Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Dial H Volume 1: Into You

by China Mieville and Mateus Santolouco


Nelson Jent is not hero material. He's fat, unemployed, and he's just had a heart attack. But when his friend Darren is getting beaten up by a bunch of thugs, Nelson rushes to an old phone box, only to dial up the extraordinary Boy Chimney. To his amazement, Nelson becomes Boy Chimney for a while, able to use all of this strange superhero's abilities.

In a bid to protect his friend, Nelson returns to the phone box and dials again, this time becoming Captain Lachrymose. And every subsequent time he dials he briefly becomes another new hero, most of them completely absurd.

Nelson's transformations attract the attention of Manteau, a cloaked and masked woman with heroic powers of her own. They also put Ex Nihilo and her goons on his track, along with her murderous ally, The Squid. There's a sickness that's putting people in comas, and a mysterious darkness approaching.

Dial H is quite weird, and the random heroes are pretty much a series of ridiculous puns. China Mieville is poking fun at the superhero genre, and there's also a wry humour in Nelson's interior monologue and his exchanges with other characters, particularly Manteau. We see him develop from a bit of a mess who is being directed by circumstances, to becoming someone who is inclined to take the initiative and risk himself.

This graphic novel isn't very logically structured. There's a climactic battle with a couple of main villains that ends half-way through, followed by a comic interlude with Nelson's new-found mentor in which he learns more about the dial's powers. And then the story moves to another primitive world, where a woman called Laodice touches a symbol-covered dial. She transforms into the incongruous Bumper Carla in order to save her people from a ravening mythical beast. But Laodice had to take those powers from somewhere, and that appropriation causes a host of problems for her.

Into You sets up various beginnings, but it doesn't answer the questions it poses about the origins of the dial, where the heroes all come from, or what effect using the dial will have on Nelson. I'm in two minds about how much I want to find out the answers. On the positive side, it's an unusual set-up, and the main characters are very relatable, especially when they're out of their costumes. On the negative, I'm not keen on the weirdness for weirdness' sake, and at this stage I didn't find the point of the story clear. The central concept is a bit too abstract, so I couldn't work out what, if anything, it's a metaphor for.

17th November 2013

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books

  Science fiction
    Male Protagonist  

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