Friday, July 6, 2012

Pull List Review: Dial H #3

I feel like China Mieville is still figuring out how to provide exposition through dialogue without it feeling unnatural. There were several scenes in Dial H #3 where characters were discussing their origins and/or motives with one another, and they often felt clunky, like Mieville wanted to walk the line between telling us too much and not telling us enough but never quite hit his stride. There was still a lot of useful and original new information in the issue, and story progression for our heroes and villains both, but many of the conversations felt quite forced. For example, X.N. explaining her plans to the Squid, even though he clearly already understood them and even did some of the explaining himself. Or later, when she's letting Mr. King in on the details of why he was chosen as her latest victim. It was a lot to needlessly dump on a guy you're moments away from killing.

Not everything was like that, though. Manteau's explanation that the Dial's history is connected to that of all telephony worked well, as did her reasons for keeping a consistent cloak and mask even as she changes her body and powers just like Nelson. It was a nice expansion of the whole concept of the Dial, having a character with slightly more experience and control over it. And Nelson needs some sort of guide/ally at this point. He clearly wants to embrace this superpowered lifestyle, despite the confusion and fear it causes him. Deep down, I think he enjoys it, because it gives him a chance to be special and powerful, feelings which are foreign to him these days in his "real" life. So I am definitely excited to see this partnership develop, and to watch Nelson and Manteau figure out who O is and what the hell the Dials are really for.

Mateus Santolouco continues to be comfortable fit for this title, stylistically. He can cut loose when it is called for, and his character designs always to hit a splendid balance of zany and disturbing. I was most impressed with the way he tackled Manteau, who has a constantly-changing body under the same costume. Sometimes, her figure and powers feel tight and awkward under the mask and cape, like the two are struggling against one another. And, of course, that's exactly what they're doing, so it was good to see that represented in the art, however subtly. And man, I seriously can't wait until we get to see more of the strange world where all these heroes apparently come from that we got only a one-page glimpse of here. Santolouco clearly had a blast with that page and it's massive, varied cast. It seems like he's having fun on every page, actually, and it helps keep the mood of this series a bit lighter than it might otherwise be. There's a lot of darkness and mystery in Dial H, but at its heart it's still founded in classic superhero tropes, and Santolouco mixes those elements with great skill.

Though this issue was a bit less sure of itself than the previous two, there was still a lot to enjoy. The concepts contained within its pages were compelling, and the plot progressed in several ways for several characters that I enjoyed. I'm hoping, now that we have a clearer sense of what our villains are after, we can move past the exposition and get into the meat of this tale. But for now I'm still hooked, if somewhat less enthused than before.

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