Exploring the World with Delilah Dirk

For some reason, I tend to have odd situations with picking up comics. Delilah Dirk isn’t so much odd, but rather an amusing case of serendipity.

A colleague of mine was lamenting the fact she didn’t know too many female superheroes that were “properly dressed” and “properly proportioned,” so she turned to me, the resident geek. While I didn’t have a long list at the get-go, I do my job well: if I don’t know it, I’ll find it.

I stumbled on Delilah Dirk during this search, and strongly suggested it after reading the first 80 pages online. My colleague didn’t take all of my advice, but she did take this one, and I couldn’t have been happier about it.

After my recent move, I learned of the second volume being released. Of course I couldn’t miss this opportunity, so I hopped on the waiting list (it was surprisingly popular) and began to wait.

Now that both are in hand, I can give a bit of a review for you. I won’t review them individually, but rather as one post, solely because of the short length of Volume 1 (only 180 pages) and the understanding of the characters needed for Volume 2 (which weighs in at 260 pages).

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Both volumes, in hand. Time to read!

==The Pitch==

I’m not sure what the official pitch was for Delilah Dirk, but “Globe-Trotting Troublemaker in the early 1800s” definitely fits. The story follows Delilah, a half-Greek, half-English “International Mistress of Swordsmanship” that cannot be held by a prison and owns a flying boat, and her new comrade Selim, a Turkish Janissary that makes the finest tea in all of Europe, on some of their (mis)adventures. The first book starts us off in Constantinople (Istanbul), while the second book is Delilah’s return to England.

==What You Get==

What you’ll get in Delilah Dirk is a thought out pair of adventures. There’s wit, there’s humor, there’s plenty of action, and a nose snub aimed at societal norms and expectations. The adventures are comical and break the mold of expected endings, so there’s few lulls of knowing what’ll happen next.

I’ll admit that I am being vague, but I really don’t want to give anything major of the story away. There’s great storytelling here, and I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you if you pick it up.

==The Good==

The stories themselves are interesting to say the least. Delilah is not a dull woman, and the things she does are far from humdrum. Even going to a fancy party is full of adventure and suspense with her around, and there’s something to be said about a flying boat. Sure, it sounds like something right out of Baron Munchausen, but it’s right there, and it’s great.

Now how do I land this bloody thing. . .

The art is crisp and doesn’t feel like it is borrowed from anyone’s particular style. So many graphic novel artists seem to be inspired or borrow art from others, which is great, but some overdo it and don’t make the work their own. Not so much of an issue in Delilah Dirk. Nothing in the artwork feels canned, recycled from someone else, or feels unimportant. Even on my second read-through of the first volume, I was finding things that I had missed previously.

I do love that this doesn’t have your typical love story. So many stories have a female lead that’s only focus (besides moving the plot ahead) is to marry someone. Delilah throws all of that (and more!) back into the eyes of society and treks out to do her own thing. Sure, there’s a strong friendship here (which could lead to more, of course), but the entire story is propelled by Delilah’s drive and Selim’s support.

==The Bad==

One of the biggest issues I have with Delilah Dirk is the pacing. In both novels, it feels as though we jump more often than not without a proper bit of exposition. Some of it is hand-wave gloss-over type situations, but others are a bit jarring. They don’t necessarily ruin the story, but they do make it feel a bit wonky. Mostly, it feels like a detail was missing somewhere and now we’re trying to decide what is going on.

While the art tends to be crisp, there are some elements that are odd, especially in the faces. I don’t know why, but there are some points I had to do a double-take to ensure that the character was really that character. This is especially true on the cover of the second book, and it crops up from time to time throughout the two books.

While not necessarily bad (some may even find it refreshing), Cliff does stray from “traditional” elements of comics/graphic novels, specifically in the use of sound effects. Not bad, but some may find it a bit disconcerting at first.

==The Verdict==

Delilah Dirk is a refreshingly strong female character. While she’s no Kamala Khan with regards to power or diversity, she is still a character that can take care of herself, is a strong fighter, isn’t afraid of danger or adventure, dressed appropriately, and can still be a “proper lady” when the time calls for it. That’s a pretty solid rolemodel for all young ladies regardless of background. At least, that’s my opinion on that matter.

Even with the faults, the series is well worth the read for anyone. There’s plenty of comedy, the art style does a decent job of bringing the characters to life, and the stories themselves are interesting.

Rating 4 Stars

In the end, I’d give it 4 buns. It’s not perfect due to the few faults that may grate on people’s nerves, and it may only be of interest to certain readers, but there’s literally something for everybody in each of these volumes. Trust me: pick it up, give it a read, and tell someone about it.

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Liutenant (Volume 1) and Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling (Volume 2) by Tony Cliff can be acquired at just about any book seller. The official Delilah Dirk website not only has previews of these two books, but also offers a third story not in this review (because I didn’t read it yet): Delilah Dirk and the Seeds of Good Fortune.

If you are looking for a leisurely read with great storytelling elements, a fully-clothed female character that doesn’t mind shaking the system society has in place, and a good buddy-travel dynamic that doesn’t revolve around the idea of sex, you should pick this up. You won’t be disappointed. If this doesn’t sound like fun to you, then move along to something else; there’s plenty out there, after all!

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