Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing Dial H 12, originally released May 1st, 2013.
Taylor: There comes a point in issue 12 of Dial H where after a series of very chaotic series the Fixer, who we were introduced to last month, is utterly confused. The cause of his (her, its?) confusion is the product of spell put on it by another character in the issue, as opposed to it actually just being confused by the events it’s undergoing. While this is a different type of confusion than readers of Dial H are used to experiencing, the reaction it elicits are basically the same.
What exactly does all this crazy shit mean? Dial H has always reveled in its own weirdness, an aspect of the series that has almost been aggressive in its persistence. At some point, however, all this weirdness has to go somewhere and actually mean something; weirdness for weirdness’ sake simply isn’t enough to carry an entire title. China Mieville seems to know this. Just as Dial H gets almost too weird for its own good, we are offered a glimpse behind the universe and what makes it tick, a process which maybe saves the title from going too far off the rails.
Nelson and Roxie are running for their lives from the Centipide and the Fixer. The Fixer wants Nelson and Roxie’s dials and the Centipede wants to be taken back to the realm from whence the Fixer came, thus they have formed an evil alliance. In Sydney our heroes are nearly captured when Roxie uses her S-Dial to dial a sidekick that saves her and Nelson from their enemies, barely holding on to her own consciousness in the process. They are about to be captured yet again when the appropriately named Open-Window Man rushes in to save our heroes. He, along with his team of Dialers who join later, help to send the Fixer back to his dimension along with the Centipede, an action which is exactly what the Centipede wanted all along.
I should say that I’ve always appreciated Dial H for just how weird and unique it is. You never know exactly what you’re going to get when you crack open the first page of an issue and that is something I look forward to every month. Aside from the constants of Nelson and Roxie it seems like everything is pretty much fair game. It takes a pretty bold creative team to pull this off and to much less have it make any sort of sense. In some ways this reminds me of the Adventure Time comics and TV series and I would hope that when I say that it is clear I mean it as a compliment. With that being said, things must be getting pretty strange in Dial H for me to feel that events are maybe getting a little too far out.
Just take a look at what’s going on in this panel and imagine you had never read an issue of Dial H. What the hell would you make of this thing?
Why is there a giant Centipede thing? Why is Captain America wearing a windowsill around his neck? What is that ninja cowboy doing outside riding a missile? While some of these questions can be answered, some just can’t. That weirdness is okay but it needs an explanation. We know why the Centipede wears his mask and why there are two strange heroes outside, but that’s about it. We don’t know who Open-Window Man is or where he came from. We don’t know who or what the Fixer. Also, we don’t know why the text of his speech is different from anyone else’s. It really forces you to consider what exactly this guy is all about in relation to the rest of the narrative.
There is some solace to be had in this issue, however. Nelson and Roxie team up with a group of misfit-like superheroes who call themselves the Junkyard Posse, yet another grouping of heroes in this title, who seem willing to help out our heroes.
And ultimately it seems like they are going to help us out too. The fact that Bansa acknowledges the numerous questions surrounding this issue gives me hope that soon we will get at least a few answers regarding the madness of the past few issues.
So Shelby, what did you think of the wacky adventures of Nelson Jent this month? Too weird, not weird enough, or just right? Any idea how or why Open-Window Man is just a normal superhero and not a dialer? Will our heroes ever be able to dial again without suffering moral qualms or losing their identities now that they have some allies?
Shelby: Aggressively weird is a really good way to describe this title. Mieville employs a binge and purge approach to this story; the story fills us full of questions and then vomits out the answers until its time to get weird and fill us with questions again. Despite the craziness of the issue (compounded by the shifting identity of the dialers), we actually gain some small insight to this universe.
First of all, that is the Open-Window Man, compatriot of Boy Chimney way back in issue one. He, like Bumper Carla, figured out what was going on and found himself a group of dialers. What I don’t get is why he’s helping them. Any superhero should see the dials as a HUGE personal threat; you know that if Batman or Superman found the dialing crew, they would confiscate all the dials and hope A.R.G.U.S. never found out they existed. So what made O-WM decide to team up with this merry crew instead of smashing their dials and killing them all like Bumper Carla? Moreover, Carla was punished for what she did by being banished to some sort of Negative Zone-type area, so is O-WM a fugitive for acknowledging and teaming up with the dialers? Also, dialers, as in multiple. At first I just thought we were dealing with a bunch of hero/sidekick pairs teaming up, but then Bansa indicates someone else on the team had “dialed G for gear.” How many different types of dials are there? Does every player on a superhero team have a corresponding dial? Do they dial I for intel? T for transport? W for wacky comic relief? P for pizza? Just when I think I’m beginning to get a handle on this world, Mieville kicks open a door to show me how big this universe is and how little I know about it.
The strangeness of this book is both its strength and its weakness. These bizarre characters and Ponticelli’s character designs have long been one of my favorite aspects of this title. I remember way back in issue one, being super confused but so blown away by how awesome Boy Chimney looked I didn’t care. The big downside to having the point of the story be shifting identities is that it’s hard to get a grasp of who these characters are, or even what’s happening in a specific scene. The Fixer can change personalities multiple times a page; it’s shaping up to be our main villain (along with the Centipede), and we still have no idea who or what it is. Maybe it doesn’t even know. We know what happens when you dial too much, you lose yourself to the hero you’ve dialed. The only way to become so adept at dialing is by practicing a lot. Maybe the Fixer has only one thing left to hold on to: the dial itself. Or maybe the Fixer has been dialing V for villain this whole time; that would explain his “gotta catch ’em all” attitude. I’m sure that, in the near future, Mieville will give us an answer that actually prompts a dozen more question as we continue to binge and purge our way through this story.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?