Dial H #1 - 'What's The 411?' - Mieville and Santolouco
Story - It's unusual for me to come into any comic put out by the big two companies blind. Normally I'm familiar with either the characters or the writers or the artists. Here... it was basically all new to me. I've heard China Mieville's name strongly recommended among fantasy novel circles, but I've never read any of his stuff. The same applies to the Dial H For Hero concept, I know what it is, but apart from one solitary issue of Brave & The Bold where the Dial teamed up with Batman... I've never read any of it. This was a whole new world, and I feel that it was only partially successful.
Where this book succeeds was in the way it took a goofy concept like a magical dial that transforms you into a hero, and managed to modernise it without losing the essential appeal. So while you still get the inventiveness of the one-off heroes like Boy Chimney and Captain Lachrymose, there's a darker edge here. Our hero is not some idealistic kid, he's a washed-up fat-ass loser who needs to sort himself out. Is this some kind of commentary on how despite the audience of comics has mostly changing from kids to older men, that baseline of wish-fulfillment is still there? Who knows, but it's interesting to take such a child-like concept and darken it, but as I said, Mieville still manages to keep some semblance of fun there, with the whacked-out superheroes he uses. I can't wait to see what kinds of superheroes show up in the coming months.
Where I think this book struggled is that it didn't do a very good job of setting up the main characters and concepts, we meet our main fat-ass hero, we meet his friend who I think is some kind of small-time gangster, and then it all goes crazy. I think Mieville may have tried to jam too much stuff into his first issue and I don't feel that I had enough time to process what was going on and to start to care about it. Already we've got the mystery of the Dial, the teasing back-story for Nelson, and also the evil crimelord with his creepy old lady. It's too much.
Hopefully future issues will slow things down a little, perhaps only use on hero per issue, I think maybe 2 was too many. However, the good moments and fun at seeing such weird characters outweighed the bad for me. I'm very interested to see where this is going and to hopefully see Mieville grow as a comics writer as he gets used to the medium. I often find that when writers come from the world of novels or films or television, they struggle at first with the unique comics format, and Mieville was no exception. But there were true flashes here of a damn good comic, so while this debut issue was only OK, I can foresee a future where Dial H is one of DC's best books.
Art - Just like the concept of Dial H For Hero and China Mieville, Mateus Santolouco is an artist I don't know much about, I think he may have drawn 1 or 2 issues of American Vampire a while back, but don't quote me on that. But after this issue he's certainly on my radar, his work on this book was fantastic! He gave the book the perfect dark feel, I loved how weird and elongated Boy Chimney was. His art made up in a lot of ways for the flaws in this book, and I look forward to seeing what else Santolouco has up his sleeves.
Best Line - 'Cause Look, 4376 spells another word, too... Hero'