Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dial H #4: Nelson VS the Nullomancer

Dial H #4
Writer: China Mieville
Artist: Mateus Santolouco
Cover: Brian Bolland
August 1st, 2012

Dial H has been consistently crazy since it's debut issue 4 months ago, but underneath all the randomness of its premise, an theme about what it takes to become a hero has been bubbling beneath the surface.

Finally, in this fourth issue, our overweight, everyman hero Nelson grows a pair, saves Manteau, and fights back against X.N. even without the help of the H Dial.

China Mieville's script has been gonzo from the get-go, but this issue really grounds the insanity with some great character moments and revelations. It seems that our unlikely trio of heroes are, despite appearances to the contrary, much more ordinary than they appear, and once the origin of the Void is revealed he/it seems to be more of a tragic figure or a wounded star animal than an arch-villain from the beyond the stars.

Dial H reminds me of the work Grant Morrison was doing in his early Vertigo days, particularly his run on Doom Patrol. There's madness in these pages, to be sure, but there's a strong meta-fictional undercurrent running throughout this series, an ironic commentary on what it means to be a comic book creator working for a corporation with a pre-existing stable of characters, trying to create something new from that mess of continuity and history, perhaps?

I haven't quite settled on what Dial H is really about, but the meaning is there somewhere amidst the chaos. I'll be honest, Issue #4 is the closest this comic has come to making any kind of sense.

Mateus Santolouco has really done a fabulous job transforming China's scripts into a visually exciting and sense-making work. I can't even imagine how these scripts must read, but Santolouco always seems to get it right. The art manages to capture the humdrum world of Nelson, as well as the unpredictable powers brought on by the H Dial. Santolouco's art in Dial H balances expertly between scenes of the fantastic imaginary world and the dreary malaise of post-industrial culture (a balance this is literally personified in the character of Chimney Boy, one of the super-personaes transferred by the H Dial).

Dial H is one of the most underrated titles being published by DC Comics. It deserves your money and the full duration of your attention span.

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