I'm tired of talking about how Alberto Ponticelli needs to ink himself or he looks like crap. The art in this book is a mess, like clay that was melting but then got flash-frozen and placed in front of me. It works for The Centipede's new look, highlighting the hideousness of his bizarre and oversized mask, but my compliments stop there. It is art based in ugliness, which would be alright if it fit the book, but it doesn't. Sure there are some darker corners, but generally this is a light, silly series, reveling in pun-based pseudonyms and convoluted power sets. It's a superpowered buddy cop romance-mystery starring a pair of altruistic but naive goofballs. Yet it looks like a grim and twisted B horror movie. Ick.
But I have said before anything specific I have to say about the interior art here. Either Ponticelli is the wrong pick for this title, or Dan Green is just the wrong inker for Ponticelli, but either way there is no change on the horizon, so I either need to get used to the sloppiness and grit or shut up about it. I will say this: Brian Bolland's covers are the motherfucking jam. Unlike Ponticelli and Green, Bolland brings a crispness of detail to the insane-looking heroes of the book. There is more to see and love of Bristol Bloodhound on the cover than all of the pages on which the character appears combined. I wish Bolland and Ponticelli would swap duties, but obviously that's a pipe dream.
Happily, China Miéville's steps up a bit this month. Not entirely---the scene with The Centipede talking to the imprisoned priest, as well as the (I believe) flashback sequence that preceded it were wildly confusing. It is a little hard to say how much blame should be placed on the art, but some of it definitely belongs to the script, too. Have we met this priest before, because I do not remember him, and if I am supposed to know who he is, I still could've used a reminder. I'm also not clear on what The Centipede shows him or why it matters, though it is possible that I'm not supposed to understand that yet. Whatever, those pages baffled me, top to bottom, but pretty much everything else that happened I quite enjoyed. The concept of a sidekick dial that works in conjunction with the hero dial is a great one, particularly when applied to Nelson and Roxie's dynamic. She has always been a bit more knowledgeable and capable than he, and so the scene where he volunteers to be the sidekick makes total sense, and reminded me of why I was so fond of Nelson when the series began. He's a well-intentioned guy who ended up a loser by accident, and though he loves the opportunity to play hero, he has no illusions of grandeur. He got involved in this whole mess while trying to protect his friend, so it's never been about himself, his own wants or dreams. More than happy to let Roxie do some of his thinking for him, he finally gets to play the role he was born for: sidekick.
And once again we get to go into his brain and hear about the experience from his internal monologue, something I've missed. When Nelson first discovered the dial, we learned a lot about how it worked from him, and it was always interestingly written because he has such a specific voice. The same is true here with the new dial, and on top of that, it creates this strange and nuanced relationship between Nelson and Roxie that I find fascinating and am excited to see develop. Of course, it also leads to their first kiss, which was as gratifying as it was strange. Both of them were still in the form of their latest heroes, creating a sort of blown up version of the current Dr. OctoParker/Mary-Jane relationship, where both people were in bodies other than their own but they were also both aware of the situation. It's touching and hilarious, and it feels pretty inevitable when it finally goes down here. I'm not sure I was consciously aware that Nelson and Roxie had been falling for each other all along, but it didn't shock me when they kissed, only delighted me.
So even with a scene I couldn't fully understand, Dial H #10 had a lot of great story advancement and character development. I am quite eager to see this new love move forward (e.g. what is sex like if you have new superpowers and/or if you know that you and your partner could suddenly transform into an entirely different person at any time?). And I'm equally anxious to see more of Roxie and Nelson in action as a duo, now that they have complementary dials. I may not be looking forward to literally seeing these things, but I do feel at least partially re-hooked by the story.