Happy Halloween! My graphic novel horror pick this year is Delphine, which takes some classic fairy tales and subverts them.
Once upon a time…there was a college student (who remains unnamed throughout the story) who falls in love with the mysterious Delphine. The two had been on the cusp of a new romance when she was called back to her hometown to care for her ailing father. While she had promised to stay in touch, she doesn’t, thus sending this substitute Prince Charming on a quest to find her. This young man finds excuses to explain what is happening at first but soon enough realizes these disturbing experiences are not normal. There is symbolism that is recognizable from fairy tales- a poisoned apple, a coven of witches, a group of dwarves, a kindly woodsman and a big bad wolf- but it is all jumbled together in a manner that can not be understood. All the while, his lost love Delphine remains out of reach.
The art is done in duotone, with browns dominating, giving it a moody shadowy vibe. The paneling structure is straightforward, often four to six panels per page. Only the chapter breaks give you full-page illustrations with additional color. Most of the town inhabitants are gaunt, with extreme features that are caricatures of villains you would see in fairy tales. While at first, the illustrations seemed lackluster, they grew on me and matched the ominous tone of the narrative.
Twisted tales are popular and often overused storytelling devices, but in this case, it really works. Elements of fairy tales and horror are braided together well, and you will wonder what you would do if you were dropped into a macabre village with no escape!