Monday, May 6, 2013

Dial W for Weird

Hugo Award winning "new weird" fiction author China Mieville is an oddly perfect choice for writing Dial H (for hero). His novel and short stories often defy easy categorization as anything specific creating a decoupage of various imagined elements and populates it with extraordinarily normal and human creatures. Anyone looking to see what his writing is like should grab the short story collection "Looking For Jake" it's his most easily approachable and digestible feasts and may be the most like the experience of reading Dial-H. China's fiction has taken us to places where mysterious streets and alleys pop in and out of existence waging some sort of assault and investigators try to figure out their intent, where a force known as torque twists reality and creates the bizarre like trees that sprout cockroaches and remaking of the body is commonplace and most recently where beasts swim through earth like whales through water and people hunt them on giant tunneling trains. Set along the dark fringes of the DCU he's exploring just how strange he can make the lives of Littleville.

Nelson Jent, our hero, for all intents a quitter; overweight, ex boxer with an apparent hear condition gets caught up in something way bigger then just patching things up with a friend that tries to help him out. China throws us into the story of the town of Littleville, CO far removed from the big city heroes of Gotham and Metropolis much as he does his character in his attempt to rescue his friend. This first story arc that includes the first six issues of the comic and the stand alone issue zero sets up the Nelson as hero trying to learn and cope with the strangeness that come with using the artifact of the seventies that transformers him into random heroes, the rotary dial of an old style phone. Each new hero is weirder then the next he become Chimney Boy who can leap across rooftops and smother people with noxious fumes, and Captain Lachrymose who is fueled by others distress as Superman is powered by the yellow sun. Nelson is not the lone hero or meta human in Colorado he's followed my a silver masked character through a couple of issues and fights some equally bizarre opponents in the course of the story. The cast is quickly expanded to two with the inclusion of Roxie Hodder and these two and their relationship easily carries the story along without the need for a kitschy iconic villain to keep you hooked. There are mysteries a plenty in this book as odd mysteries are one of the things Mieville excels in as an author and the resolution of such, if they are resolved, with him are always gateways to more deeper issues.

The art chores on these issues are handled by Mateus Santolouco, David Lapham, and Riccardo Burchielli in a style that favorers thick lines with pretty heavy inks and benefits from detailed colors from Tanya and Richard Horie. Covers drawn by Brian Boland never hurts a book and this one is no exception to that rule but the insides are not your normal fare these days and bear more resemblance to the pages from old Swamp Thing from the late eighties and nineties then slick modern superhero artwork. With all the odd, silly and down right crazy characters and powers China comes up with in the course of the issues is needs its own style and the artists DC gets for this have got that in spades.

If the idea of touring a through a possibly psychedelic mash up of American comic tropes and the twisted storytelling and humor of a great British author appeals to you or if your a fan of the storytelling style of 2000AD and want more along those lines this is a collection to take a peek at. My thought since the zero issue is self contained is to find hat story in the collection, its last one, Nelson and Roxie are not the heroes since its set long ago in pre telephone times.... how does that work well take a look. China Mieville seems to be having lots of fun building a mythology all on his own with Dial-H, one that takes the basic premise and takes it to where there are no longer cords or phone lines and really he doesn't need them with the gonzo ideas he's got going....


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