‘Delia’ by Hans Rickheit and Krissy Dorn

By TINKY WEISBLAT

For the Recorder

Published: 01-27-2023 3:51 PM

“Delia”by Hans Rickheit and Krissy DornFantagraphics

I blush to admit this, but I had never read a graphic novel before opening the pages of “Delia.” It actually took me a few minutes to get used to the narrative form. Once I did, I was hooked on the clever story and the authors’ fast-moving way of telling it.

“Delia” is a science-fiction story created by the husband-and-wife team of Hans Rickheit and Krissy Dorn. The pair live in Orange. The book is set in an alternate earth in which the dominant animal form, the equivalent of humans on our planet, is squirrels.

Heroine Delia grows up on a farm. There she discovers she has an aptitude for mechanical engineering as she helps her inept father maintain his agricultural equipment. Delia is curious about more than tractors, however, and she soon finds herself receiving a strange radio signal from outer space.

She moves to the big city and affiliates herself with a university, serving as a teaching assistant and a personal assistant to a professor who believes in her research. Together they work on creating a device that can translate and implement the signals Delia has been receiving.

Life is not easy for Delia in her new home. Her income is extremely low, her landlady is unsympathetic, and the few friends she makes turn out to be false friends.

Things get even worse when her precious brainchild receiver becomes the focus of cultural debate … and something more sinister.

Delia has always believed that the extraterrestrials sending signals to her are benign. Like her friends, however, the aliens are ultimately disappointing. Unlike her friends, they are enormously powerful.

Delia’s story moves at a brisk pace; the comic panels of the graphic novel make reading it like watching a film. The squirrels are drawn with detail and expression. I particularly liked Delia’s hats.

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The characters in this graphic novel may be squirrels, but the world in which they live is familiar and human. Delia’s homeland is a sort of 1950s United States, complete with beatniks, sexism and a red scare.

The setting works well for the story. After all, the 1950s saw many a science-fiction film and the debut of the “Twilight Zone” television series. Delia’s story is the sort of bleak, dramatic tale that would have thrived in that setting. It is intriguing … and ultimately unsettling.

“Delia” is available at His and Hers Comics on Bank Row in Greenfield and online from its publisher at fantagraphics.com/products/delia .

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer. Her new book is “Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.

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