Let me spoil this entire review up front: Dial H for Hero is one of the greatest comic books on stands right now. This issue, like all the others, is amazing and you should close this tab and immediately travel to your closest comic book store or digital vendor to purchase it. For those unfamiliar with this book or skeptical of its quality, this is a really special book and it’s my hope you’ll feel the same way about it that I do. Written by Sam Humphries, drawn by Joe Quinones, colored by Jordon Gibson, and lettered by Dave Sharpe, Dial H turns an obscure cult classic into an incredibly engaging story. Though it falls under DC’s Wonder Comics line, Dial H is unrelenting in its style, skill, and concepts, and that places it above any age label.
Dial H #9 picks up with the series protagonists, Miguel and Summer, after a brief interlude. The two have recovered a special Cyan dial with the unique ability of transforming the user into their inner hero. What is specifically meant by “inner hero” is not quite clear as of yet. These special dials are new to the DC universe in this iteration of Dial H — each dial corresponds to one of the colors required to print comics according to the CYMK color model: Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, and Black. The Magenta dial is the classic H dial, the Yellow dial was described last issue and splits the user into two entities, and the Black dial’s abilities are unknown.
The introduction of these dials and their connection to color printing is a stunning bit of conceptual work and encourages readers to dig deeper. This issue also provides great insight into Miguel’s headspace. Miguel feels tempted to use the Cyan dial while he and Summer are undercover as interns of the Daily Planet. Miguel encounters a boy named Chidozie who looking for his H-dialed counterpart “Supermiguel”. Chidozie notices the similarity in appearance between Miguel and Supermiguel and questions him, to which Miguel awkwardly deflects. The conversation that follows this scene reveals Miguel wanted to ask him out, and that Miguel is queer. This scene is incredibly well done and immensely exciting. The DC Universe is greatly lacking in gay and bisexual male characters (as well as queer characters in general) and introducing this new lead character as queer not only addresses that problem, but strengthens the book’s message. Dial H is a story where anyone can be a hero. Previous issues have spotlighted diverse minor characters taking up heroic roles, but making the lead of this book nonwhite and queer is so much bigger. As a gay man, the state of queer representation in comics deeply frustrates me. Making this statement here is exactly what is needed in superhero comics and gives me hope for the future.
Dial H has not only benefitted from spectacular writing, but also an incredible art team. Quinones and Gibson have deftly weaved style after style throughout the book, crafting an incredible display of comics visuals. In this issue, the team incorporates wildly different layout,s drawing inspiration from Chris Ware’s cartooning. These pages demonstrate experimental comic structure and methods of comedy, scene transitions, and dialogue. Sharpe’s letters also shift into this style expertly, making this shift in style feel incredibly notable.
In addition, the artists continue the series trend of introducing as many new superheroes as they can throw at you, each one inspired by a different style of comic. The designs of these characters, and the way they all interact in fight scenes, is a sight to behold. This issue features the Early Adopter, whose superpower is to get all the newest tech as soon as it comes out. A handful of other heroes appear in this book, and their appearance is so funny I refuse to tell you about it in this review (and would strongly recommend seeing for yourself). Between the layouts and character designs, Dial H is one of the greatest books there is at showing everything the medium has to offer. It concentrates so many different styles into an accessible and engaging series. For these reasons, this is the perfect book to hand to someone new to the medium, though it’s sure to appeal to longtime comic fans just as much.
Dial H is the crown jewel of the fantastic Wonder Comics line. It’s got brilliant ideas, displays an amazing variety of style and technical skill, and means it when it says everyone can be a hero. There is truly something for everyone here, and I strongly recommend picking it up. I felt welcome reading this book in a way I don’t often feel reading comics, and I think a lot of people out there are going to feel that too. This one personally resonated with me in a way I didn’t expect. For me, that reaction is utterly priceless.
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