You might not know it, but you gamble every time you pick up an issue of Dial H: the ink in which this comic is printed contains a rare sort of toxin, exposure to which dials up one of three parallel universes.  Before your eyes make contact with the page, you know that any given episode has a 33.333333333% chance of being: (A) a sloppy pastiche of the Morrison/Case Doom Patrol run, (B) a snazzy pastiche of a good proto-Vertigo comic (like the Morrison/Case Doom Patrol run, for example) or (C) a genuinely effective post Alan Moore/Grant Morrison superhero comic.

If Dial H #12 saw China Mieville, Alberto Ponticelli and co rolling (dialing) the reader into a hopeless tangled version of their own story in which none of the lines (whether in the art, plot or dialogue) connected meaningfully, then issue #13 (which is now only the second most recent issue due to my Mindless incompetence) provided a clear and direct line to the best of all possible worlds(/comics).

Comics being a collaborative medium, Alberto Ponticelli’s pencils tighten up with Mieville’s script, and the unstable environments of issue #12 are forgotten in favour of an information-dense two-layered landscape.  Ably assisted by inker Dan Green and colourists Tanya and Richard Horie, Ponticelli works for maximum accessibility at every turn, framing our regular cast as pedestrian browsers walking through a block in which comics sprawl on every wall, always making sure that we’re able to read over their shoulders:

It might seem strange that an issue that takes a break to recap the plot of the previous few issues should be better than anything being recapped, but Dial H is that rare superhero comic that actively thrives on exposition.  Try to remember that other standout issues in this series have explained where the powers Nelson and co dial up actually come from (#0, #11), and explored the difficulties that arise from contact with unreconstructed racist fantasies (no not Game of Thrones, issue #6):

Dial H is at its best when explains its own mechanics because theme is built into the design of this revamp more clearly than it expressed by any of the action on the page, a quirk (or fault, depending on your tolerance for this sort of thing) that only strengthens the book’s Karen Berger-edited pedigree.

Just think of the many walking tours through authorial interests that characterised that first flush of post-Alan Moore, British invasion comics, all those scary strolls through the green, trips out into blue forgotten worlds, the evening walks that lead you right underneath the Pentagon and straight on into the heart of the American scream…

The walking tour we get in Dial H #13 is made possible by pleasantly mixed metonyms, by a double act made of dual purpose characters, Open Window Man and his new friend, a young boy in a world of chalk.

Sometimes the best creative work comes from having to work within restrictions imposed from outside. The Mind Robber is a perfect example of this. The story before, The Dominators, was originally meant to be a six-parter, but had to be cut down to five (thankfully, as it’s the most awful mess imaginable from every possible standpoint).

For some reason the scene above is a favourite of straight men, but few others…

We’ll stop at nothing, you see. All the suffering and the death and the pain in your world is entertainment for us. Why does blood and torture and anguish still excite us?

We thought that by making your world more violent we would make it more “realistic,” more “adult.” God help us if that’s what it means.

Maybe, for once, we could try to be kind.
(Grant Morrison, Animal Man #26)

TALES FROM THE MILLARDROME, PART 1: Having spent a fair bit of time ripping the pish out of Marky “Mark” Millar while writing up my Kapow! experience, and having then heckled my way through a twitter argument about Mark Millar’s collaborations with Frank Quitely on The Authority, I felt an odd sense of duty to reread Millar’s breakthrough comic, to see if it still worked.

And you know what? Turns out Millar’s first story, ‘The Nativity’, is still really fucking good:

Find out why after the cut!!!