Review: Dial H for HERO Vol. 1: Enter the Heroverse trade paperback (DC Comics)

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To be honest, I put off reading Sam Humphries' Dial H for HERO as long as I did (at least until the second volume came out) because of Young Animal. While I enjoyed the flagship of Gerard Way's imprint, Doom Patrol, I found the other titles less engaging (and also fleeting). Similarly I liked Brian Michael Bendis' Wonder Comics Young Justice, but then Naomi was good but not great and I started to worry, and that made me hesitant to dig in to another of Wonder Comics' ancillary titles.

Those fears were unfounded, because Humphries' Dial H for HERO Vol. 1: Enter the Heroverse is pretty great; as Brian Michael Bendis describes in his afterword, it's a fantastic pairing of Humphries and artist Joe Quinones. What we find is a DC teen title in the best classic style, reminiscent of Keith Giffen and John Rogers' Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes series or Chuck Dixon's Robin. It's also a fun reimagining of the "Dial H" mythos in the DC Universe — not faithful, I don't think, to any of the "Dial H"-type series of the past couple decades, but there's a lot of potential in the idea that disparate characters across the DCU have used the H Dial, from Angel and the Ape to Alfred Pennyworth.

But mostly what's great is that Humphries and Quinones' Dial H is a celebration of DC Comics and comics in general, with each issue (and use of the H Dial) riffing on something — the extreme 1990s, 1980s Vertigo, manga, Mike Allred, Frank Miller's Sin City, Dennis the Menace and Sunday comics, Alex Ross' Kingdom Come, and on and on, not to mention DC's many different trade dresses over the years. This all comes at the same time Humphries' is also doing comics-in-comics over in Harley Quinn, such to show either the writer of Dial H is perfect for Harley or vice versa.

There's plenty to enjoy here, suggesting the Wonder Comics imprint might be on a better track than some of its fellows.

[Review contains spoilers]

I'd venture there's also shades of Scott Lobdell's Doomed in Dial H, in this idea that Superman — or, the idea of Superman — is firmly in the book's center. Which is to say, it is and isn't Superman per se, but rather the superheroic ideal that Superman represents: all-powerful, all-knowing, inspirational. Underneath all the comedy — and there is a lot of great comedy ("Dear Superman. I'm so embarassed and my legs are cold," and also the use of Superman's Super Friends vehicle) — we can see characters Miguel and Summer both escaping bad home lives. Even as Superman was unable to save Miguel's parents from a plane crash, there's still a sense everyone believes powers solve all problems.

This book must end with Miguel and Summer encountering Superman, and it'll be interesting to see what he has to say to these two wannabe heroes. Further, I'm curious whether this book will coincide with current continuity (and Bendis' current continuity, no less) such that Miguel will learn that Superman's been spending his time as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, and what Miguel will think of his hero being just a "regular guy" like everyone else. (Shades also of Doomed.)

I had no lack of favorite parts in this volume, but if I had to choose, the jam final issue in which Quinones weaves in and out between Alex Ross and Dan Jurgens was a particular delight. It's hardly even worth talking about what continuity Dial H is supposed to be given the celebratory nature of the book, but clearly it's no recent one with the likes of Justice League Detroit, Vibe, and Black Canary's Justice League International costume in play — but, I'd swear Quinones is playing up the Kevin Maguire in his style in that issue, which is also a riot (and that's even before Miguel becomes Hagar the Horrible!).

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Dial H for HERO Vol. 1: Enter the Heroverse

DC has never been particularly good at just letting their characters rest in finite, serial miniseries — the early Birds of Prey and Robin miniseries are really the last time I can remember DC let characters have continuing miniseries without series, and then those both switched over to series (successful ones, admittedly). Anecdotally, issue #1 of a new series maybe does better than issue #1 of a limited mini.



But, even without reading the volume that follows Dial H for HERO Vol. 1: Enter the Heroverse, I know I'd love to see another "season" of this book — not Miguel and Summer joining a team book, where they might not be written by Humphries any more, but Humphries and Quinones picking up with these characters every year or so for a 12-issue run, free to stop when they run out of ideas instead of the book floundering under different creative teams and then falling victim to cancellation (see, for instance, Sandman Universe, which started with ongoing series but is perhaps finding that serial miniseries is the better choice.) Arguably, maybe that's the kind of thing a "pop-up" comics imprint should be for — anyway, after one volume of Dial H, I'm as excited for this book to continue as I am to see what else Brian Michael Bendis might add to Wonder Comics in the future.

[Includes original and variant covers, afterword by Bendis, sketches and character designs]

Comments ( 1 )

  1. As impressed as I was by Humphries's writing, I'd say QuiƱones's art really made this book. I've always enjoyed his graceful, cartoony art, but I never suspected he was the biggest artistic chameleon this side of J. H. Williams III.


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