Leaning a bit harder in the direction of a traditional superhero story than its debut, Dial H #2 has many classic story elements: two heroes fighting each other over a misunderstanding, the death of someone close to protagonist acting as a catalyst, a villain whose powers are similar to yet distinct from our hero's (Nelse changes into a new persona each time, while The Squid changes the make-up of his toxins based on the situation). Yet China Mieville continues to tell a somewhat off-center story through his examination of Nelse's psychological state during all this madness. A likable schlub with honest intentions, Nelse stumbles through the process of becoming one of the good guys. Much like the reader, he doesn't understand all of the details of how or why he can do what he does with the mysterious rotary dial, but that isn't keeping him from diving into the adventure. He wants to help his friend and he wants to change his own life, so he embraces the opportunity to do so even though it puts him in constant danger and may well be driving him insane.
Nelse's likability has as much to do with Mateus Santolouco's artwork as Mieville's writing. He is the perfect sad sack, soft around the edges and always looking not only depressed, but exhausted by his depression. Overall, Santolouco's work continues to highlight both the absurdism and the darkness inherent in this series, even though this month, much like the narrative, the artwork seems to be aiming slightly more for a "normal" sort of house style than last time. Still, the specific superheros we're introduced to here, even those who we see for only a panel or two, all look spectacular and fittingly strange, and Santolouco makes them distinct from one another while still meshing together and clearly existing as part of a shard world.
The same is true of the mysterious caped woman with whom Nelse has a brief tussle this issue, as well as The Squid, who is thoroughly creepy when wearing his weird mask, but looks a little more like your everyday supervillain when we can actually see his face. All told, the effect is one of familiar superherosim with a shadowy twist, which is a mood that continues to strongly hold my interest.