Comic books

Dial H review — #5: Disconnected

dialh05WARNING: SPOILERS! (Review index)

Now, after that prologue interlude, we come to issue #5, the end of the Abyss arc at last. At the end of issue #4, Nelson, The Squid and Manteau found themselves in a face-off with Ex Nihilo, now wielding her own dial (and currently “wearing” a hero made up of Swiss army knives). Her alliance with The Squid has broken down and she’s having a hard time trying to control Abyss, but she’s still as mad and determined as before. Not only do Nelson and Manteau have to worry about her, they also now have to try and stop an apocalypse. And at the end of this issue, another threat to the safety of our heroes will become apparent. Let’s dive into this action-packed conclusion!

Cliffhanger resolution! The Squid distracts Ex Nihilo long enough for Nelson and Manteau get away, but the price is dire: he’s attacked once more with null-ness, which accelerates the eating away of his body. Damn, he can’t get a break. Back at her apartment, Manteau begins repairing their last dial again, while Nelson keeps track of news about Abyss. Manteau also introduces herself properly to Nelson: her real name is Roxie Hodder, and she’s a telephone engineer who became interested in the crossover between occultism and her trade. Somehow (in an attic somewhere? It’s not really elaborated upon) she found a long-abandoned dial, and became Manteau. That’s not the end of her backstory though — we’ll hear some more in the next issue, in fact.


Dial H review — #0: Sundial H For Hero

dialh00WARNING: SPOILERS! (Review index)

Well, this is a bit weird. In September 2012, DC Comics decided to do prequels for all of its New 52 comics; they called this “0 Month”. And so, we got a Dial H prequel with entirely different characters. To be honest, the issue came at a bit of an unwelcome time, right after the penultimate issue of Dial H‘s first story arc, and so readers had to wait an extra month to see the conclusion of the main story.

The trade paperback collection (Dial H Vol. 1: Into You) rectified this by putting issue #0 at the end of the book, after issue #6 (itself a sort-of standalone story, albeit still featuring Nelson and Manteaul). I guess it would make sense to review the issues in the order they were later collected, but I’ve already committed myself to reviewing them in original publication order, and #0 happens to be the only issue I have at hand right now. So, here we go!

First, ignore the dial thing on the front cover: it doesn’t feature anywhere in the actual issue. The power-bestowing object of this story is a massive stone sundial that must be moved (with great effort) so that the sundial’s noon shadow, over four consecutive days, points to four particular symbols… It’s HERO, the sundial is spelling HERO, okay? Just go with it.


Dial H review — #4: Into You

dialh04WARNING: SPOILERS! (Review index)

After the cliffhanger ending of the last issue, issue #4 of Dial H takes us directly back to the room where Ex Nihilo and The Squid have summoned Abyss. We’re nearing the end of this story arc, but in the penultimate issue of the Squid/Abyss storyline, we’ll get some excellent villain back story, and an unexpected new alliance will form. There are also moments of both humour and peril for the protagonists. We’re starting to see the dramatic heights the series is capable of reaching. All in all, I love this issue!

The Squid, after being banished by King and Grant in Adventure Comics #490, spent decades falling through the void between universes, until suddenly getting trapped back in our reality by Ex Nihilo’s magic/science. Nihilo has been obsessed with “nullomancy” since she was a teenager, when she had heard about the The Squid & Abyss’s first visit to Earth. Now she has finally brought Abyss back, but finds she can’t really control it like she planned. Abyss seems unbindable and unstoppable — although Manteau manages to scare it off for a while with, strangely, a thrown chair. Before it disappears from the room, it fires beams of nothingness through its old comanion The Squid, leaving gaping holes in his body.


Dial H review — #3: Come Here! I Need You!

dialh03WARNING: SPOILERS! (Review index)

Issue #3 of Dial H brings us to the midpoint of the series’ initial 5-issue story arc, by raising the stakes: Manteau and Nelson cotton on to what Ex Nihilo and The Squid are after, and catch up with them right as a bigger threat suddenly emerges. We also get some tantalising details of back-story, including some links to the 1980s iteration of the series, Dial H For Hero.

The issue begins with Manteau rescuing Nelson from Vernon and his men, and they get away with the alley phonebooth’s dial, although it ends up broken in the process. Manteau knows how to repair it though, and she also reveals she has a dial of her own, which explains why each time we see her she has a slightly different form. Manteau retains her identity however by never acknowledging her dialled heroes’ names, and by wearing the same mask and cape every time.

Nelson is having a harder time with the heroes he dials: he gets stuck with their memories afterwards, and in one gloriously illustrated panel we see a fight from the real Boy Chimney’s history, as he and the rest of “Team House” (a ridiculous concept for a superhero team, and something that feels like it’s straight out of Un Lun Dun) fight the “Rake Dragon”. Note the first appearance of Open-Window Man, who’ll come back as a major character much later. I completely forgot about this scene until this re-read, so it was a huge surprise to see the blue-suited hero so early on!


Dial H review — #2: Connection Lost

dialh02WARNING: SPOILERS! (Review index)

It’s the second issue of Dial H! I think this one is a big improvement over the first. We see more heroes and meet more characters, Nelson is a lot more likeable, and the villains’ villainous doings are far less obtuse than in the first issue.

As we pick up the story, Nelson is trying the dial a lot and doing some heroic acts, while at the same time trying to figure out what happened with his friend Darren. We really start to feel some sympathy for Nelson, because it’s clear he’s using the hero dial not just to help people, but also as an escape from his awful life.

Darren’s been working for Vernon (and thus for XN), by breaking into the homes of recent coma victims. It seems like there are lots of these mysterious comas occurring lately, almost an epidemic (which reminds me of the dream-sickness in Perdido Street Station). To figure things out more, Nelson uses a hero form to get into one of the coma victims’ apartment, where he hopes to see what Vernon’s thugs are after. But instead he has his first run-in with Manteau, who nearly kills him.


Dial H review — #1: What’s the 411?

dialh01WARNING: SPOILERS! (Review index)

Welcome to my first Dial H issue review! Dial H is the first mainstream comic project by China Miéville, and despite getting cancelled and subsequently rushing to a bit of an unsatisfying ending, it’s still a clever little miniseries which unfolds from a superhero dark comedy into a dimension-hopping science fiction story.

I’m going to write a post on each of the 15 main issues, plus issue #0 and the special “coda” issue which was released as part of the Justice League series. I’m starting with #1, and proceeding in their order of publication, so issue #0 will come between #4 and #5.

So anyway, issue #1, “What’s the 411?”, introduces our new hero Nelson Jent, a man who’s gotten to a rather self-destructive point in life. He’s without a job, his girlfriend has left, he’s overweight, a heavy smoker, and has already had one heart attack. Nelson lives in Littleville, which as I ascertain from googling, is the setting of the earlier Dial H for Hero comics as well.