Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Dial H #0: Bumper Carla VS the Beast of Babylon
"Sundial H for Hero"
Writer: China Mieville
Artist: Ricardo Burchielli
Dial H has consistently been my favorite ongoing title from DC. It features the same unpredictability and weird, stream-of-consciousness storytelling that typified the best of Grant Morrison's early Vertigo books, particularly his run on Doom Patrol, and is one of the only comics that makes me laugh out loud every time I read it.
It's zero issue month at DC this September, and every book is focusing on the origin of its titular character. True to the spirit of this book, Dial H #0 doesn't give us the origin of any one character, so much as it reveals the origins of the mystical H Dial itself.
As it turns out, the H Dial was originally a giant sundial created by a Babylonian woman named Laodice, who saw the design of the dial in a "true dream."
Laodice and her servants struggle to build the sundial as the Babylonian army are massacred by a creature called Mushusshu, the Beast of Babylon, and just as Mushusshu reaches the dial, Laodice is transformed by its powers into...Bumper Carla! That's right, Bumper Carla, a domino-masked wearing heroine that drives a super-charged bumper car.
If I would have been drinking something when I first read that, I would have done a spit-take.
Bumper Carla defeats the Beast of Babylon, and then transforms back into Laodice, who is hailed as a Queen and protector of the Empire. The plot moves forward a few years, and Laodice is visited by a friend who has spent years searching for her "magic chariot."
We learn that Laodice destroyed the sundial which transformed her into Bumper Carla, and that her friend isn't Laodice's only visitor; a mysterious stranger who came to see the Queen was imprisoned for wizardry, and apparently knows something about the magic dial.
Without spoiling the entire issue, let me say that this issue did a great job of showing us the origin of the H Dial without giving away all the mystery of how it works and why. There is still a lot to learn about where characters like Bumper Carla and Chimney Boy come from, and how the H Dial brings them into our world.
This is Ricardo Burchielli's first issue of Dial H, and I don't know if he's taking over for Mateus Santolouco or not, but I thought his art fit this issue fairly well. It wasn't fantastic and if I had to nitpick I'm sure I could find things, but Bumper Carla had a great design and her appearance in the book gave it a much needed boost in the art department. Whoever does the art needs to be flexible, and Burchielli's contrast between Babylonian period details and carnival superheroics showcases that flexibility very well.
Dial H #0 is not an origin issue that a casual reader could pick up and understand how it connects to the larger narrative, but it would give new readers a good idea of just how strange, funny and unexpectedly poignant this series can be.