The Ottoman Empire was a pretty interesting creature. They peaked centuries ago and just kind of sat on life support for even more centuries, and even though they only controlled a tiny sliver of territory beyond Constantinople's western border they still had enough territory on the Continent to get the title of "The Old Man of Europe". I dunno, it always seemed kind of weird to include Turkey with Europe just from a geographic standpoint. They had these dudes called Janissaries, who were highly trained soldiers that lasted as an institution as long as the Ottomans, just about- then they decayed into impotence around the same pace as the government that created them. It's a really interesting setting, since the modern Middle East is very much a product of the Ottoman's twilight years. So I was delighted when I stumbled across Tony Cliff's Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, set in 19th Constantinople, where we find a, well, a lowly Turkish Lieutenant named Selim who, through a series of fortunate events, finds himself on the run from the government and helping out the dangerous thief that got him in trouble in the first place. What follows is the story of how Selim and the thief, Delilah, try to escape various horrible fates while committing crimes.
It sounds like a pretty dark story, now that I write that out, but it's probably one of the most enjoyable, humorous and lighthearted stories I've seen anywhere on the internet. I mean yeah, there's blood and violence and stuff but it just seems so fun, you know? Selim is just a guide for the reader, but he's still a likeable character when you contrast him to the culture of the Janissaries as well as Delilah's personality. He's just not as vibrant, is all. And man, I love Delilah's character. She's simultaneously hilarious, sarcastic and deadly, and it's really fun to watch the two protagonists get into scuffles. Scuffles. Does anyone use that word anymore?
The plot wanders around in a good way, though it does scrunch the pacing since it's only 160 pages divided into 4 chapters. As a book it's a nice intro to the universe of DD & TL, though I got kind of mad when I reached the end. I'm guessing it's how an intervention feels. I DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM BETH, YOU DO (point is, it's pretty short and I felt like there could have been more).
Anyway, the characters are all very enjoyable, though the Big Bad Guy of chapter 3 is cool to look at but doesn't say much. The humor, I think, is the strongest point of this whole work. Even when people are being killed it's got this light slapstick feel to it; imagine Indiana Jones as a sarcastic woman and you get the feel the author's going for. We could probably be comfortable with some good chase music too, like a fast fiddle performance or something. It feels really authentic and believable too, even in spite Delilah owning a friggin flying boat.
I think that authentic feel comes from the art style, which makes the art style of the Ottoman empire come alive. It feels like a cross between a Disney flick and Penny Arcade's style, with a mix of characters whose proportions run between what's real and what's cartoony, and faces that are simple but very expressive. Well, they're expressive most of the time anyway. I think some of the early chapters featured a few too many faces that looked like they were fighting to stay awake or seemed to flash a look that wasn't appropriate to their situation.
Still, the rest of it's fantastic. I mean, the colors, man, look at the colors! All them solid, bright colors. God damn they're pretty. I like the lighting too, really warms up the scenery, even in the dark. The action is lively, lots of movement and chaos, but never confusing. This guy can make some really amazing action scenes and scenery.
Okay, I'm done trying to sound like an art student, just look at the pictures I post to understand what I'm talking about. All I'm saying is, if you think this comic is ugly then you hate art. Probably light, and colors too.
So yeah, it's free to read on the website but there's a new story to buy from the store as well as a bunch of other stuff. So in spite of it being a short comic I found it highly enjoyable and I think everyone else will, too. But seriously, if this series goes belly up I will be incredibly angry and I'll take it all out on every single person that reads this review, starting with me.
TL;DR: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is a gorgeous comic with a fast but fun story, and you really oughta give it a read.
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is by Tony Cliff. You can find the main page here where you can read online, or, buy a standalone printed story, Delilah Dirk and the Seeds of Good Fortune here. OR you could buy some other fine merchandise here.