The cover image didn’t draw me in initially, but the calculated risk DC took by having “Flash” #18 cross over with “Dial H” #11 certainly did. I’m late to the “Dial H” party, but by adding Flash (sort of) to the story with Alberto Ponticelli handling the art, it was enough to convince me to give this title a try.
Everything I know about Roxie Hodder, Nelson Jent and the mysterious, manipulative Centipede wouldn’t fill the space allocated for this review, but that didn’t keep me from letting China Mieville introduce me by way of our mutual friend, the Flash. My experience with the H-dial stems from Will Pfeifer’s 2003 “H.E.R.O” series. It doesn’t matter. Mieville provides enough tension and uneasy energy in the relationship between Roxie and Nelson that I found it engaging and familiar. The need for escape from that situation leads to the excitement of this story, with Nelson “borrowing” the Flash’s power. There’s some dark humor here and some interesting character bits, but when the power fades, there isn’t a whole lot of flash (please, enjoy the pun) left in the story. There’s oddity, unknown and anxiety aplenty, but given my brief introduction to the characters involved, I’m just not feeling that connection.
That’s not to say I won’t be back for more. The vibe Mieville constructs this story around is similar in pitch to the crux of “Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” and Ponticelli brings some of his busy-ness and scratchy detail that worked so well for Frankenstein. Centipede is a creepy enough foe to have had a star turn against S.H.A.D.E., so there’s a lot to work with here. Ponticelli’s strengths are in the edgy, dark, science fiction/horror aspects of comics, so he does well here. His Flash is off just enough to be distracting (lightning bolts instead of boots and no visible seams) and uncomfortable in this world, which serves the plot of this story quite nicely.
This was a fun issue, with a nice connection to one of the brightest, most-upbeat heroes in the DC Universe. Mieville makes good use of stretching into the shared universe to draw new readers without tapping the Dark Knight for yet another appearance to bolster sales. It’s a brave, bold move and one that paid off at least a little bit. It’s also one that could become quite tiresome if used too much. That doesn’t seem to be the case here, as “Dial H” #11 has no shortage of new takes on familiar concepts while mixing in a few eccentric new ideas along the way.