Dial H #14

"Dial H" has only one more issue until it all comes to a close, and if there was any doubt that this cancellation was a surprise to China Mieville and Alberto Ponticelli, "Dial H" #14 should put those thoughts to rest. The concepts are strange and great -- something that "Dial H" has never had a problem with -- but like last month's issue, it's also so rushed that it's clear the creators have accelerated the story in order to get any sort of conclusion.

It's a little frustrating on some level to read "Dial H" #14, because if you squint you can almost see the original version of this issue, and it's two or three times as long. The rapidly submerging world that's seen and gone in three pages, or the underground caverns that get an expansive six pages -- each of them could have just as easily gotten their own entire issue. Instead, Mieville pushes through the different situations, as Nelson and company get crucial information, lose members of their group and finally travel to the birthplace of all the different Dials. It's fun, there's no doubt, but concepts are thrown at the reader and just as quickly discarded as cameos of different H-Dial heroes in the early issues of the series. It's one thing to get a glimpse of a different costume, name, and power structure; it's something else for an entire plot line to come and go that quickly.

Ponticelli's pencils are eye-catching though, with a unique wrinkled look that isn't quite like anything else out there. I love the massive apocalypse apparition that appears in the world of the meta-castle, for instance; for something with not a lot of details, it's surprisingly effective with the way it's surrounded by the clouds of smoke that serve almost as tendrils reaching out from its visage. As always, I also appreciate how Ponticelli draws Nelson and Roxie. They're about as far from the regular superhero physique as you can get for main characters in a comic, but Nelson's out-of-shape body and Roxie's age aren't treated as grotesque or exaggerated; it's simply who they are, and they're drawn in a respectful and realistic manner.

"Dial H" #14 makes me a little sad when it's all said and done. This is a part of the "Dial H" story that should have had much more room to stretch its legs; if more readers had given it a chance, there's no doubt we would have gotten just that. Still, half a loaf is better than none, and I am eager to see next month's double-sized conclusion. There's no denying, though, that before the cancellation axe began to swing down, "Dial H" was normally a bit stronger than this.

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