Written by CHINA MIÉVILLE
Art by MATEUS SANTOLOUCO
Colors by TANYA AND RICHARD HORIE
Letters by STEVE WANDS
Issue #1 of this series showed amazing promise. It was well thought out, well written and well drawn. The premise itself opened a doorway to infinite possibilities. Issue #2, on the other hand, is a crowded follow-up striving to live up to the expectations of its first issue. If this issue is any indication, it seems that Dial H threw down all its chips in the first hand.
Mieville had many ideas here and instead of dispersing these ideas over several issues, he elected to try to squeeze them all into one. With a book of this potential, it is easy to understand how Mieville could get overwhelmed, however, it is also his responsibility as a writer to understand when enough is enough. Readers are presented with numerous heroes in this issue basically to make them aware of the infinite transformations that Nelson is privy to, which really could have been cool. Unfortunately, not many of the heroes seem very interesting. As a matter of fact, most of them seem like villains you would see on Scooby-Doo. We briefly meet Pelican Army (seriously), Hole Punch, and Control-Alt-Delete, among other silly heroes. Of them all, Iron Snail may be the most successfully executed and even he isn’t all that interesting.
In addition to the hero overload, Mieville also decided that it was time that we are introduced to some new characters. One that seems to hold the secret to the H-dial, a big time baddie that seems to be running the crime in the city, and a thug that is a cross between a squid and a lizard. Mieville gives us big characters that simply presented more drama in an already dramatic issue. Instead of transforming the story into the beast I’m sure he meant it to be, Mieville’s inclusion of so many different characters and subplots creates confusion. It’s tough trying to separate one subplot from another or to figure out which way the story is going.
Santolouco continues his momentum and the art in this issue is just as wonderful as the last. While the heroes are, for the most part, pretty silly, Santolouco still is able to present them beautifully and with a style that is his own. He really seems to understand this dirty city and we see it through his eyes. What he gives us is a gritty, realistic vision of the slums of any metropolitan city that many of us go out of our way to avoid. His grasp of human emotion and ability to capture facial expressions is really appreciated here. There are times that the fear in a characters eyes is so real that the reader may look over their shoulder just to make sure that there is nothing coming for them.
Tanya and Richard Horie also step up again, turning Santolouco’s vision into works of art. The colors chosen for the heroes worked well and it is interesting to see their interpretation of them. If not for their silly names and assumed abilities, Santolouco and the Hories may have actually been able to present us with legitimate superheroes. As it stands, they did the best that they could with what they were presented with.
DC Comics seems to have pulled a bait-and-switch routine on readers with Dial H. After a lackluster reboot of most of their most beloved titles, readers were treated to #1 and it seemed that the series had the potential to explain to readers exactly why a reboot was necessary. Instead, it seems that this title is almost confused with what it wants to be. At times it’s silly, at others serious. The main character is not the greatest human being and at times we are sympathetic to him while others, disgusted. Now that the series has been injected with (hopefully) all of the main characters that Mieville is planning, perhaps in issue #3 readers will be presented with a more solid issue. If not, it is possible that this member of the New 52 will fall as flat as most of its companions.