Part of DC’s New 52 reboot, the Dial H series has a very promising premise – An ordinary man is transformed into numerous superheroes when he spells out the word “HERO” using a rotary dial in an old telephone booth. This is a series that has infinite possibilities while still remaining within the confines of its own universe. Fans of DC that have been displeased thus far with DC’s relaunch finally have something to be excited about. Dial H#1 is a solid book throughout and is sure to please fans of dark comics.
Writer China Miéville has given readers a sturdy foundation to this series and has set a tone that is dark and wonderful. The “heroes” that he has given life to are truly hard to look at as heroes, given their strange appearances and powers, which begs the question – What makes a hero? While the abilities of the first superhero we are introduced to are harmful and deadly, the powers of the second superhero Nelson becomes are tragic and almost worse. Still, they are fighting for those that cannot fight for themselves, and bringing justice to an unjust city.
Miéville knows what he is doing here and it feels like its familiar territory for him. Given the fact that this is one of the only two comics that he has ever worked on, however, he is breaking ground with every word, and this is a very impressive feat. He knows Littleville and he knows Nelson. He knows what’s going on in Nelson’s head; he knows what’s going on in the back alleys and in the slums; he knows which cops are dirty and which can never be bought; and he knows that Littleville is a city worth saving. He gives us a taste of this with this issue and it almost feels like he is giving us a tour of his hometown. Somehow, Littleville seems much closer to us than, say, Gotham, and that provides readers with a bit of unease to chew on.
Bringing Mateus Santolouco in on this title was really a no brainer. Having worked on titles such as American Vampire, Fall of Cthulhu, and X Necrosha, Santolouco is a friend to the macabre and has always truly done it justice. His work here is no exception. His shading is spot on and his characters are crisp and realistic. You can almost smell the odor of sweat and cigarettes right through the pages, and the look of madness that he provides a few of his characters is creepy and stays with you after the reading is done. He has paid attention to every detail in this world, from the cracks in the cement to the stubble on Nelson’s unshaved face to even flyers in the background floating in the wind.
Santolouco’s work is truly complimented by the work of Richard and Tanya Horie, who have provided the colors. The dark palette that they went with is perfection in this world, and adds even a bit more dreariness to an already dreary story. Some of the panels are so well done that the readers may feel like they need to wash some of the grime from their hands after reading the book. All but one scene of this book takes place at night, so readers really don’t get a chance to see what these artists can do in the daytime, but quite honestly, if we never find out, that would be perfectly okay. The one scene that we are provided with light is done well and the bright colors of that particular scene make the reader realize just how dark the colors throughout the rest of the book are, which may have actually been the purpose of the scene in the first place. Steve Wand’s talents aren’t wasted here either, as his unique choice of fonts and sound effects provide the perfect voice of not only the characters, but of the city itself.
All in all, Dial H #1 is exactly what it should be – a tale of most unlikely heroes in a city desperate for salvation. Readers will be anxious to get to future issues of this series to unlock the mystery of the “H-Dial” as well as witness Nelson’s transformations into these dark heroes. For one of the only times since DC decided to launch The New 52, they have truly hit the mark on the head.