hadn’t thought much of it again until more recently.
Why now?: Having read and immensely enjoyed the first issue of the Ba-drawn The Umbrella Academy, I was eager to read more from him. The fact that De: Tales is co-created with his brother Fabio Moon, whose Casanova work with Matt Fraction has received pretty much unanimous praise online, sealed the deal.
Well?: This book contains a dozen short stories, some by one brother, some by the other, some by both of them in various capacities, and, after reading, I went back through and took great pleasure in trying to untangle who did what in the stories without credits, trying to find differences and distinguishing characteristics in the art styles and writing styles of the pair. It’s actually a lot harder than I thought it would be, especially considering they make it easier by both drawing the exact same five-page story, presented back-to-back, accentuating the little differences in their rendering and staging.
All but one seem to be set in Brazil (one is set in Paris), and each seem to feature the brothers themselves in some capacity. The Parisian adventure is presented as autobiography, and the young, male protagonists in the other stories (who are sometimes artists), bear striking resemblances to the characters in the Paris story.
Not that the book is straightforward autobio. The vignettes within may be inspired by real stories and the characters based on real people, but Ba and Moon take interesting little twists in several, a dollop of fantasy on top of the slice-of-life stuff that, ironically, makes them feel more real.
For example, in “Happy Birthday, My Friend!”, a group of young men summon their dead friend back to life for his birthday, and take him out to a bar for a night of drinking, the act of magic that got the story rolling adding deepening the emotions in the smallest gestures and most innocuous dialogue shared with the visiting friend.
In “Reflections,” the story both artists draw back to back, a young man meets a girl in a club, and retires to the bathroom to take a piss, and meets different versions of himself from different times that very same evening.
My two favorite stories are probably “Late For Coffee,” a 24-page story in which a shaggy-haired young man meets a young girl and they share an impromptu date, full of lots of dramatic, silent pauses and meaningful looks, and “Outras Palavras,” a completely wordless story which draws a simple, romantic parallelism between two characters, which gets so much mileage out of the male character’s smile on the last page it’s unbelievable how much story power Moon packs into a simple series of images.
Most of the tales deal with romance on some level, and all have a lived-in, comfortable feel to them. Whoever’s drawing whichever story, they all boast a stark black and white color scheme, with no shading or grays, giving all the panels a lot of visual punch and accentuating the fact that they’re drawings, rather than trying to fool the eye into thinking it’s looking at real life (if that makes sense).
Would I travel back in time to the Wednesday of release and buy a copy for myself off the shelf?: I think so, if only to have gotten on the Moon/Ba bandwagon a little earlier, and thus not have slept on Casanova.
For more of their work, check out their website, 10paezinhos.com.br. You can read most of the first story in the collection here. (Note: I think that first story, despite it’s fun ending, which you can’t read on the site, is probably the weakest in the volume, so, if you hate it, don’t judge the rest of the book on it).
*The “a” in “Fabio” and the “a” in “Ba” have accents over them, but I can’t figure out how to make them. So I guess I’ve misspelled the artists’ names throughout this entire post. Sorry about that.