Hello again, everyone! First of all, my deepest apologies for the unannounced hiatus from Graphic Reviews. Between life and graduate school, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and just couldn’t fit Graphic Reviews in. However, now I am finally ALMOST done with school, so I have returned! And I figured there was no better way to make that return than to talk about a comic that has all of the things I love: kickass women, swashbuckling adventure and historical mayhem! Straddling the line between Indiana Jones and Pride and Prejudice, Delilah Dirk is a series written and illustrated by Tony Cliff that originally began as a webcomic but has since been published by First Second. I’ll be reviewing the first two volumes here (Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant as well as Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling) but there is another on the way in August so keep your eyes peeled for that!
Set in the 19th century, the story begins in Turkey. When we first meet Delilah Dirk, she’s sitting in jail in Constantinople, attempting to charm her jailers into releasing her. Luckily for Delilah Dirk, and rather unluckily for the poor fellow who does end up helping her, Delilah manages to escape the jail and rob the corrupted Sultan who placed her there. Having traveled throughout Europe, Asia and even the New World, Delilah Dirk is well known for being a ne’er-do-well who somehow often manages to do the right thing, even as she’s blowing things up. Her visit to Constantinople is no exception and when the hapless Turkish Lieutenant Erdemoglu Selim accidentally helps Delilah to escape from his own employer, his own fate is tied to Delilah’s. The pair escape to her flying ship but quickly gain the attention of a local warlord. It will be up to Delilah and Selim to get out of this most recent scrape alive.
When the story picks up in the second volume, it is right in the middle of the Napoleonic War and Delilah and Selim run afoul of a British officer, Major Merrick, who accuses Delilah of spying for the French. This is immediately after Delilah was both snarky and uppity to the Major so it comes as a bit of an affront to the lady adventurer. Returning to England to clear her name, Delilah must return to the high society whirl of ballgowns and teas that she left years ago and had not exactly missed. Ever loyal, Selim follows along to a country he has only heard about in stories, to see if London lives up to its name.
Delilah Dirk is one of those stories that tosses you into the action and never slows down or looks back. Set in the 19th century, it is ostensibly historical fiction. Fiction it most certainly is. The action is so over the top that at times the history feels more like flavoring than anything else but it’s too much fun to mind that much. For those us that grew up with and loved heroes like Indiana Jones, Malcolm Reynolds and even the more recent Nathan Drake, Delilah Dirk both fits the mold and breaks it. It’s absolutely fantastic to finally see a woman adventurer with the same charismatic destructive capabilities and disregard for the consequences who goes off on crazy adventures and lives life to the fullest. The entire story is told from Selim’s point of view so you get the outsider’s perspective of Delilah Dirk. And it isn’t always pretty. Delilah is smart and capable and charming but she doesn’t always think through situations as well as she should and ends up in circumstances that are less than ideal. Again, much like Indi or any of the other action heroes. She can be a bit selfish at times and not consider the effect she has on Selim’s life but she and her Turkish partner make an excellent duo and work out their differences as well as any two friends.
One of the benefits of having a series that is written and illustrated by the same person is that it’s an absolutely perfect fit. There’s no incongruity between art and story as you sometimes get with different creators. And Tony Cliff’s art is absolutely gorgeous. The use of color is perfect, neither so much it’s distracting nor so little that it seems dull. And the landscapes are beautifully done. Above all though, Cliff is excellent at capturing the expressions of his characters. When Delilah feels concerned, she actually looks like it, not just blank faced. Delilah Dirk has some of the most convincing and appealing art that I’ve seen.
If you enjoy swashbuckling action and adventure with a bit of history thrown in, Delilah Dirk is a must-read! It prizes over-the-top action over all else, so at times the story can feel rushed, but you’ll never be bored. Delilah herself is the kind of brash action hero that I’ve been wanting for years and I loved seeing her adventures with Selim, even when she wasn’t necessarily the best kind of friend to have. For those who love adventure and kickass women, this story is well worth your time!