Sunday, 5 August 2012

Dial H

At time of writing only the first four issues of revived DC title Dial H (previously referred to as Dial H for Hero during publication runs in the 1960s and 1980s) have been released and the central storyline is still in the process of being revealed. That in itself is a reason to read it in my opinion, as it's rare these days for mainstream comics to give us a storyline that hasn’t been crowbarred into a three or four issue arc. That gradual process of revealing what’s going on is rewarding and means you’re always left wanting a little more.

The general premise is simple. Pudgy, out-of-work everyman Nelson Jent is set upon by hoodlums when making his way home from visiting a sick friend in hospital. Seeking help he dives into a phone booth and attempts to dial H-E-L-P but accidentally (but conveniently as far as the plot is concerned) dials H-E-R-O instead.

Emerging from the phone box in his place is Boy Chimney. He makes short work of the thugs that troubled Jent and then goes for a night-time jaunt through the city. Sometime later our tubby protagonist finds himself back in his apartment, remembering what happened.

The obligatory “learning how the phone box works” scene, which so easily could have been an infodump, is instead used as a fun way of giving us a selection of fleeting superhero appearances.

The main plot itself has so far introduced a toad-like antagonist whose mode of speech flits between East End tough and educated mastermind and Ex Nihilo, a woman with mastery over nothing who is very interested in the magical phone dials. Joining him and protagonist Jent is a mysterious superheroine with access to a portable phone dial of her own.

The big attraction with the Dial H title is obviously China Miéville. His hefty reputation is what will initially draw a lot of people to the book. It’s what made me pick up issue one, along with Brian Bolland’s perfectly judged cover art. But readers will find themselves staying for the neat premise and Mateus Santolouco’s interior art, which is not only great but also an excellent fit with Miéville’s writing and the feel of the book.

The New 52 project has had many surprise hits and misses. Dial H is very much in the former camp. I hope we see the creative team, and Nelson Jent, stick around for a long time to come.

Critical information:
Writer: China Miéville
Artist: Mateus Santolouco
ISBN: Yet to be collected

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