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, 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.
Today, Taylor and Mikyzptlk are discussing Dial H 8, originally released January 9th, 2013.
Taylor: Oh, Canada. For a slew of reasons our neighbors to the north are frequently at the butt end of a joke. Whether it’s their elongated “O’s”, that their national emblem is a leaf, or that it is Justin Bieber’s homeland, the country is seldom taken seriously. Making matters worse for the common maple leaf is the constant put downs the country is subjected to by such shows as South Park. This has caused an entire generation of TV viewers to see Canada less as a country and more as a subsidiary of the United States. That Canada is in fact a first world nation with its own aspirations and political motivations is a thought which seldom occurs to the average comic book reader. However, what would happen if Canada was treated with gravitas? Would that change our views on the country or would that itself serve as a sophisticated joke? Issue 8 of Dial H delves into the mythos of Canada and at the same time has us wondering what exactly the country’s relation to Dials is anyway.
Today, Taylor and Mikyzptlk are discussing Dial H 7, originally released December 5th, 2012.
Taylor: Imagination enjoys an awkward place in our modern day society. While most people and institutions are quick to praise the use of imagination it is far more rare to find those who actually appreciate it. Seldom are we, as an audience, treated to something that is truly unique – whether it be in a movie, music, a book, or any other medium. While the complexities of this relationship with creativity are of too much detail to go into here, it will be said that a fair amount of imaginative endeavors are rebuffed due to the general population’s resistance to anything that diverges too far from their expectations. Many inventive music artists aren’t signed to major labels because their music isn’t traditional pop; many writers have to rewrite parts of their book so they will appeal to a larger base audience; and many TV shows craft generic characters and plots so that they will be liked by many, but perhaps loved by few. However, the comic book industry has always managed to buck this trend in many ways since its very inception, which itself was a departure from accepted norms. Whether this is due to the type of reader the comic book attracts or the type of artist it employs for its creation, I can’t say, but it seems like comic books have always been more willing to take imaginative chances than their counterparts in other media. Dial H is a perfect example of this daring and the seventh issue of this title is an excellent example of its imaginative prowess.
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Dial H 6, originally released November 7th, 2012.
Patrick: Fall of 2010, I went to a movie at Chicago’s Music Box theatre with Taylor and Shelby. The movie was Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void. If you haven’t seen Enter the Void, the reason we were attracted to it was because the log-line is aggressively surreal: a single-shot, first-person perspective trip through life and death of an American expatriot in the sleazy underbelly of Tokyo. Sounds promising — and super weird — right? All three of us tolerated the visual and audio assault for the film’s 3-hour run time, but it wasn’t until we stepped out of the theatre and Taylor said “So, that sucked, right?” that I was able to process what the hell just happened. The movie is so relentlessly strange, that I couldn’t even respond to it as I was experiencing it. That’s frequently how I feel about Dial H: especially given the conclusion of the previous story arc – I just couldn’t get a handle on it. But now, China Mieville is kind enough to show us the cold light of day, and seeing them plainly, these characters and this world is boundless and exciting, with a healthy sense of humor about its own absurdities.
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Dial H 5, originally released October 3rd, 2012.
Taylor: Here’s the thing: metaphysical thought is messy, very messy. Thinking about where man came from, what he is made of, and where he is going yields no solid answers and often times leaves the thinker more confused than when he or she first began to ponder those ideas in the first place. When you add the outside world (and universe) to this equation things are obviously going to get even muddier. What is this something we see? What is this nothing we don’t see? If there’s nothing, doesn’t that mean there has to be a something to validate the nothing’s nothingness? It’s not easy to discuss these confounding and complex ideas in an artistic way given that you can’t ever really speak about them in a straight forward manner. To do that would feel somewhat dishonest and wouldn’t accurately reflect the feelings that come with this philosophical territory. In Dial-H 5 the reader is presented with some of these questions, but rather than falling back on stale mythologies or old tropes, the issue embraces the chaos of messy questions and does so with stylish story telling and complimentary artwork. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Dial H 4, originally released August 1st, 2012.
Drew: I’m not a fan of origin stories, or really the starts of narratives in general. They often require large exposition dumps to make everyone’s personalities, means, and motivations clear to the audience. One of my favorite ways authors avoid cramming that much exposition into the beginning of a story is to start in medias res. Sure, the whys of the situation aren’t always clear — or even what exactly is going on — but that creates curiosity, a genuine interest in learning more, which almost never happens when we’re just given bare-faced facts with the understanding that this will be important later. Writer China Mieville has taken this tack to the limits of my curiosity in Dial H, delivering three months of questions without any real answers, leaving us floating uncomfortably in a confusing sea of possibilities. With this issue, we finally start getting some answers, helping the events of the previous three fall into place with surprising ease. Continue reading →
Today, Peter and Patrick are discussing Dial H 3, originally released July 4th, 2012.
Peter: Dial H is probably the weirdest book that I am currently reading. If you had told me a year ago that I would be reading a book about an overweight, chain smoking 30-year old man that uses a magic rotary dial to turn into obscure heroes, I probably would not have believed you. China Mieville has weaved an interesting world, full of lush characters and voices. The entire premise of this book is very interesting, but at this point, I am still unsure about the longevity of this series.