We’re four issues into China Mieville and Mateus Santolouco’s “Dial H” and with each new installment the book has somehow gotten more inventive. At first it merely looked like “Dial H” was going to be an entertaining run of strange new characters generated by the H Dial, transforming Nelse into all sorts of bizarre heroes. With this issue, though, “Dial H” relies solely on creating its own internal mythology and the end result is a winner.
With the Dial damaged in previous issues, “Dial H” #4 has to rely on everything else about the comic — the characters, the big world-building ideas, the strange situations — and let them take center stage. It says a lot about “Dial H” that these all come together quite nicely even with the central, flashy gimmick temporarily removed. “Dial H” is a comic where Nullomancers “work with nothing” and summon creatures like the dreaded Abyss; it’s a very Mieville-esque creation and he’s taking these new concepts for the DC Universe and grafting them in wholesale. More importantly, they work.
This is also the issue where I feel that the cast of “Dial H” isn’t a bunch of people who have stumbled upon to powers; Nelse, Manteau and Squid are heroes. It’s an important step for the series as a whole to take, because up until now we’ve been properly distracted by the weird forms that the H Dial has turned Nelse into. Here, though, we see what happens when Nelse is stripped of his powers. He’s figuratively and literally transformed into a hero even without those abilities, and it’s a moment that shows Mieville gets superhero comics.
If you’re worried Santolouco isn’t getting to draw all sorts of crazy new heroes this month, don’t worry! He still gets a lot of inventiveness onto the page this month; Squid’s tumbling through the worlds or the manifestations of Abyss alone are eye-catching. But if you’re really worried about the lack of new H Dial powered heroes, though — maybe Tap-Out or Rescue Jack will ease your minds. I’m more impressed with how well Santolouco draws the regular, ordinary people; not just the out of shape Nelse, but characters like the unmasked Manteau or Ex Nihilo. They look like humans you’d see on the street and serve as a great contrast to the larger-than-life creations that surge throughout the comic.
“Dial H” is just four issues into its run, but at this point I’m going to say that if there isn’t at least a Best New Series nomination at the Eisners next year, then Mieville and Santolouco will have been robbed. Each issue is inventive, exciting and building towards a greater whole while still providing an individual chapter enjoyable in its own right. If you aren’t reading “Dial H,” head to the store and snag all four issues. You’ll be pleased with the end result.