China Miéville is an author who describes his work as "weird fiction." His new comic series Dial H is no exception to that.
Dial H For Hero is a classic DC comic book concept where a mysterious phone allows the dialer to become one of a wide array of random and weird superheroes for a short period of time if they enter the word H-E-R-O. It's an opportunity for writers to try out a bunch of whacked out concepts – in the past, the heroes have been things like Worm Man, Jimmy Gymnastic and Trouble-Clef: The Master of Magical Music. With Dial H #1, Miéville firmly establishes that he's going to be doing a lot of that, with a creepy bunch of overtones by bringing in a spindly weirdo called Boy Chimney, Child King of Emissions.
Yeah, it's gonna be that kinda party. Stay away from the mashed potatoes.
A portly man named Nelson Jent, not far removed from a not-quite-heart-attack, has a bit of a fight over the direction of his life with his friend Darren Hirsch, and when Nelse realizes he was a bit of a dick to a guy that helped him walk his way up several flights of stairs while he's still recovering, he heads back down to apologize, only to find Darren is getting roughed up by thugs working for someone named X.N. Being in no shape to fight off goons, he scrambles to a nearby old-timey payphone – in the kind of booth Superman would once use – and tries to call the police. Instead, he's transformed into a ashen-gray-black freakazoid with a giant smoking pipe jammed on his forehead almost resembling a stovepipe top hat, which works well with his cane and tails.
Boy Chimney proceeds to kick ruffian ass with noxious fumes and "elegantly twirled" cudgels, while Nelson tries to find his mind in the chaos of what he's become. He manages to keep his Boy Chimney persona from killing the roustabouts, instead managing to take Darren to the hospital before it all wears off. Nelson has no idea what's going on, but it turns out Darren's a down-low dirty dealer in deep with some unsavory people, meaning this kind of thing might happen again.
So he tries to become the Boy Chimney again. Only this time, once he manages to figure out what he dialed, he is transformed into Captain Lachrymose, a purple-caped emo guy whose power is to make everyone paralyzingly sad.
Yeah. This book is going to be fun. Wild, crazy fun. Miéville's ideas are golden from the get-go, and we can only imagine how much zanier they're going to be as the series wears on. The art from Mateus Santolouco has a great dark and freaky vibe to it, with some imaginative layout work and an energetic madness to its style. Dial H #1 is definitely weird fiction of the most palatable kind. Strap in, and let's see where this head trip takes us.