“I gotta do something.”
Dial H for Hero is a book that captures the true essence of what it means to be a hero. It’s a dynamic thriller that leaves you on the edge of your seat with its fast pacing and sudden style changes while making sure you’re smiling the whole way through. It lives in its element, honing the silliness, excessiveness, and sense of adventure it uses to craft its narrative at every turn. This series may be just six issues, but it’ll be the most vigorous six issues you’ve ever read. Yet despite all that’s listed above, the story remains, at its core, about a young boy who’s trying the capture the feeling of being Superman, and discovering himself along the way. The creative team of Sam Humphries, Joe Quinones, Jordan Gibson, and Dave Sharpe have captured the inner heroic spirit in all its forms, and by reading Dial H for Hero, they’ll help awaken the hero in you.
From beginning to end, the comic sucks you in and never lets go despite all of the tone and style shifts, wonder and sensationalism, and grounded character moments it’s somehow able to blend together. Ultimately, Miguel remains the unwavering center of a book driven by characters taking sides. Whether it be playing it safe versus daring to adventure, the allure of transformation versus the necessity of maintaining your true identity, or just plain greed versus selflessness, the book is a whirlwind of perspectives circling Miguel. Yet despite that, the book maintains a remarkable balance through the use of incredibly smooth transitions throughout the issue.
While Dial H for Hero #1 contained a notable stylistic transition to represent Miguel’s first hero transformation, issue #2 doubles down by holding two astonishing transformations within its pages. This isn’t some gimmick the creative team takes for granted, however. Each transformation holds a unique purpose from a creator and storytelling perspective. Issue #1 paid an homage to the nineties era of comics, a very formative era for creators Humphries and Quinones, and all of its loud, bombastic, and extreme visual and storytelling qualities. Monster Truck and the nineties era is also a testament to how fun comics can be by just existing a pure, energetic, unadulterated entertainment. It made you want to yell “Hell Yeah!” and still does. Issue #2 continues to pay respect to formative storytelling genres for both Humphries and Quinones by paying tribute to manga and anime, an act seldom done in western comics. Humphries and Quinones don’t just pay their respects, however, they make these storytelling mediums their own by combining them with traditional western comics in very unique way. Throughout the entire action sequence, we get to witness transformations on numerous different levels within and beyond the scope of the story thanks to every member of this wonderful creative team.
Joe Quinones once again leads the charge by continuing to make the book effective and astonishing with his amazing art and versatility. These transformations would not be effective if the book itself did not have its own solidified signature style. From the very beginning of Dial H for Hero #2, the artwork is bold, loud, and distinctively aimed toward the reader. It’s striking how almost every panel in the beginning of the issue seems to be directed at you — whether it be Miguel reaching out of the page to throw the H-Dial or Summer looking at you as she laughs at Miguel, it’s as though you are viewing this world through the eyes of someone in it. This is accentuated by Gibson’s colors’s as he makes use of bold reds, bright blues, and brilliant yellows. As we meet Jobu the Zonkey King, an overt homage to Dragon Ball, the issue gradually changes into a manga-comic hybrid unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Initially, the comic remains directed toward the reader, with Jobu’s eyes initially looking beyond the panels. The colors continue to be bold but gradually begin to fade. Little stylistic flourishes begin to develop as the straight, rectangular panel divisions become angled and irregular. The bold colors are now faded reds, oranges and pinks, and soon those are the only colors that remain. There are kinetic lines tracing the movement and action in every panel, and Quinones begins to draw scenes from different perspectives instead of aiming the comic toward the reader. Every so often, however, a pair of eyes look straight at the reader to remind them that it is still a comic they are reading and still the Dial H for Hero they know and love.
Just as you’re getting used to the new style, however, the issue begins to gradually shift once again, paying homage to the extremely influential mecha style of anime and manga found in properties like Gundam and Osama Tesuka’s Astro Boy. As Miguel transforms into Iron Deadhead, the gradient that takes place is astounding. The remaining red-orange color fades into black and white, and when colors are no longer there to add feeling or intonation to a story, the astonishing line work makes up for it. Dave Sharpe’s lettering plays an important role here as the SFX change immensely in both style and choice of onomatopoeia. The stringy, uneven KKKRRSSSSSH is distinctively manga, and the SFX on the following pages reflect that as well. Each of the three styles previously mentioned have their separate moments before coming together in one awesome and energetic action sequence that simultaneously combines all three styles in ways we’ve never seen before. It is truly a work of art to behold as we see Jobu the Zonkey fight Iron Deadhead in a world that captures western comics and combines it with two distinct styles of manga. It’s a sequence one could go on and on talking about, but each reader needs to experience the sequence’s full weight themselves.
Jobu the Zonkey lays beaten and bloodied lying in a small crater. “I’ll never be like you,” Iron Deadhead proclaims. A decision is made, but the H-Dial is gone. The book is very careful about what it reveals and when it’s revealed, leaving the readers’ imaginations to run wild in between issues. The creative team has set up an intriguing cat and mouse game for the remaining four issues with the H-dial and Miguel at the center. We can only guess at the twists and styles that will appear in future issues.
Throughout this masterpiece, Humphries’ dialogue adds a grounded and authentic feeling to all of the wild antics going on in the book. If you stop and think about it, a zebra-donkey hybrid and a manna-powered robot are fighting over a rotary phone. It’s a ridiculous statement to state out loud, but it doesn’t feel that way when you’re reading it. The stakes feel as real as ever, and the emotions feel genuine. You understand Miguel’s wonder as he transforms into super-powered beings and feel for his struggle to find the inner hero within himself. The Thunderbolt Club’s actions may feel immoral, but many of the people are just addicts longing to capture a feeling again. You can’t help but feel how manipulated and weak they are as the only real villain here appears to be Mister Thunderbolt himself as he encourages these addicts to give in to their weaknesses.
Dial H for Hero #2 continues Miguel’s epic quest to discover his inner hero through stunning transformations made possible by the ridiculous and awesome H-Dial. As everyone around Miguel appears to take sides and the H-Dial’s full potential begins to reveal itself, readers will only be left feeling the weight of one word: Sockamagee.