Image © DC Comics, Inc.
I’ve heard good things about this series which I haven’t been reading, so I decided to try the first collection. The writer, China Miéville is a well-known science fiction writer, but I haven’t read any of his work, this was the first. The gimmick of this book in its original incarnation was the great variety of heroic personae the lead could dial up in a moment, usually several per issue. The revamp is more complicated than that, with a loser-type, Nelson Jent, discovering the magic dial by accident in a phone booth, and spending much of this book trying to figure it all out, with help from another dial-holder, and lots of hindrance from various characters who either want to kill him, or get the dial for themselves. While there are some comic moments, most of the story is played serious and violent. Miéville is very creative with his hero personae, almost to the point of parody, but they are entertaining. And while there are lots of mysteries and unanswered questions, some idea of how the dial works and why emerges by the end.
If the art all looked like the cover, I’d be calling this a pure winner, but unfortunately the main interior artist, Mateus Santolouco’s work does not appeal to me. His characters are all rather ugly, but what bothers me most is a kind of Plastic Man feel to them, in that their shapes and features move around in an nonhuman manner from panel to panel. The grasp of anatomy is uneasy, and the style is loose and sketchy, just the opposite of Brian Bolland’s covers. I liked the art of David Lapham and Riccardo Burchielli—each on one issue—better, and would be more inclined to continue reading if one of them were the main artist. Wish it wasn’t so, but good writing does not always triumph over art I don’t care for.