At a car boot sale today I noticed that one of the graphics novels someone was selling was issues 1-6 and 0 of the 'New 52' reboot of DC's Dial 'H' For Hero' . I didn't follow the New 52 DC relaunch because of early reports of the crass reimagining of Clark Kent and everything else I heard about it, so I was surprised for two reasons - firstly, I vaguely remembered the series from my childhood as a brainless fluffy thing about a teenager living in a small town who turned into random superheroes but had assumed that it was long gone, and secondly, the author's name on the cover was China Mieville, not really an author I associate with brainless fluffiness. Since it was only £2 I took a chance and bought it.
As you might have guessed, the central concept of dialling to become a hero is the main point of similarity. Everything else is different, with a grimdark horror overlay that seems to be the hallmark of most comics these days. The hero is a 40-ish overweight man suffering a midlife crisis long before things get weird, and he lives in a squalid city suffering the death of a thousand financial cuts, with litter and crime everywhere. Lots of people die, and the secret history of the dial turns out to be pretty nasty, with a multi-universe body count in the billions. And yet it still manages to be a fun read, especially when it isn't a superhero fight - my favourite episode has to be the one in which the hero and a more experienced user of the dial are discussing some of the less desirable forms the dial has given them, while the hero is temporarily stuck as a racially offensive stereotype who wants to help people but knows that a huge number of people will hate him for it unless there's a really bad emergency.
i'm probably not going to go looking for more, comics are a VERY expensive addiction and I've been going more or less cold turkey for several years now, but if more comes my way cheaply I'll certainly give it a look. Recommended, at least for this particular collection.
In other news I learned today that if a modern bus's electronics crash it can take seven minutes and half a dozen attempts, including coaching over the radio and at least two computer reboots, to get it started again. It makes me wonder how fly by wire aircraft ever get off the ground.
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