Tuesday, 14 May 2013

But I Digress | The Life and Death of Dial H

Regular readers will recall that I came back to comic books a couple of years ago, after entirely abandoning what had become a bad habit at best: a pull list of single issues that broke the bank each and every week, and hardly interested me beyond satisfying my not-so-secret completionist streak.

It was something I needed to do, in truth, but I realised, relatively recently, that I'd thrown the baby out with the bathwater; that I'd gotten shot of a bunch of good comics along with all the bad books that had driven me away from the form in the first place. So I resolved to give the whole rigmarole another go.

And I'm glad I did. I'm glad because I've read some stonking good comic books since I made the decision discussed above. Denise Mina and Andy Diggle have hooked me on Hellblazer; I'm midway through Y: The Last Man, and it's getting better and better; Global Frequency was a bunch of fun; American Vampire and The Unwritten are pretty brilliant; and I enjoy a bunch of the Batman books.

But as it happens, everyone isn't a winner, so of course I've read some utter rubbish in the interim. I won't name names.

In any case, Dial H. As a devout scholar of the school of Mieville, Dial H excited me immensely. I followed the news of its conception and development with baited breath. Though I tend to consume my comics as and when they're collected, I bought the first issue as soon as I could.

On reflection, that wasn't the best introduction to what is a rather byzantine book. Afterwards, I resolved to wait for the first trade, to give Dial H a proper second shot. Into You finally came out in April, and I had a bit of fun with it, I admit. But on the whole? I'd have to say no. Or else, not yet.

I'll read the next collection when it's published, I guess — I do like to see a thing through, and knowing Mieville the book will get better as it goes — but if I'm honest, yesterday's news, that Dial H had been cancelled, was rather a relief. I'm truly sorry that the audience wasn't interested in something so different and ambitious, but let's face it: Mieville didn't make it easy. I've read almost everything he's written, and even I had a hard time figuring out whether or not Dial H was decent.

On the one hand, it's a shame that Dial H didn't work out. On the other — the glass half full hand — this frees up the esteemed author to refocus on the prose fiction I fell for in the first place, because I don't think it's a coincidence that this is the first year since 2008 that he hasn't published a new novel.

So roll on news of whatever Mieville's been working on since the release of Railsea. I still hold out hope that he'll go back to Bas-Lag, but I'll take whatever I can get... up to and including the second Dial H trade. In my heart of hearts, however, I can't help but feel relieved rather than bereaved by this news.

Is that mean-spirited of me?

Have you ever been perversely pleased to see something end, and if so, when?


  1. I thought it was the best book DC was producing in the new 52, even if it was only ever tangentially linked to the larger DC universe. It was better suited as a Vertigo title though, and may have survived longer with the numbers it was doing in that line. Although I suppose that would have depended on the sales of the trades holding up. Certainly would have helped spruce up a very thin looking Vertigo stable at the moment.

    He displayed some wonderful imagination, dark humour, a sense of fun (which seems to be lacking in a lot of the new 52 I notice), coupled with some interesting and unique main characters. I loved the mythology he was building with this series, probably most evident in the #0 issue. Certainly far better for me than another Batman title, especially one with so many of Scott Snyder's usual writing tics.

    I'm hoping Mieville had the time to get things in order and wrap the series up satisfactorily, and I'm sure he had an inkling of it given the sales figures to date. I know he had plans for at least 3 years worth of stories if the sales and such had kept up.

    I'm happy that we got 15 issues in this day and age, probably more than I would have dared hope for. The overriding feeling is sadness that I won't get to see more of what he had planned (I hope he publishes some notes about this somewhere) and that one of the more unique superhero titles in american comics is gone. I knew it was coming so I've already been through the stages of grieving.

  2. I can't say that I'm surprised by this news. I read the first couple of Dial H issues and didn't find anything of substance to keep me coming back.

    I'm surprised to read that you are enjoying some of the Bat-books. I was reading Batman, Detective Comics and Batwoman, and am down to just Batwoman at this point...and that's due in large part to JHW3's amazing artwork.

    Aside from that, none of the "New 52" titles have held up for me. I think the New 52 has been a success for them in terms of sales, but I don't see an increase in quality coming out of the endeavor. The whole thing reeks of the 90's to me.

  3. My copy of Vol 1 arrived as I waited for the collected edition before reading. Reading the first one or so - interesting. I was a little gutted. I hope they bring out the other 9 as a vol 2. I don't think we'll get a new China M novel for a while - he's def taking his time on the next one.