Punchline: The Gotham Game #5 review

Punchline and The Royal Flush Gang go on the offensive against Gotham’s crime families. As the war in the city begins to look dire, Punchline releases an unexpected “Ace In The Hole.” ba-dum-tiss!

The investigation that began in issue #3 finds new legs as Ventura Freemont explores the crime scene. Even though the city moves on from the ACE Chemicals incident, Freemont comes to brand new conclusions. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a benefit to dissecting crime scenes readers were witness to. In any case,  the choice to follow up seems to signal future conflict with the law. To most Gothamites, Alexis Kaye is only guilty of being a victim of the Joker’s grooming. However, maintaining her innocence directly conflicts with her goal of criminal clout chasing. I can’t take Freemont’s struggling investigation seriously if Punchline isn’t exactly hiding.

Black Mask and the remaining crime families of Gotham don’t think Punchline poses a threat to their so-called “Gentleman’s Club.” To this end they almost completely wipe out the Royal Flush Gang in one move. Although, the surprise hit doesn’t go to plan when 1-0’s “Aces High” contingency takes over. Barely holding on, 1-0 directs his nano-bots to reform into a new version of the Ace brute. Not to confuse it with Ace Chemicals or Ace the Bat-Hound. This particular version of the Ace of Clubs android first appears in Justice League of America #203. Coincidentally, Nightwing discovers his prior experience won’t help him face its brand new shapeshifting abilities. In fact, it completely turns the tide in the battle.

Gleb Melnikov’s art is hardly my favorite. The backgrounds are under drawn, and several of the often distorted character designs are unappealing. There are even maddening sequences of King blocking bullets with his staff without looking. However, I can’t say it isn’t fun. Ace’s murder spree has an especially exciting momentum. The large statuesque creature marches around morphing into progressively more violent weapons. It is intimidating and Melnikov treats him with the suspense he deserves. Black Mask and Scarface cope with the Aces tearing the Gentleman’s Club to shreds by totally pretending things are under control.

When Bluebird and Nightwing finally decide to spring Cullen, they almost totally ignore the bloodshed. In fact, they only grab the kid after everyone is mostly dead. Luckily, Cullen’s capture doesn’t seem to traumatize him badly. While I think Cullen’s weakness for Bluff makes him a liability, Harper doesn’t blame him at all. Traditionally, Harper has sought to protect her brother from all things, but now I think he should join the family business. Especially if internet influencers are turning into mutant kidnappers and Bluff is rising in the ranks.

Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing by Matthew Rosenberg, art by Carmine Giandomencio. (right) Joker Imposter. (left) Punchline refusing to work with the “real” Joker.

Finally, I thought I’d discuss the elephant in the room. In her time of need, Alexis runs into the strange doppelganger from Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing. This doppelganger in question survives gunshots, drowning, and more without losing a beat. At the moment of writing, it is unknown just how genuine he is. However, in The Man Who Stopped Laughing, Alexis reveals she has outgrown Joker after joining the Legion Of Doom. In any case, Punchline’s destiny will put her next to the man-who-may-not-be-the-Joker, whether she likes it or not.

Recommended If…

  • You’re a fan or reader of Punchline: The Gotham Game.
  • You think the Ace Android is cool addition to the Royal Flush Gang.
  • Looking forward to more Joker content.


Punchline hasn’t stopped failing upward since The Gotham Game began. Watching her fumble through her misguided campaign doesn’t make much sense, but it isn’t much fun to follow either. Yes, there are some good character selection, but they often go to waste. First, they randomly crash a party, then retreat as if they were the ones on the defensive. Although The Royal Flush Gang have hitched their wagons to Punchline’s random aspirations, I think they’ve outgrown her as a leader. Even the heroes and villains have nothing to work with except her arrogant attitude. Ultimately, I’m still waiting for the book to grow up.

Score: 5/10

DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.