In lesser hands, "Dial H" #5 might be an utter mess, but thanks to strong writing by China Miéville and evocative art by Mateus Santolouco, it's instead one of the most bizarre and interesting mainstream comic books around.
"Dial H" is a book that thinks way outside the box -- far enough outside that if you typed up a list of things going on here (a superhero that is basically a hula hoop with a rooster head, an old woman superhero, a fat guy superhero, a rotary dial telephone that gives you superpowers), readers might assume this was either the worst comic ever, or that you were insane for liking it. Instead, it's absolutely compelling.
After the mind-blowing reveal in "Dial H" #0 about where the Dial superpowers come from, this issue has more resonance and the tension is naturally ratcheted up, without Miéville even mentioning it. It's the kind of reveal that just sits in the back of your mind as critical information and you wince, knowing that there will be eventually be painful consequences for our unknowing heroes. It's good stuff.
Santolouco can deliver whatever madness Miéville dreams up and some of it is indeed mad (I refer you again to the hula hoop with a rooster head superhero). Despite the number of bizarre characters involved and the breakneck pace of the action Santolouco manages lucid storytelling that's impressive considering the mania that is the concept in general. The colors by Tanya Horie and Richard Horie continue to be a good match for this dark superhero tale. The entire creative team is clearly working toward the same goal with a clarity that's effective and compelling.
One small failing of the book is that is quite complicated. For new readers that might have jumped on at issue #0, this arc probably feels pretty inaccessible. While this issue is a satisfying conclusion to this arc, and one that introduces plenty of new mysteries for future stories, I can see how new readers might be thrown. Hopefully they can see the quality both Miéville and Santolouco are bringing to the table, and give it the chance that the already devoted "Dial H" readers know it deserves -- readers are in good hands with this creative team.