Dial H for Hero #1
Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Joe Quinones
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Dial H for Hero has such a whimsical central concept that it almost seems impossible to screw up - dial “H” on a old, magic rotary phone and temporarily gain superpowers.
With that said, Sam Humphries and Joe Quinones acquit themselves pretty well here, but the strength of the issue comes when they dive full speed ahead into the concept and less when they’re building the foundational elements of the world.
Put simply, this is a six-issue limited series, and this debut issue buckles a bit under the weight of decompression, despite some really expressive art from Quinones.
It’s not that building a foundation isn’t important, but when your concept is as limitless and straightforward as Dial H for Hero, I think I speak for most readers when I say that I want to see more superpowers and less angst about working in a mayo-themed food truck. Humphries doesn’t do a bad job setting things up, but the set is fairly by the numbers — a teen adrenaline junkie named Miguel hates his life and is inspired to get out of his town by a cool girl. Along the way, a stunt gone wrong leads him to get a magic phone and he turns into a superhero. The elements are all there, but they’re presented a little bit disjointedly. We don’t quite understand the rules of the phone, why Miguel happens to get it, and what that means in the context of the larger world. The four pages that Miguel becomes the ‘90s-styled superhero Monster Truck are fun, but almost exist as a non-sequitur — they introduce us to the concept, but they don’t feel very impactful.
Quinones really gets to flex his muscles here, though. I like him a lot better when he’s inking and coloring himself, because I think the overall artistic vision is a lot more straightforward than when he’s part of a team. His regular style in this issue does very into some heavily rendered territory that can come off a bit plastic-looking, but overall Quinones gives us a good expression work and character designs. His page and panel layouts work well, too. In a weird way, his art feels a lot like a Pixar movie in the ways that it is so intentionally paced and designed. But the standout part of the book has to be the Monster Truck pages — Quinones is able to switch gears so well that is actually looks like you’re reading some lost pages from 1992. This is full-on Image exodus era stuff, and it’s so much fun.
Undoubtedly, Humphries and Quinones will be able to deliver something more substantial in the next issue now that they’ve gotten some of the introductory work out of the way. But this issue might not be enough to get readers to come back next month. The art is good. The concept is novel. And if Quinones is going to be switching up his art style with every new hero that Miguel dials, this could be a really exciting book visually. But if you’re not sold on another “down on his luck teen gets a magic doodad” story, you might want to trade-wait rather than purchase this one in installments.