Thursday, 10 May 2012

New Beginnings - Dial H For Hero #1

What would you do if there was a way in which you, for a short time, could become a superhero?

What if it was something as simple as dialling a number on a payphone found on the side of a normal street?

This is essentially the idea that is being posed in the latest outing of Dial H for Hero. The concept first appeared in the late Sixties, returned in the Eighties and then again in 2003. Now it has restarted once more with China Miéville at the helm.

The story begins with Nelson, an overweight, unfit smoker who is brought out into a cold sweat at the mere thought of exercise. This wasn’t always the way though - Nelson’s former self used to do so much more but now he is trapped in a sedentary life. The cover image doesn’t actually do his plight justice to its full extent! It is only when his best friend leaves that he decides to make a change and by following him he walks into seeing his mate being attacked. In a moment of panic Nelson blindly tries to dial for help in a very unusual phone box, giving him superhuman powers. Welcome Boy Chimney!

Interestingly enough, this new character is a reflection of Nelson, but magnified and exaggerated to an extreme. In many respects I was reminded of V For Vendetta in the way he was scripted, and the look isakin to work by Tim Burton with an almost Victorian twist. Very inventive.

Spurred on by his experience of saving the day, and by his want to avenge his best friend's hospitalisation, Nelson seeks out the booth again wanting more. The only problem, he thought, was remembering a number that was randomly dialled, but once he figures out the correct number the results are uncontrollable and Captain Lachrymose takes the stage instead.

Mielville’s story works very well and has multiple layers. I was aware of the comic and its history before I opened the cover and started reading but I tried to put aside the ideas I had and in doing so I was very pleasantly surprised. Although this is a comic with foundations set over 50 years ago, it is still very much a new beginning but one which is creating its own setting.

The artwork, provided by Mateus Santolouco has a certain adult feel to it. This isn’t your normal DC comic and has the sensibilities of a Vertigo title to it. However, when you consider that the first “hero” you see is one that almost sensationalises smoking, it needs to have an older feel to it. In a similar fashion it’s quite a dark and grim comic with frames to match it.

This is a cracking first issue and the pretence - even though it has been used in the past more than once - is a strong one. Mieville has written an enjoyable issue and one which is well worth picking up for a read.

Matt Puddy is turning his attention to another world - another Earth...

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