DIAL H #12

By: China Miéville (story), Alberto Ponticelli (pencils), Dan Green (inks), Richard & Tanya Horie, Allen Passalaqua (colors)

The Story: Don’t be fooled by the curtain he’s wearing for a cape—this guy means business.

The Review: Although the potential of this series has been there from the start, only in the last few issues has it really developed into something special.  Miéville has slowly tightened up his freewheeling writing style; Roxie and Nelson have grown quite admirably into their roles as dual protagonists; and the story of the dial itself has become more focused and comprehensible, revealing what untapped riches continue to reside within the concept.

For a while, this series ran almost entirely on the power of the dial’s mystery, but now that we’ve got a clearer picture of where it comes from and how it works, all that’s left is to put it to some interesting uses.  Roxie and Nelson had their fun playing hero, but Earth’s pretty well taken care of already by an ever-growing crowd of folks with dependably consistent power sets.  The strength of the dial is its endless variety, and it needs more creative challenges than the bread-and-butter criminals and villains of this planet can provide.

Of course, since the Fixer himself can provide an endless variety of challenges through his own dial, he makes for an ideal long-term antagonist.  His only flaw is a certain tunnel vision when it comes to the dials.  At first, you might have pegged him for a kind of enforcer, someone who polices all dials to prevent unauthorized use, but here, his motives seem more self-absorbed than that: “No one-touches-the-dial-but-me.”  In any case, his obsession gets in his own way; even Centipede isn’t spared from Fixer’s wrath if he gets a dial in his hands.

So Fixer must be nothing short of furious over the existence of a whole team of dialers, against whom he must have faced off and lost before.  You heard me right: Miéville introduces seven new heroes, all (except one) with their own hero-summoning dials: “Team Adventitious.  The Junkyard Posse.  The Dial Bunch.”  And just like that, the dial’s mythos has just expanded even further, opening a path for Roxie and Nelson’s new adventures.

Speaking of whom, it’s good to see them hashing out the tension leftover from their bizarre one night stand.  Nelson finally clarifies the source of his fretfulness, telling Roxie, “I didn’t say you humiliated me.  I said it was humiliating.  Waking up like that…”  Nelson’s been struggling with self-image since day one.  That’s where his addiction to the dial comes from.  So to wake up in bed as himself with a woman of—ahem—Roxie’s age probably reminded him that dial stuff aside, there are a lot of shortcomings in his personal life.

He doesn’t seem to realize that he’s got plenty of attractive qualities outside of his physique.  After spending so much time playing hero, he seems to have internalized those noble virtues, as even he’s not dialed up, he keeps fighting the good fight and looking out for his partner.  As for Roxie, well—the lady just doesn’t quit, you know?  Here she shows she’s got willpower and guts to beat the band, which is just great.  She may be DC’s first geriatric superhero.

Again, I have to say that it can’t be easy for Pontcelli to deal with the streams of strange ideas Miéville keeps coming up with, so just staying afloat is a triumph.  And while I still would like a slightly cleaner style of linework for this series, Ponticelli steps up his game a notch here.  Green has found the right kind of inking to bring out the best of Ponticelli’s pencils, but more than that, Ponticelli has gotten more sensible and dynamic with his storytelling, making it easier to follow the flow of action and keep track of what’s going on—although given the frantic pace of the script, he can only do so much.

Conclusion: Miéville’s frenetic story might threaten to lap you at times, but he makes it easier than ever to stay abreast of the rapidly developing plot and appreciate its imaginative strengths.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Can you tell that the new Star Trek movie’s on my mind?  I’m stoked to see it, aren’t you?

– For those of you curious, the floating stars summoned by Yaaba are a reference to “Obradek,” a mysterious, inexplicable creature in Franz Kafka’s “The Cares of a Family Man” that pretty much no one really understands.  Hence, “But-what-does-it-mean?”  You got me, Fixer.

– And I love that Open-Window Man, despite being a non-dialer, is nevertheless still “one of us,” says the leader of the Dial Bunch.  I mean, with an ability like “Defenestration punch!!!” you’d be a fool not to have him on your team.