REVIEW: Dial H For Hero #1

DIAL H FOR HERO #1 / Writer: Sam Humphries / Artist: Joe Quinones / Letterer: Dave Sharpe / Publisher: DC – Wonder Comics / Release date: March 27, 2019

Dare To Answer The Call

Hot diggity damn, is DC’s Wonder Comics imprint off to a strong start. Between Young Justice, Naomi, and Wonder Twins, the imprint is bringing color and joy back to DC as much as Young Animal brought weirdness and transformation. Now, Dial H For Hero has debuted from writer Sam Humphries (Green Lanterns, Blackbird) and artist Joe Quinones (America, Howard The Duck), showing off creative flair so spontaneous and pretty that the premise really is, “made-up superheroes that you never knew you wanted.”

The Hero Within

The narrative is grounded in its lead teenage protagonist, Miguel. Following a chance encounter with Superman as a child, he has chased bigger and badder thrills in search of that same adrenaline rush. In the meantime, he works for his uncle Brant’s food truck, Mayo Madness. It’s the sort of crummy, entry-level job that includes cleaning out “mayo traps” on one’s back, and it represents a role forced on Miguel following the (off-page) death of his parents. Luckily, Miguel crosses paths with Summer, a rebellious redhead who never stops trying to leave Devil’s Canyon, California. While Miguel pulls stunts locally, Summer is a whole other kind of reckless that seeks the freedom of the open road – I just hope she’s not constrained to Manic Pixie Dream Girl status. Quinones communicates a lot through characters’ faces, be it determination, frustration, or sheer “gee whiz” surprise.

All You Have To Do Is Dial

Enter the impossible: the Hero Dial, a fantastic rotary style phone that temporarily turns its user into a random superhero. For its first big showcase, Miguel turns into – you know what, you have to find out for yourself. The unique pleasure of this comic, much like previous incarnations of this title, comes from bizarre super-powered alter-egos bounding off the page with fresh creative energy. The layouts are fairly straightforward, with regularly tall and wide panels for accessible reading, chased by creative jolts arriving to convey the Hero Dial’s reality warp (which is still accessible but a little more zig-zaggy to follow). The entire transformation sequence is a style unto itself, full of lights, lightning, and red flourishes. In his new hero mode, Miguel and his surroundings take on the aesthetic of a mid-90s muscle-fest, crammed full of action and punny one-liners focused on his hero’s gimmick. The realistic proportions and slick digital shading of the normal world give way to cross hatching and bombastic excess. Best of all: just as Superman’s intervention set Miguel on a certain course in life, use of the Hero Dial results in real-world consequences, too.

How “Mayo” Help You

Huge shout out to Dave Sharpe’s lettering on this issue – all of the stylistic shifts mentioned above (and a couple that I didn’t in order to avoid spoilers) come complete with unique dialog fonts and sound effect designs. His captions containing Miguel’s internal monologue are peppered across early pages like bread crumbs, and the latter half of the issue leans on words so bold they flex graphic design. All this expressiveness makes for a first issue that feels like bouncing higher than you’ve ever been off a trampoline, and the second issue promises to be the neighbor’s pool.

Verdict: 5 out of 5.

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Thomas is a teen services librarian who reads way too many comics. He can be found gobbling pancakes at the nearest diner with Jessica Cruz, Forsythe Jones III, Jane Foster, and Hellboy. He reviews media for the public here and graphic novels for librarians at No Flying, No Tights.

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