Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dial H #1

If this guy is relying on phone booths, let alone phone booths with rotary dials, he's humped.

Dial H is the first comic of DC's Second Wave of New 52 titles. I've got three more new titles immediately following this one and am looking forward to all of them except G.I. Combat written by J.T. Krul. Although it also features the creative team from All Star Western, so maybe J.T. Krul's shit won't be smeared throughout the issue.

Dial H is written by China Mieville. I had never heard the name but DC was hyping the fact that an actual, real honest-to-goodness author was at the helm of one of their comics that I decided to see who the hell this China was.

Bit of an up and comer over the last decade, isn't he? I don't generally read a lot of new Science Fiction or Fantasy literature. Mostly it's because there is so much of it that I've never taken the time to research what's worth reading and the other mostly because I still have many Philip K. Dick novels left to read. But I'll give this author the benefit of the doubt seeing as how he likes the weird (so do I!), he played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons (as did I!), and he's a card carrying Marxist (I have a worker owned business!). Plus he's a writer who had the motivation and ambition to actually write novels in the actual world whereas I have never had the ambition nor the motivation nor the need for pats on the back and thus my writing languishes in pads and pads of paper, multiple text documents on laptop desktops, and my litter of webpages across the last decade and a half (most notably 1/3 of No Apologies! but my current homestead, somewhat abandoned as I catch up on comic books, Places & Predators). But just because he's an award winning and established author doesn't mean he can write a decent comic book! Look at that other writer they've got over there doing Birds of Prey! Bleck!

Before I jump into Dial H, I think I'll head over to The Cup and Saucer for breakfast. Be right back.

The hero. Quite a bit fatter than Bolland's cover.

This is our protagonist, Nelse. A man in his late twenties who just recently suffered a heart attack. He's out of shape, smokes, and lives in a crappy little dump of a toilet. His friend, Darren, has had enough and storms out. Perhaps Darren is also a protagonist since he gets little Blue Narration Boxes and Nelse gets little Yellow Narration Boxes. I just assumed the big guy was the main character since he's on the cover.

Darren knows Nelse has been really down on himself lately seeing that he's jobless and out of shape and nearly died. And Nelse knows Darren is only looking out for him so Nelse runs off down the alley to catch up to Darren and apologize.

That phone booth you ran buy is magic, H.R. Huffenpuff!

The guys jumping Darren aren't just random muggers. They're beating up Darren for some guy or thing or woman named "X.N." Apparently Darren didn't keep a promise. Or it could be retaliation for wearing that orange jogging suit. It's hard to say in such a depressing little shitsville town as Littleville.

Nelse gets punched in the face and knocked backward by the decrepit phone booth in the alley. Since he seems to have forgotten his cell phone, he jumps into the phone booth to call someone for help. When he uses the phone, he's transformed into Boy Chimney.

Is this is super persona because he smokes?

Now would seem a good time to research the old Dial H for Hero comic. Who's Who here I come! Dial "H" for Hero first appeared in, big surprise, House of Mystery #156 in 1966. House of Mystery seemed to a be fertile ground for creating long standing DC titles. Some kid found a rotary dial with alien letters on it and he figured out how to dial the equivalent of H-E-R-O in the alien's alphabet. Why he did this or why he thought that was a good idea instead of dialing S-E-X or, well, S-E-X, I have no idea. But when he dialed HERO, he became a hero with random super powers, never the same one twice. He had to dial O-R-E-H to transform back into a normal kid. At some point, some other kid received the power and then didn't need the dial because, you know, how stupid is that. He would transform into a new hero every single hour! So I guess even when he slept he would just keep changing over and over again. So that's a very brief synopsis of the history of this title.

After reading about Dial "H" for Hero, I'm guessing Boy Chimney won't be a constant character in the book. Being that China's fiction is described as Weird Fantasy, he probably was attracted to the idea of creating new and strange super heroes every month. This title already feels a little bit like Doom Patrol. Boy Chimney would certainly fit in there.

Nelse's mind seems to be somewhat split as the new hero. He knows he's Nelse but he also knows he's Boy Chimney. He instinctively understands all of his new smoke powers but he doesn't quite understand the strange things he's saying although they reflect what he's thinking. By breathing in the smoke of the city, Boy Chimney knows everything the smoke has touched. He can see the entire city by breathing deep. He also nearly kills Darren's attackers by drowning them in the poisons of the city. But he allows them to live as he makes his escape with his unconscious friend.

Oh! Nelse is short for Nelson. I is smartish!

Just after Nelson delivers Darren to the paramedics, he returns to his fat, normal self and collapses on the rooftop. The last Dial "H" for Hero guy who transformed every hour on the hour would lose his powers after expending a certain amount of energy. It looks like that's the same deal with Nelson. I have a feeling he won't simply keep transforming though. This story is going to deal with these two friends and their all too normal human problems, so they're going to have to spend a lot of time as normal guys. He'll probably experiment with the phone booth again later and get Darren to try it out as well. Then they'll take care of this "X.N." person and whatever other problems they've got in their lives.

Later, one of the guys that beat up Darren calls up X.N. to report on what happened. It looks like these trouble-makers already have a female super hero they're dealing with called Manteau. Which is fitting because she wears a hooded cape. But this bald asshole wants protection from Boy Chimney since fighting creeps with super powers if beyond them. And it sounds like X.N. is going to provide them with some kind of super villain.

The next day, Nelson heads back to the phone booth.

I would think somebody would have carted this Phone Booth off into their flat years ago!

Nelson finally stumbles on the correct combination by remembering he dialed a short string of numbers and then just dialing random words as he's thinking. He stumbles upon "if so" and BAM! He's a new Hero! This one is made of sadness and cries a lot.

Sometimes I sit in the dark and weep like a super hero too!

Nelson, as Captain Lachrymose, warns the bald guy, Vernon Boyne, to leave Darren alone. But that's all he gets the chance to do since Vernon is guarded by an elderly woman with a black hole for a mouth. Now that's a direct link to the last run of Doom Patrol where they recruited the guy that was a living black hole! But Nelson isn't sure what to do about fighting another person with super powers since he's so new to the game, so he retreats after threatening Vernon.

After the encounter, Vernon gives X.N. a call for new orders now that they've got some weirdo or weirdos constantly butting into their business. The new orders are to just kill Darren and be done with the whole mess. That actually sounds like a pretty good evil guy plan for once. Let's just wash our hands of this fuckery we've gotten ourselves into and move on. We also get a glimpse of The Owner, a guy sealed off behind some glass and wearing a radioactive suit of sorts. He also has long, weird fingers.

At the end of the issue, Nelson returns to the phone booth one last time. Curious? Or is he addicted to the power? He realizes just before dialing one more time that the number, 4376, spells HERO. And that's that for the first issue.

Dial H #1 Rating: I was prepared to not like this comic because an actual author was writing it and who does he think he is being all writerly and literate and shit? But this is a really good book so far. Doom Patrol has always been a favorite of mine due to all the weird and this comic has that feel. I also like that the protagonists are normal guys who, it appears, we're going to get to know as normal guys. What is going to happen to them when they have so much power at their fingertips? Especially since Darren is already into some pretty ethically ambiguous stuff. I'm going to place Dial H at Rank 15 just between Suicide Squad and I, Vampire.

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