DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT by Tony Cliff is a fun historical romp set in 1802, in which Erdomoglu, the title’s Turkish lieutenant, finds himself dragged out of his quiet life and into the wake of Delilah, an English female swashbuckler and thief. This was quite entertaining, with good characters in the lead.
BATGIRL: Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr is a very self-consciously contemporary take on Batgirl, giving us a Barbara Gordon who texts, struggles with grad school, wears Doc Martens and engages in drunken makeout sessions. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it—this has a light-hearted tone that makes it different from most of DC’s current crop (though it’s not actually that far from Bronze Age Spider-Man, except with less angst). On the other hand, Stewart’s plotting is weak, the prime example being defeating the villain with a recycled 40 year-old Star Trek cliche, and Babs still worked better as Oracle. Still, I did like it, though I have no idea if it’s as hip as it thinks (maybe if I were Babs’ age I’d find this just as unrealistic as Silver Age Teen Titans teen slang).
SHOWCASE PRESENTS AQUAMAN Vol. 3 (cover by Nick Cardy, all rights to current holder) gives me almost a complete run of the Silver Age Aquaman (I have the next dozen issues or so reprinted elseewhere) which despite all the jokes the Sea King gets, I’m quite happy to have. This collection makes Aquaman’s wife Mera (the first super-hero marriage of the sixties, followed by the first super-hero baby) one of the stronger women of the Silver Age, as she gets to fight alongside him in a lot of adventures. Writer Bob Haney introduces a string of super-villains to pep up Aquaman’s previously non-existent Rogue’s Gallery—Black Manta, Ocean Master, the Huntress, the Awesome Threesome, Ogre, the alien city of Necrus, though almost none of them returned (I will say by the way that Haney’s Ocean Master comes off a lot more interesting and human than most later writers treated him). I can’t help noticing that the next-to-last story in the book shoves Mera unconvincingly off-stage (a silly and implausible spat), followed by a multi-part story where Aquaman’s searching for his vanished wife. Given that Dick Giordano took over as editor around this time, I wonder if he just didn’t like Aquaman as a married guy?
Switching to novels, ENCHANTED APRIL by Elizabeth von Arnam has a worn-out housewife in the 1920s impulsively recruit a stranger to go halves with her on a one-month rental of an Italian villa, then reluctantly adding in a snobbish aristocrat and a disapproving grand dame to stretch the money further.What follows is a familiar kind of story about rebirth through travel to beautiful places (the movie version could double-bill with A Year in Tuscany or Room With a View) but the story of the women finding new life in different ways is nonetheless winning.