Friday, January 31, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #31: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff

I've written extensively about what I think of as the Flight school of modern cartooning: those creators, usually connected to animation themselves, who make gorgeous stories that are aggressively all-ages and sunny, often with life-lessons attached. [1] I don't dislike that school, exactly, but they tend to run together in their sunny can-do-ism and chirpy let's-have-an-adventure! tone.

Tony Cliff's first graphic novel, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, is firmly in that tradition: if I was feeling cruel, I might say that it aspires to the qualities of a '90s Don Bluth movie. No emotion can be greater -- in any definition of that word -- than true friendship, our heroes will fall off buildings at every turn without getting more than a few picturesque scratches, and their vaguely scoundrelish nature will always be harnessed into causes people in the early 21st century know to be true and right.

Delilah Dirk is the usual sort of wish-fulfillment heroine of a book like this: utterly anachronistic to begin with, not just in being a woman adventurer in the very early 19th century, but in the kind of adventurer she is, and accomplished in more things than even Doc Savage himself -- and possessing at least one gadget the Bronze One would covet, too. Her sidekick, that "Turkish Lieutenant," is Erdemoglu Selim, a Janissary for the Turkish sultan when they first meet cute, but soon on the run with Dirk and caught up in her plots. (Which don't add up to a whole lot, here: she breaks out of prison, steals from a pirate, and runs away.)

The main plot of this book is essentially the bromance -- seriously, that's the best word, since there's never a hint of sex in books like this -- between Dirk and Selim, so that the latter realizes he was a born sidekick and hitches his star to Dirk's forevermore. If either of them had a moment of emotion that wasn't designed to be a positive role model to under-8s, I might have liked this book better. As it is, I kept wishing I was reading another one of Chris Schweizer's "Crogan" books, which are also appropriate for younger readers but give a wider view of life.

Delilah Dirk looks gorgeous, moves at high speed, never fails to entertain, and can be given to your infant cousin or maiden aunt without any trouble. But it has the kind of smile that -- to my mind, at least -- never touches the eyes.

[1] For examples, see my reviews of Flights three, five, and seven, Flight Explorer, Explorer, and the collected works of Kazu Kibuishi.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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