Dial H. Volume 1: Into You by China Mieville – Graphic Novel Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews the first volume of DC’s The New 52 Dial H series from China Mieville.
“A weird collection that should have a target audience of horror and superhero graphic novel fans alike, but my expectations of a great graphic novel were let down and I was not impressed.” ~The Founding Fields
• Hugo Award-winning novelist China Mieville joins DC Comics—The New 52 with the first collection of DIAL H!
• In the town of Littleville, CO, a troubled young man stumbles upon the lost H-Dial and all the power it possesses. Can our hero manage harness the power of the H-Dial and protect it from falling into evil hands? Or will this newfound power plunge our hero into madness?
I’ve been hearing a lot of praise for China Mieville’s novels and he’s an author who I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. Dial H. was actually a comic that I was really looking forward to read as a result so that when I saw the first Volume available on NetGalley I leapt at the chance to request it and it wasn’t long before I started reading. And did I enjoy it? Well, I have mixed feelings about Into You, the first collection of Dial H from DC’s New 52 that I’ll touch on in this review.
I’ve never heard of Dial H. before, which made this even more intriguing as before the New 52 reboot I’d heard of virtually all of the characters involved even though I wasn’t a big comics reader before this reboot. But anyway, since most of you are probably going to be in the dark about this series (I’ve got no idea whether it’s a Pre-New 52 Series or was introduced for the reboot myself), I might as well tell you the story. The story introduces us to an unlikely hero, Nelson – an ordinary, over-weight man who has the unfortunate luck of witnessing his friend getting beaten by thugs in an alley. He’s turned into a superhero named Boy Chimney after stepping into a phone box and dialing in an attempt to call for help, and uses his powers to defeat the thugs and get his friend to hospital. Once he has returned to his normal self however, Nelson becomes fascinated by the Dial and returns many times to the Phone Booth, each time being transformed into a new and unique superhero for a short period of time.
If it sounds weird to you, then it probably is. Into You is far from your conventional DC Superhero tale – in fact, it seemingly bares no relation to the main DC Universe whatsoever and could almost exist in its own pocket world. There are no mentions to DC established towns and cities throughout the graphic novel and not one mention of any other superheroes aside from Mieville’s creations. In fact, this tale is so weird that it doesn’t feel like a DC graphic novel. It feels more along the lines of a Vertigo or a Dark Horse tale than sharing the same publisher as Batman and Superman.
I really wanted to enjoy this tale especially with all the positive feedback that came with Mieville’s work. He’s been labelled as a strong voice in fantasy and science fiction and I can certainly see flashes of brilliance throughout this graphic novel, but ultimately, it disappointed me and is probably one of my least favourite New 52 Graphic Novels that I’ve read, beaten only by Superboy from Scott Lobdell. I was very confused over the course of this title and I didn’t always get what was going on. I wasn’t a big fan of the artwork either, it was very weird in places and although that kind of befitted the storyline, it didn’t really do me any favours as a reader. The storyline was very odd in places and this graphic novel didn’t really work for me as a whole.
Nelson, the character – is a pretty average guy and this book demonstrates the fact that he truly is “normal”, after all – think of how many times you see the word “normal” thrown on books and video games that often end up having similar stories to Harry Potter. He’s a smoker, overweight and pretty much broke and alone. Not your typical hero. I didn’t really grow attached to him as a character throughout the book and the dialogue didn’t really help things much. It was too “out there” and not easy to relate to what was happening as a whole, which was a shame as I felt this had great potential. The fact that there’s so much going on as well doesn’t help, for the book moves at a fast pace and the fact that it is so bizarre in places makes it really hard to follow, which was a shame as this book had the potential to be so much better, especially with somebody with Mieville writing it.
If you’re looking for something original, weird, dark and atmospheric, and are used to China Mieville’s method of writing then I think Into You will be right up your street if you haven’t already picked up the individual issues. However for me, I felt this title was a let down and didn’t really enjoy it for the reasons mentioned above. It’s nice to see some realistic characters in superhero stories though and this was admittedly, a refreshing break from the status quo- but ultimately it just didn’t work for me as a collected volume.