To read the second issue of the independent comic series Delia Awesome, I had to first go back and read the premier issue, it having already been reviewed on this site some time ago. After wading through a bog of indie superhero comics for more than a week, I was pleasantly surprised to open the first issue and find a monochromatic art style somewhat reminiscent of turn of the millennium cartoon shows for adults like Daria and MTV's Downtown, and seeming to be a simple story about people and their relationships. The opening scene, a familiar but decently written breakup between the disillusioned and slightly alcoholic main character was a nice escape from the TV plotting and poorly staged action scenes that were rotting me from the inside. It wasn't a new take, but it was telling its story in a way that felt somewhat personal, and that was refreshing. The "Awesome" title seemed bitterly ironic and gave me hope that the story had an interesting direction to take these characters, lots of directions to go and a comfortable art style to tell it with. Near the end of the issue, Delia leaves her ex's band's show in tears, drunkenly cursing him on her walk home, when in the sky a flaming comet appears. It crashes, a giant alien robot emerges and injects our protagonist with fluid that gives her the ability to fly.
God fucking dammit.
Yeah, it's relationships meets fantasy thing now. That Scott Pilgrim thing that Bryan Lee O' Malley made a hot ticket, but did so in a way people seem to not understand functionally. He didn't invent it, but this comic includes linear notes for the music that is the soundtrack to the pages, so I'm going to chock this one up to ole Hipsterpants McSnotgirl on principle.
“Hey,” I said, “you liked it so far. Maaaaaaaaaybe there's an interesting place for this to go?” The writer clearly has an okay handle on relationship dialog, and that shit is hard, so maybe they'll have a good angle to make all of this work in a fresh, interesting way.
Issue 2. Page 1. Her middle name is “Awesome.” That's where the title comes from.
God fucking dammit.
Now, I should say up front, I didn't hate this book, but it is interesting to ride the investment/disappointment train of two issues in under an hour. I was on board to read a sad shitty feeling comic about drinking in the shower and being ignored by former friends, getting plot-slapped by a tentacle robot with super juice was an inelegant surprise. Issue Two doubles down on what a terrible plot direction this is with the fallout: Delia calling her ex to meet her in a cafe to discuss their failed relationship and the fact that she can make literal silverware out of her hands.
The overwhelming problem here is the meeting of these two worlds. Scott Pilgrim is great. It's actually kind of the perfect generational story about millennials and hipsters, both written for them and critical of them. The reason Scott Pilgrim pulls off fantasy relationship drama is because it integrated the two elements together as one narrative, using the fantasy not as a novelty to pretty up a generic young-people-romance book (even though Volume One definitely felt that way, which is why I almost quit it there), but rather as a tool to symbolically explore the dimensions of the characters and their interactions in a unique way. The video game elements were part of the core story and gave it texture and imagination, a hybrid that O' Malley refined even further in Seconds.
In Delia, the shift in gears is enormous, suddenly taking grounded and reluctantly relatable characters and making them act uncharacteristic and unnatural in the face of extreme circumstances and elements of body horror. A full second issue of Delia having superpowers and we still have no idea how this will factor into the story. Is she going to become a superhero? Is this going to turn into The Fly? Is she just going to use the superpowers for petty selfish reasons? No idea, so far she's just used it as an excuse to meet with her ex so she could monologue about their failed relationship in a way that she could have done without superpowers.
When you have a scene about two moderately realistic characters having a conversation about their failed relationship and then throwing in a gag about how the girl has Cronenberg fork hands and she is uncomfortably poking her nethers with them in an effort to keep them hidden doesn't really help sell any narrative. I'm not saying there isn't a way for something like that to work, on paper, it sounds interesting, but here it comes off as wildly ill-conceived and tonally goofed.
I might check out the third issue of Delia Awesome, but I have to say that my expectations are more likely set on the content of the second issue than my impression of the first. Things can only get more superhero-ey as things go on I imagine, and that's where it loses me. Delia's life was a mess, she was self-aware of how she used her boyfriend's success as a mask to her own failed ambitions, and we were taken on the trip of her spiral down the drain. I did look forward to a story where she found her way out, a Frances Ha-esque story of twenty-something redemption, and the bitter rewarding journey that could ensue. I am infinitely less interested if the solution to her problems was giving her superpowers. I do want to emphasize I was actually engaged by the relationship dialog in the first issue, no small feat considering my lukewarm taste for general relationship drama, especially involving young people. I'll give it credit, it is trying something, I just hope it can figure out how to make that something actually work.
[su_box title="Score: 2/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Delia Awesome #2 Creator: Michael Schneider Self-Published Price: $2.99 (Print); $0.99 (Digital)