By: China Miéville (story), Alberto Ponticelli (pencils), Dan Green (inks), Tanya & Richard Horie (colors)
The Story: America may have Superman, but Canada has…er…never mind.
The Review: With all these cancellations in the DC line going on, it’s made me naturally nervous for all the oddball titles out there, the ones that aren’t exactly top fifty, but which provide DC with some real diversity. And it doesn’t get any odder or more diverse than Dial H, which continues to feel as fresh and ambitious as when it first launched. While its fate is by no means secure, at least the publishing powers saw fit to keep it alive for a while longer.
Good thing for any of us who hope that Dial H signals an open door to more unconventional titles in the mainstream press later down the line. Good thing, too, for Miéville, who clearly has a long-term plan in place for the series. We’re nearly a year into the title’s life, and the focal point of the story, the Dial itself, still remains an enigma. This issue doesn’t even offer a hint of new information as to the device’s origins, but it does indicate we’ll find out more soon.
In the meantime, you can enjoy the various mysteries Miéville introduces, including why the Centipede finds himself unable to use Nelson’s Dial. It really is a strange development, as we’ve never seen the Dial be so choosy before. It can’t have anything to do with the Centipede’s powers, as Ex Nihilo had powers of her own, and that didn’t stop her from the benefit of dialing. Then again, she had been using Roxie’s dial, and we know Nelse’s has not had the most stable shelf life.
You can also enjoy the delightful injection of humor into the series via the inclusion of the Canadian government. I have to admit, I would never have expected Miéville to take such glee in making fun of the Great White North, but the ad hominem teasing of Canada is a pretty funny comedy left-turn for the series. Consider the following conversation between two researchers in the Canadian metahuman department:
“I still say ‘Oh Canada’ is a dumb name for a meta.”
“Oh, please. ‘Secret project’ my Alberta.”*
Besides the jokes, Miéville offers a wonderful, in-depth look into another culture’s superheroes* and an interesting glimpse into the Centipede’s character. He really isn’t such a bad fella; he may be deadly and frightening, but he is also a true patriot, long-suffering, willing to endure some real indignities in the name of his country. His targets may be Nelson and Roxie, but he doesn’t seem to hold real evil intent toward them; it’s information he wants, though he may be willing to far to get it.
If none of that will hold you over, you can always just enjoy the warm camaraderie between Roxie and Nelson, DC’s most unique set of protagonists, and the stream of clever superheroes that Miéville seems incapable of running out of. I don’t know which I find cooler, Minotaura, with the power to raise giant mazes out of nowhere to trap her enemies, or the Glimpse, who makes it impossible for anyone to get a real good look at him.
To be honest, I’d prefer a cleaner style of art for this story than what Ponticelli provides, but it does give a nice, edgy look to the series, affirming that it has more in common with a Vertigo title than your usual DC offerings. Although he may not have the most attractive work in the world, Ponticelli knows how to tell a proper story, using the comic book medium to his advantage to show off the Glimpse’s powers. The Hories turn in fine work as always, but nothing worth remarking on.
Conclusion: The plot developments are happening on the sidelines of the story, but you can still feel a sense of forward movement for the title, and there’s plenty to enjoy besides.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * I also found it cool that Miéville casually has the male researcher comment on how hot the Centipede is, with the lady researcher advising him against acting on his feelings.
* Here’s an idea: China Miéville and James Robinson on an international superhero title. I’m not talking Justice League International or Global Guardians or whatever. I’m talking about a series in the vein of DC Universe Presents, with each arc focusing on a different nation and one of its heroes. I’d buy that series and its trades in a heartbeat.