By: China Miéville (story), Mateus Santolouco (art), Tanya & Richard Horie (colors)

The Story: Cheating an old woman out of heads or tails?  That’s the hero you get without a dial.

The Review: It really is unfortunate that Zero Month interfered with the timing of this arc, as Miéville had just started developing momentum on what had up to #4 been a pretty obtuse story.  Not that #0 was bad or had no value—au contraire.  We learned a fairly valuable point about the nature of the Dial and how its powers work, and undoubtedly that will tie into Miéville’s bigger plans for the series.  Still, it interrupted an arc at its climax, and that is never a good thing.

Anyway, I guess it’s more graceful for me to say that I’m happy we’ve come back to the story at hand.  Even though I still haven’t read a lick of Miéville’s literary output to this day (much to Alex’s chagrin, I’m sure), I’ve always recognized his talent.  Up until #4, though, I thought his ambitions had run a bit far afield of what a mainstream comic could really achieve.  Yet against all odds, he’s managed to deliver a fully-formed mystery that you can actually follow.

Maybe it’s because Miéville simply stuck to his guns and continued to elaborate on the science of nothingness issue after issue, but now a lot of his concepts regarding Abyss and its offspring of nothings make some sense.  It takes a bit of counterintuitive, imaginative logic, but he even gives the idea of two nothings making a something a certain appeal, though the Squid’s description of it feels more haunting than anything else:

“Some people on my world…think the whole of our universe is just the effluent of Nihils’ predation on each other…that we live in the crumbling coprolite of the nul-eat-nul.”

Even more interesting that the esoteric gobbledygook is the appearance of an unnamed Dialer, whose mastery over the hero-summoning relic clearly surpasses anything even Manteau has done.  He bears his Dial prominently on his chest throughout all his rapidfire transformations, and the fact that he leaps out of Abyss just long enough to shut down a fellow Dialer, and then leaps back into Abyss just before the big nothing collapses, indicates an entity of some power.  Manteau suspects this may be “[t]he shadow on the line,” the thing listening in when she or Nelson make a call to their heroes.

So far, this title has mostly been one of ideas, while the character work still isn’t all there, or even partly there.  Nelson Jent still crutches on his persona as a hard-luck everyman with no distinguishing tics or features, and Manteau, despite revelations about her true identity (“Roxie Hodder,” she introduces herself), remains as strange and untouchable as ever.  For that reason, it shouldn’t surprise you that the most developed character of all turns out to be the Squid.  The pathetic ending to his role in this series doesn’t quite cross over into sympathy, but it does offer a bittersweet coda to his character, especially in the endearing way he admires human culture to the end: “It sounds better in your languages.  I learned 17 when I came.  I could never decide which was my favorite.  Or which voice to use.”

Santolouco also seems like he’s just found his groove on this title, although the cartoony nature of his figures will probably always defeat his more serious ventures.  You have to admit he’s always managed to keep up with Miéville’s oddball ideas, and no matter how complicated the script gets, Santolouco delivers something that makes visual sense.  He just can’t really capture the sense of scale and drama lurking in the story, and that makes Dial H less impressive than it might otherwise be.

Conclusion: Wildly inventive, almost dangerously so, but worth it for anyone who claims they want to read something different from a mainstream publisher.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – The government copters fire missiles into an established living black hole.  The ineptitude of comic book military never ceases to amaze me.

– Always worth the price of admission is Miéville’s endless ability to generate new superheroes, his enthusiasm and confidence only growing as he unbinds himself from logic.  Case in point, “Cock-a-Hoop!”—a fusion of rooster and hula-hoop that boasts a super-sonic crow and mind-boggling spinning power.  Glorious.