It’s the second round of DC’s New 52 second wave, and Dial H #2 is on the stands. Major Spoilers is dropping a dime and dialing R for Review.
Previously, in Dial H: Chain-smoking sad sack Nelson Jent has little in his life other than the prospect of future heart attacks and his best friend Darren. Unfortunately, Darren is in a little trouble with his employer, which happens to be the local supervillain-run organized crime outfit. While trying to defend his friend from a beat-down, Jent discovers a rotary dial telephone booth that temporarily transforms him into various heroes, such as Boy Chimney and (the awesome) Captain Lachrymose. This just results in a delayed beating that puts Darren in the ICU and Nelson in a strange world of superheroes and villains.
DIAL M FOR MIÉVILLE (SORRY FOR REUSING A TERRIBLE JOKE)
When the second wave of New 52 books was announced, none excited me more than Dial H, and for one reason only: China Miéville. The novelist is a high-profile literary talent, a Nebula-nominated and Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke award-winning writer, and one of the best working in the fields of science fiction and fantasy. His strange, weird fiction-inspired style is perfectly suited to a concept like Dial H, which requires an imaginative power capable of coming up with a plethora of strange and wonderful heroes. Issue #1 was an a definite success.
The second issue does not reach the dizzying heights of the first, but second issues rarely stack up to their predecessors. There is a fair amount of table-setting going on this issue, including details of the limits of the Dial H phone booth (which includes a few heroes I hope aren’t throwaways, such as the amazingly wonderful Pelican Army). Some hints are dropped about the nature of the villainous threat, though the Squid and Ex Nihilo still remain mostly mysterious. The best parts delve into just how seductive dialing H for hero has become for Nelson; with a frightfully depressing outlook for his civilian future, Nelson enjoys the moments where the superhero identities obliterate his sense of self. This both intrigues and repels him, most heartbreakingly so when he wishes he could change into someone smarter. Miéville is doing expert character work on this book – two issues in, and I really feel for this protagonist.
One big hitch in the writing did rear its ugly head, however. The pace of the issue felt off, and I was confused at times by what precisely was meant to be happening. It was like a few panels of exposition were missing, or the action was happening too fast for me to track what was going on. I don’t think this is Miéville being mysterious, but rather a novelist adjusting to the very different requirements of a comic book script.
IRON SNAIL IS BASICALLY RIDICULOUS AND AWESOME
Mateus Santolouco is a great talent for this book – he is able to imbue ridiculous concepts like Iron Snail with a convincingly executed look, and his sketchy, jagged drawing style fits the overall grungy, urban tone. There’s some creative use of paneling going on, best seen in some POV shots for computer-themed hero Control-Alt-Delete. The art is all-around well done; dark, without being unreadable, and bursting with energy.
I WANT MORE PELICAN ARMY
Dial H #2 is not the slam dunk of the stunning first issue, but it is still a darn good read, building atmosphere and pathos better than most books on the stands. China Miéville is still finding his footing as a comic book writer, but growing pains notwithstanding, I feel very comfortable recommending this book to most any reader. This issue features eight heroes (although a ninth, Rancid Ninja, is unfortunately never seen), six broken windows, three attempted poisonings, two snailtrailed thugs, and one account of mollusk-on-mollusk violence. Dial H #2 earns a very respectable four out of five stars.