Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, by Tony Cliff

Review copy provided by First Second Books.

This is the second in a series, and I have not read the first, which is called Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant. Its content is easy to infer, since the titular characters are both in this volume: the Turkish Lieutenant, Mister Selim, narrates to the reader his role in events and his (slightly more sensible) opinions of Delilah’s exploits.

And exploits: they are many.

There is swashing, and also buckling. There are adventures on horseback, on sailboats, in carriages, at fancy balls, in gardens, at teas. There are adventures with multiple different sets of soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars. The swords, the muskets, the barrels of powder, and the written-out sound effects are copious. So there are many of you for whom this is going to be exactly your sort of rollicking adventure. If you have ever thought, “The biffs, bams, and pows of ’60s era Batman: if only they were attached to a young woman in the British Regency!”, then your long nightmare of waiting is over and this is the graphic novel for you.

Those of you for whom it maybe isn’t: the ones who care about the social mores of British society during the Napoleonic Wars. In the author’s note, Tony Cliff says that despite his best efforts there will inevitably be some conflict with the astute reader’s knowledge: boy howdy. And then he invites readers to help him with his research: um. This is a complete cop-out, basically, because when it comes to social mores he pretty clearly does not care. When can you, as an unmarried woman of good family, go introduce yourself to random other people of good family? How does that work in the Regency? Hahaha Tony Cliff patently does not care–I cannot imagine that a reader saying, “That’s not how it worked, actually,” would have gotten anywhere with the plot he had contrived. It looks very much like he wanted to write a rollicking adventure with a very modern heroine who does not care either. And if you, the reader, care–if you cannot un-know the things you know about the social interactions of the time–if you cannot set them aside to go biff, bam, and pow–this is probably not the graphic novel for you, swashing and buckling though it may have.

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