The revamp of “Dial H” that just ended last month was inventive, clever and surprising from start to finish, and that was in no small part due to writer China Mieville. When I saw that he was writing “Justice League #23.3: Dial E” I was excited, thinking we were getting one final hurrah of the “Dial H” lunacy. And while there are little flashes and sparks of that fun present in “Justice League” #23.3, on the whole it feels like a comic that never quite gains traction.
I love the basic idea behind “Justice League” #23.3, when some young adults who act as couriers to criminals get ahold of a Villain Dial, and start transforming themselves into new super-villains. Chaos, of course, quickly ensues, doubly so when one of the bad guys from “Dial H” shows up on the scene. But with Mieville’s promise for a new superbeing on every single page, the narrative ends up feeling choppy and ill-formed. The constant switching from one dialed form to the next destroys any momentum that the comic could otherwise build up, and it ends up a big jumble.
Where “Justice League” #23.3. both works and doesn’t work is with the idea of a different artist on every page. On the downside, there’s no visual consistency whatsoever. One page is clean and iconic like Carla Berrocal’s, and then just two pages later you’ve got the highly detailed line work from Liam Sharp. Still, if only as an artistic sampler, “Justice League” #23.3 is pretty visually exciting. I’d never heard of Tula Lotay before, but Lotay’s art looks incredibly cool, reminding me of people like Paul Rivoche with a clean style but a fair amount of detail, too. Brendan McCarthy’s page makes me miss his “Shade the Changing Man” covers, and the paint-smearing image is both fun and also a little creepy. Emi Lenox’s art is absolutely adorable, and it provides a nice moment of levity to the comic. And if you aren’t excited for “Pretty Deadly” after seeing Emma Rios’s art, well, I don’t know what else to tell you.
Best of all, original “Dial H” artist Mateus Santolouco gets the first page, while his replacements Alberto Ponticelli and Dan Green get the final page. It’s a nice bit of callback to the “Dial H” series, and the final page will certainly make fans of that series cheer. While “Justice League” #23.3 is a visually stunning (if totally inconsistent) book, story-wise it’s nothing even close to what “Dial H” offered up every month. That’s too bad, if only because I’d hoped this issue would serve to at least give a spike in sales for the “Dial H” collections. Ultimately, not a high note for Mieville to conclude his “Dial H” stories with, alas.