“Dial H” #15 written by China Mieville and drawn by Alberto Ponticelli is the super-sized finale to a critically-acclaimed reimagining of a particularly offbeat DC Universe concept. If nothing else, it was fun while it lasted.
Mieville’s comics work has proven dense and fast-paced in the past, but this issue is almost on another level. Were it any other writer, it’d be tempting to accuse Mieville of cramming in exposition in lieu of the chance to bring the series to its actual conclusion, but it just feels like the natural extension of the book’s existing ethos, as the characters reach The Exchange for a final battle with the operators and all reality at stake. It’s hard not to ponder how far the characters have come since Nelson first chanced upon a phone dial in the series opener almost a year and a half ago.
Ponticelli’s artwork remains the perfect partner to Mieville’s writing, capable of illustrating the more widescreen and crazy concepts the book calls for just as much as the emotional subtleties on each character’s face. As well as a huge number of new superheroic identities, this issue also calls upon Ponticelli to mash-up previous identities, making his successes even more impressive. With his quirky and expressive style, it’s hard to imagine anyone else drawing the title as well as Ponticelli has.
As grand finales go, “Dial H” #15 offers everything readers could want: explanations for what the series’ unanswered questions, a bigger fight that ever before with the highest stakes yet and an emotional, victorious high. There’s even a cliffhanger that implies more stories to come, although whether they’ll be told is another matter. Mieville’s forthcoming “Justice League” #23.3 may yet elucidate the fate of these characters after an ending that’s not quite a cliffhanger, but not a closed resolution either.
It’s certainly a shame to see the series conclude, at any rate, as it was one of the most consistent, original and enjoyable series to come out of the New 52 by any measurable standard. One hopes that Mieville might return to take the reins of another series, but in many ways he’s an anomaly at DC for managing 15 straight issues (and a zero issue), so it’s unclear whether a more high profile assignment would be the right place for a writer who appeared to enjoy a lot more freedom than most writers at DC do.
Still, if this is all readers get, at least it was worth the time and effort. “Dial H” was routinely brilliant, and will hopefully enjoy a long life in trade. Nelson, Manteau and their friends deserve that much at least.