Perhaps we’ve never truly understood the real Alexis Kaye. From first appearance and beyond, Joker’s so-called Punchline has stirred-up a lot of ire. Her actions put her in the center of Gotham City’s trial of the century, but her victory rose her to greater infamy. Now free, Tini and Blake Howard (Catwoman, Batman: Urban Legends) plan to turn Punchline into the queen of the trolls. However, her approach to the throne is not without its challengers.
What The Gotham Game does best is demonstrate what the criminal culture in Gotham City is like. Punchline’s trial winning thesis presented the idea that we all somehow love the Joker. Whether that aligns with the real life criminal code for inciting riots, or however many counts of conspiracy is secondary. The point remains, there are obviously a lot of pissed off people in Gotham with no outlet. Alexis finds her power in tapping into the same parasocial cult of personality that inspired The Batman (2022)‘s version of The Riddler or made the January 6th riots possible. Her argument is that some part of us, especially with internet anonymity, are prone to our worst selves if so directed.
While we still don’t know her full plan, Alexis has decided to unite every cell of the Royal Flush Gang in preparation. The happy accident of the group’s constant reinvention since 1966, gives Punchline a formidable army of new or neglected characters to work with. In particular, the Howards have assembled a supporting cast of custom Royal Flush Gang members. First, she recruits the kinky but retired King and Queen of Hearts. The couple is draped in sensual reds, whites, golds, and black, while saying innuendos like “I hope you like the taste of my Gravity scepter.” Rex and Regina’s actual costumes appear less fetish themed and harken back to a Silver Age style design. We also meet Punchline’s tech guy 1-0, who wears goofy club shaped shades.
Tini and Blake Howard have also set up a strange new Ace. After saving a reckless internet influencer named Knavy Seal, Punchline forcibly kidnaps him for mysterious purposes. The goal is to seemingly indoctrinate him like Johnny Frost in Brian Azarello’s Joker. Except, instead of Stockholm Syndrome, they alter his mind and body with nanobots. Regardless, the new Royal Flush Gang decides to get into the drug trade to screw with the Hasigawa Clan. On a meta level, it’s a cool way to tie into Tini Howard’s sleek Catwoman title.
Unsurprisingly, behind every woman trying to start a movement, there’s a man doing his best to try to stop her. In this case, a Bat-fellow in a leather vest doing counter intelligence. I’m really digging Gleb Melnikov’s take on Batman’s new punk persona. This follows the short lived Cyberpunk persona seen during Fear State. The punk aesthetic has often gone hand-in-hand with anti-establishment movements. The tattoos, piercings, raves, and frenetic artwork are all apart of the greater statement of freedom and disruption. The creative team clearly have leaned into this look to tell Alexis Kaye’s story for the same reason. Batman in this case represents order, and once again clearly has a hard time blending in. He might as well have strolled in going, “hello, my fellow punks!”
It is still too early to tell where the book is heading, but I do have my criticisms. Personally, I would never put Batman on this case himself. Punchline is high on a victory over Bluebird, but I still believe she is not ready for direct conflict with Batman. Although I like Gleb’s art style, something about the layout looks strange. Various backgrounds tend to be bland gradients with poor use of negative space. Additionally, I don’t like how Punchline’s plan seems purely opportunistic. Every time a character asks why she does something like kidnap, murder, or sell drugs, Alexis implies even she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Lastly, the portrayal of internet culture and livestreaming has the same kind of skin deep characterization seen on television shows.
- You are willing to learn more about Punchline.
- Fascinated by details of Gotham City’s underworld.
- You’re a reader of Catwoman (2022) and would be interested in a tie-in.
Punchline: The Gotham Game is Punchline’s big debut exhibition. The book is a fun new opportunity to explore high concepts touching on politics and modern social constructs. While I believe it needs a bit stronger narrative to draw in readers, Gotham Game has a punk inspired tone, unique supporting characters, and intrigue going for it. As far as pilots go, it doesn’t have the cleanest execution, but there is plenty road to go on the way to the top.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a free copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.