Comic Recommendation: “Délicatesse” by Val Wise

Délicatesse by Val Wise

Dèlicatesse by Val Wise serves as a powerful narrative about performance and the violence of gender essentialism. It is a story about how assumptions and perceptions can affect our self-worth and mental health.

Primrose Van der Peer plays male roles onstage. An operatic contralto, she wants to be herself, but when she finally debuts as a lady, she finds it difficult to perform her femininity off stage. Instead of self-confidence and acceptance, the social circle that surrounds her dictates what a woman should be. How a woman should perform and look like. Her haunting doubts overtake her, and she wonders if she’ll ever be woman enough.

Délicatesse by Val Wise
Délicatesse by Val Wise

Délicatesse features anthropomorphic characters but also a resonating and human story about gender expectations and performance. Primrose struggles with how others around her perceive her. Her fatness and actions aren’t feminine, especially for Luciano whom she dines with one evening. To him, she needs to watch her figure or she won’t be “womanly” enough. When she returns home with another man, Henri, afterward, she thinks she’s found love only to degrade herself as less of a woman again.

Significant moments in this comic add dimension to Primrose’s story. In one scene, Henri offers to buy her jewelry, but she declines. She prefers imitation. Several references to performance and gender are seamlessly inserted into the art and dialogue. A shattered flower vase. A nightmare about being eaten alive. Subtle mentions of having had an eating disorder. Scenes without dialogue that says more. Overall, Délicatesse is a gorgeous and heart wrenching comic about how performance can affect perceptions and expectations.

Délicatesse by Val Wise

Délicatesse is available to download for free or pay what you can on itch. Content warnings are available in the synopsis. Délicatesse is also intended for an 18+ audience.

Learn more about Val Wise here. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Author: Brahidaliz Martinez

Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.

Pronouns: he/they


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