It’s that time of year again: where we suck up all of our grumblings about art being unquantifiable and compile our best-of lists. Today, we’re looking at our favorite single issues. Love or hate the subjectivity of this list, at the very least, it serves as a great reminder of all of the fantastic comics we’ve read over the past year. We’re sure your list will be different (and welcome your thoughts in the comments), but here are our top 13 issues of 2013. Continue reading
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Justice League 23.3: Dial E, originally released September 18th, 2013. This issue is part of DC’s Villain Month. Click here for our coverage of Villain Month.
Taylor: The encore of a show is always a little awkward. With most shows you attend nowadays an encore is almost expected. Gone are the days of the earned encore, where and artist actually had to earn the audience’s appreciation and rewarded them with a few extra bits of music. This has been replaced with instances where artists look a trifle bored with an encore, seemingly wishing that they could just retire to their bus or greenroom. The situation has become so problematic that some artists have gone so far as to state they won’t be doing an encore no matter how much the audience claps or yells. It’s hard to determine precisely what brought us to this point, but the fact remains that the encore has become not the exception, but the expected. Given this state of affairs, I was curious to see how the issue 23.3 of the The Justice League: Dial E (part of the Villains month event) would be treated by writer China Mieville. Would this be an artist merely pandering to the crowd or an artist excited by the chance to once again share his art with his fans? Continue reading
Ethan: The week leading up to graduation from college can be a manic blur. You try to squeeze in all those conversations you never made time for before, you cram for those final exams, you put the finishing touches on that thesis paper hours before it needs to be bound and turned in, you book that flight home. Maybe your four-or-so years on campus jaded you a bit – the ceremony’s just going to be a fancier version of its high school equivalent; I’m going to have to smile at everyone’s parents; this place has grabbed me and changed me and turned me into someone new, but… I’m ready to leave. And then the day comes. You hear your name, you walk the walk, you manage to remember to shake with the right and take with the left, and then you wade into the sea of chaos as everyone tries to make that last connection before you never see each other ever again. The prospect of leaving China Mieville’s run of Dial H elicits a lot of the same emotions for me. There were highs and lows, and to be honest, I thought I was ready to set it down and move on, but the final issue goes out with a “shhhkaBOOM” and I’m wishing we didn’t have to say good-bye.
Today, Taylor and Ethan are discussing Dial H 14, originally released July 3rd, 2013.
Taylor: Why do superheroes exist? Why do the worlds they inhabit even need them? Looking at our own world, it seems that superheroes aren’t necessarily needed for us to survive in relative peace. Sure, it would be nice if Superman could do something to stop global warming but we don’t need him exist to stop that. If humanity could get its collective shit together, then we could easily curb global warming along with the vast majority of other problems that plague our little planet. Of course we don’t live in a world with superheroes and it would seem that the reason they don’t exist is that we don’t need them. However, in other universes — especially those in comic books — superheroes are needed to face the incredible dangers that plague their homes. Killer comet heading towards your planet? Undead wizards? Malevolent aliens? Your local superhero has you covered. But why are certain worlds and universes subjected to these life threatening situations and others not? Is there a reason for that or is it blind luck? In typical self-exploratory fashion, issue 14 of Dial H explores these questions as Nelson Jent and company race to stop the Centipede from achieving his nefarious goals.
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Dial H 13, originally released June 5th, 2013.
Patrick: The Retcon Punchers tend to get flowery in our language when we describe Dial H – we’ve called it “aggressively weird” and ” gleefully surreal.” When the pages are stuffed with goofy characters like Captain Lachrymose and Bumpler Carla, it’s hard to escape the fact that the weirdness of the title is kind of the point. In issue 13, China Mieville digs into the background of Open-Window Man — a character we had previously only known as a compatriot of Boy Chimney’s — and discovers a moving truth about superheroes, comic books and the value of repetitive storytelling. Continue reading
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.
Today, Ethan and Taylor are discussing Dial H 11, originally released April 3rd, 2013.
Ethan: China Mieville has a gift with world-building. Whether you’re following quirks and characters of the world of Perdido Street Station or reading Dial H, he takes you somewhere original. Like with his novels, it’s so fun to immerse yourself in Dial H because of the terrific pacing as he gradually develops both the people and the universe. Every time he drops some new, fantastical aspect of the world onto his reader, there’s an equal portion of insight into the characters moving around in it. Dial H 11 is no exception: just as the growing partnership between Nelson and Roxie is coming to a head, it’s all taking place, not only in a world of dials and Operators, but also a more familiar world of DC heroes. This time around, Mieville matches a dramatic incorporation of known parts of the DC universe with new hints about the dial to keep this already engaging series pulling you to the edge of your seat. Continue reading
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing the Flash 18, originally released March 27th, 2013.
Scott: Use your gifts to help in every way you can. This is what Barry Allen believes being a superhero is all about. Or so he claims. In The Flash 18, Barry contradicts himself, telling the eager-to-help members of team “Speed Force” that they must not use their newfound powers. Despite having gifts and wanting to help, these men are not superheroes in Barry’s eyes, at least not yet. So what does it take to truly become a superhero? Does it require a fine-tuned sense of when and how to use your powers? Does it even require having superpowers at all? Looks like Barry’s about to find that out the hard way. Continue reading
Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing Dial H 10, originally released March 6th, 2013.
Taylor: Sidekicks are a staple of the superhero myth. Basically every superhero at one time or another has employed a trusty ally to help them battle evil and protect the innocent. The function of the sidekick can essentially be pared down to the idea that they help the titular hero off the comic pull of amazing stuff from week to week. And while it would be easy to think of this simply in terms of how a sidekick affects a storyline, they serve the dual purpose of making a comic more interesting to read. Just look at (SPOILER ALERT (kind of)) the recent death of Robin in Batman, Incorporated. This event came out of nowhere and shocked its readers, instantly making for a riveting issue. It can be argued that Batman, as a superhero, doesn’t really need a sidekick, he’s basically as tough as they get. But throw in the occasional sidekick (two of which who have died) and the story of Batman becomes instantly more interesting due to the wildcard that is a sidekick. However, in a comic entitled Dial H for Hero (my emphasis on hero) is it appropriate to explore the mythology of the sidekick? Dial H 10 answers that question with a resounding “YES. Continue reading
Today, Ethan and Taylor are discussing Dial H 9, originally released February 6th, 2013.
Ethan: Remember the last time you woke up? You know, that thing you did this morning. You do it every day, you’re completely familiar with the experience, you know it like the back of your hand. And yet… do you really remember the instant of waking? Or is what you remember actually the moments or minutes of awareness after you actually became fully conscious — when the blur of color and sound and smell that you’ve plunged into begins to make sense. In that hazy cloud of stimuli, it’s possible to exist in a half-state — you aren’t completely “you” yet, so much as a body, breathing and shifting. It’s a physical echo of the conceptual strangeness that comes from waking up each day, year, decade, in the exact same body, but not quite as the same person as you were before. Dial H #9 continues and deepens the series’ exploration of identity, of what it means to be yourself, and what happens when that question becomes more difficult to answer.