I’ve enjoyed “Dial H” a great deal, even as I’ve regularly worried that its sales aren’t even close to a match for its high quality. I think that’s why “Dial H” #12 left me with an uneasy feeling; with the suddenly frantic pace from China Mieville and Alberto Ponticelli, it’s hard to shake the idea that they’ve been told to wrap everything up in time for September.
The sad thing is, Mieville and Ponticelli whip up some great ideas here. They continue to play with the idea of not only the dials but the nature of being a hero, and “Dial H” #12 brings a lot of new ideas to the forefront. There’s something powerful with the idea that a person can’t be forced into a role (hero, sidekick, villain) by others if you don’t let them. Manteau’s refusal to be pushed into the role of sidekick, even with the dial trying to pigeonhole her, is one of the great moments of the series that’s up there with the massive sundial in “Dial H” #0. If that’s all there was, it would be great enough, but add in the fight with the Centipede and the Fixer, plus the introduction of the Dial Bunch and all the new information that they bring to the series, and it’s hard to keep from feeling a tiny bit overwhelmed.
Ponticelli and inker Dan Green’s art feels a little inconsistent this month as well, which is a shame. Nelson in particular looks unusually large and bloated; he’s always been a big and husky guy, but there’s something about this month’s art that makes him come across almost like a behemoth. The fight against the Fixer is also a little hard to follow a times; with so much being crammed onto the page I feel like a cleaner art style might have been preferable here. It’s ultimately hard to even keep track of the final fate of the dial that the Fixer tries to steal this month; if it wasn’t for searching one final panel very closely I’m not sure I’d have known the answer. Ponticelli’s rough, squiggly art works a lot of time, but “Dial H” #12 feels like it isn’t the right match for his art.
I want to see more of what we’ve learned in “Dial H” (the idea of a broken autodial alone is fascinating), and I hope that Mieville and Ponticelli get the appropriate space to do so. But regardless, there’s no denying that “Dial H” is one of the most inventive series published by DC Comics in a long time. If it is going away in a few months, I know I’ll miss it.