Dial H has had a fascinating history at DC Comics. Its initial volume was a Silver Age cult classic, later returning in the New 52 with China Miéville’s darker take. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Dial H follows bearers of a mysterious rotary telephone called the H Dial. When the owner dials “H” on the phone, they are transformed into a superhero never seen before, and possibly never seen again. Now Dial H is on the stands once more, this time brought to us by Sam Humphries and Joe Quinones, with Paulina Ganucheau joining on art for this issue. Thus far the team has delivered a fantastic new take.
Humphries has built an accessible story for younger audiences while also connecting this book to the mythos of Dial H, all while introducing brand new concepts to the DC Universe with multiversal implications. On the art side, each issue Quinones has delivered stunning design after design for new heroes, all while shifting his style alongside them. The focus of this issue is the secret origin of both the Operator, who was revealed to be the protagonist of silver age Dial H Robby Reed, and the book’s mysterious villain, Mister Thunderbolt.
This issue continues the series trend of introducing stunning new concepts to the DC Universe. Right out the gate the reader is introduced to another dial, the even more mysterious Y Dial. Though its effects are not explained immediately, the reader is beckoned to dial H on the Y dial and discover the incredible origins of the Operator and Mister Thunderbolt. The Operator’s story follows Robby Reed from when he initially received the H dial back in the Silver Age, to his transformation into the Operator. Following his grandfather’s passing, Robby begins a quest for power that leads him into the Heroverse. The Heroverse, introduced in previous issues, is the great cosmic source of all heroism that lies beyond the Speed Force Wall. It’s a brilliant, creative idea that adds to the work Grant Morrison did when he laid out the multiverse map in Multiversity.
Here we see Robby arrive and begin to map out the Heroverse on the multiverse map. The Heroverse has two hemispheres, light and dark, each with a castle at the center of each end. It is here on this expedition that Robby discovers the Y dial. Upon dialing it, he is split into two entities: The Operator and Mister Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt’s story describes what happened to him from here: how his desire to give everyone in the multiverse power led to his defeat by the Operator. Thunderbolt eventually begins enacting his plan to collect all four H dials (two of which have yet to be explained) and dial the entire multiverse. The 4 dials are designated C, M, Y, and K, which is also the model used to print color images on paper. Whatever the power of these dials are, they share the same name as the literal building blocks of all comics. Oh yes, the final brilliant conceptual revelation of this book is that the Heroverse around the multiverse forms a giant cosmic dial of its own. What will happen should Mister Thunderbolt manage to Dial H for Hero on the entire multiverse? Only future issues can tell.
The stellar output of ideas from this book would not land nearly as well without the fabulous art team. Joe Quinones has been delivering incredible design work every single issue — a perfect example of this is the cosmically cool cloak of the Operator. This issue he is joined by the also fantastic Paulina Ganucheau, and their styles work together perfectly. Jordan Gibson and Joe Quinones work together on colors, and they meet the standard of the rest of this issue with ease. The cosmic craziness of this world is represented with visuals that are nothing short of wild. Intensely vibrant colors capture the pulsating energy of the Heroverse, ready to be unleashed at a dial. The double page spread at the end of the issue showing the split between the Operator and Mister Thunderbolt is particularly striking, with its mirrored cosmic imagery and contrasting colors. Dial H has consistently been a book with pages you can stare at forever, seeing all sorts of wonderful things in the background, and this issue is no different.
In addition to the brilliant conceptual work and fantastic art of this book, Dial H #8 is deeply interesting on a technical level. The book reveals the power of the Y dial is to split that which is one into two. This issue’s structure mimics the letter Y itself, telling two stories that become one as the reader progresses. The first page introduces the reader to the Y dial, with the second explaining this issue’s structural gimmick. The origins of the Operator and Mister Thunderbolt are told at the same time, however the Operator’s origin starts at the beginning, while Mister Thunderbolt’s starts begins at the end (or where we left off with him last issue) and moves backwards to the point where they split. At the end of the issue, the two stories are united by the moment where Robby splits into the Operator and Mister Thunderbolt upon dialing the Y dial. Once the reader has finished the issue a first time, they can read it again backwards to experience Mister Thunderbolt’s origin chronologically after the split.
This kind of irregular structure is worth noting in any comic book, but it is worth remembering that Dial H is a part of the Wonder Comics imprint. The Wonder Comics line focuses on younger characters and aims to tell stories for readers of a similar age. It is here that the fundamental success of Dial H can be seen. Unlike many attempts to reach younger audiences, Dial H does not talk down to its readers. Humphries and Quinones acknowledge the intelligence of their audience and are not afraid to throw grand cosmic concepts and complex structural elements at them. Wonder Comics has seen great success since its launch, with Dial H getting a six issue extension. It is this respect for the audience, among many other positive qualities, that has made Dial H an overwhelming success.
Dial H for Hero has been relegated to cult classic status across its incarnations, but the level of ambition coming from this team aims so much higher than that. This is not just a YA book, nor is it just a weird side project. This is a modern DC classic in the making. Whether you’re a newcomer to comics, or if you’ve been reading since the original Dial H, every DC fan should give this a read. It’s got great characters you can’t help but love, yet it’s so grand and cosmic and willing to jump right into the deepest depths of the DC Universe. Reader, if you too long to see the great cosmic source of all heroism, there’s only one thing left to do: Lift your hand, and Dial H for Hero!
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