Alexis Kaye is still figuring out what she is capable of. In the second issue of Punchline: The Gotham Game, Punchline makes her play for the docks owned by the Yakuza. The consequence of living so dangerously puts Punchline in direct conflict with Eiko Hasigawa, Catwoman, and Batman himself.
As promised, Punchline does her best to use the Royal Flush Gang to grasp at power in Gotham. Or at least what Punchline believes power looks like. Punchline plans an ambush for Eiko Hasigawa as a show of force, but she treats Alexis like the butt of the joke. Readers may remember Eiko as the heir to the gun running Hasigawa crime family first introduced in Genevieve Valentine’s 2014 Catwoman run. It’s no coincidence that she crosses over from Tini Howard’s Catwoman series to bolster both books. However, the actual clash exposes Punchline’s lack of coherent reasons for picking a fight.
Punchline has poorly justified motivation for her actions. Batman and Nightwing openly vocalize their analysis of Punchline’s true purpose in Gotham. Despite similarities to Harley Quinn, Batman believes Punchline is proof of Joker’s effect on Gotham and his natural successor. Tini Howard mentioned Alexis being “underestimated” and “watching people discover her goals,” but I think she is overestimated on the page. Despite no other character taking her seriously, Batman cosigns her threat so often that he ends up helping her accomplish her goal. He even goes so far as to wounding the person he came to protect! What stings the most is that she’ll take her amateur victory as more proof of her cleverness. I sincerely hope when Catwoman takes over the fight, things go a lot smoother.
The Royal Flush gang themselves also don’t command much respect in Gotham. Most of them are lazy or bumbling foot soldiers who pale in comparison to Hasigawa’s powerful lieutenants. In fact, none of the Yakuza think any of them are worth their time. The gang does their best to even the odds with 1-0’s “A.C.E.S,” but still barely survive the conflict by using the newly mutated Knavy Seal. Meanwhile, Bluff and his partner Ante do their part as lookouts and baby sitters. Unexpectedly, the relationship between “Bluff” and Cullen Row also gets an update after Harper’s trial. Cullen still hasn’t learned to stop answering the calls of his toxic ex and continues to let Bluff lie to him! Regardless, the Howards may still have plans for Cullen.
Something about Gleb Melnikov’s artwork reminds me of Scott McDaniel. Perhaps it is a result of the 90s costumes the Royal Flush Gang wear or the wild action poses like Punchline riding a flying card. The chunky faces and warped exaggerated foreshortening make each panel feel distinctly stylized. For instance, Knavy Seal’s “One Eyed Jack” form resembles the effects of Mr. Bloom’s seeds in Scott Snyder’s Batman (2016) title. The color palette features a lot of dominant greens and pale violets that give the book a sickly feel. I think what ultimately bothers me about the color scheme is the lack of a cohesive identity within it.
- You want to keep up with Tini Howard’s Catwoman.
- What happens to Punchline matters to you.
- Gleb Melnikov is your favorite artist.
The Gotham Game spends more time telling me how seriously I should take Punchline rather than showing me. Regrettably, running a crime syndicate doesn’t suit Alexis Kaye’s nihilism. In fact, when Hasigawa presents reasonable options to her, Punchline outright rejects them. This tells me that she values anarchy over profit. Punchline’s master plan is seemingly to fake it until she makes it. It isn’t very fun watching Batman blow a gasket over someone obviously making it up as they go along. I believe the tone, artwork, and story all contribute to this underdog story starting off with lowered expectations. The good thing about low expectations is that there is always room to grow.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a free copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.