Alexis Kaye has come to play! …Supposedly! After the harrowing events of Gotham Game #2 and Catwoman #50, Punchline has slowed down considerably. Despite telling anyone who listens that she knows exactly what she’s doing, Punchline is struggling with being in over her head.
What is the game anyway? Although confidently bossing her gang around, Alexis is hiding from the truth of her inadequacy. Her fears manifest in the form of the Joker’s taunting voice. It doesn’t matter if the voice is in her head or that “whispering corpse” effect used in Batman #88; Alexis is loosing her edge. Unsurprisingly, she avoids introspection and chooses to continue her plan. Punchline says, in so many words, that her plan is to commit “unorganized crime” as a futile attempt at clout chasing. No matter how much she insists nobody gets it by design; this is stupid. I know because every other character says how pathetic it is.
The series also gives Tini Howard a chance to give Catwoman an epilogue. FEMA and the FBI are in Gotham investigating her X-O drug (patterned after the x and o on her boots) and the factory explosion. This sets up new tension in Gotham from Agent Randall to Gotham D.A Freemont. Time will tell if the drug plot will head anywhere. Additionally, the Royal Flush Gang aren’t too happy with the current state of things. Although King and Queen have injuries from their fight with Onyx, they remain in good spirits about the group. Surprisingly, the mutated hostage Knavey Seal has also developed Stockholm Syndrome. In contrast, long standing Flush member Bluff has had enough of Punchline and threatens One Eyed Jack to help him do something.
In the climax, Bluebird returns to bring Punchline to heel. This leads to the issue’s impromptu action sequence on a bridge. Harper’s coolness always varies from artist to artist, but Max Raynor makes her look fine for the most part. Bluebird’s mohawk isn’t very appealing, and her costume this time screams “Nightwing with more steps.” Speaking of design, One-Eyed Jack has to pull off a big arm and a robotic eye. King gets a makeover from Onyx and spends the rest of the issue stitched up by Pyg and wrapped in gauze. The layout has a huge improvement from Gleb in previous issues, and the artwork appears fairly proportional. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the boring speed lines and posing, I like how clear the gestures and fight direction is. Overall, I’m just happy that things just look better.
Ultimately, the appeal of the series right now strictly depends on how you feel about the characters. The story is inarguably a mess. Investing in Punchline or any villain as a protagonist is hard enough without them being purposefully unlikable. What works about Alexis in her favor is still having room to grow, but she is a poser by her own words. Her randomness is not keeping anyone’s attention. The Royal Flush gang are still the most interesting part of the series and I hope they get more to do. The good move here is bringing Bluebird back in the mix. Everything about Punchline, Bluff, Cullen, and Harper is personal and there is potential in starting there.
- You needed that Joker cameo far sooner.
- You still think that Punchline has potential.
- Bluebird reappearing is appealing to you.
We aren’t let in on the joke. Without insight into Alexis’ point of view, reading this is like riding in a car with a creepy stranger or a reckless Uber. There is nothing cool about following a character lying about having everything under control. Punchline is unlikable and at this point pathetic. Three issues into a story, readers should have a stronger hook than “you’re not supposed to get it.” As the Joker’s voice says, “What’s a joke without a punchline?” However, I think this issue might be the first in a new way to turn things around. I am willing to see if the Howards can take this story in a more exciting direction.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.