The Royal Flush Gang decide to abandon Punchline after the ambush by the Gentleman’s Club at Port Royal. Meanwhile, Alexis Kaye is alive and in the welcoming company of the Joker.
The primary theme of this issue seems to surround Alexis having no one she can trust. Unsurprisingly, Punchline has little to no friends. Luckily, one of the two doppelgangers in Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing comes to her rescue when she needs it the most. Even if the last time she thought she saw him, she promises to kill him. This particular Joker doesn’t hold any grudges. In fact, he gives her some advice, dresses her wounds, and protects her body for fifty-two hours. While readers can somewhat understand Punchline’s willingness to surpass her idol, the Joker’s motives are still unclear and relatively aimless.
In any case, Bluff forcibly takes control of the Royal Flush Gang in Punchline’s absence. Admittedly, his reasoning is genuinely sound. Bluff and his entire family have been members of the gang for their entire lives. Following Punchline and her nonsensical campaign has destroyed their reputation in a matter of weeks. Surprisingly, the first thing Bluff does with his “mutiny by birthright” is march right up to Black Mask and attempt to negotiate for Cullen’s release. Not only does Sionis not have Cullen, but Bluff also misuses his muscle to rescue his ex-boyfriend from a scheme he’s responsible for.
Of course the parley does not go according to plan with an idiot like Bluff in charge. To make matters worse, Batman and Bluebird arrive to put an end to things. Instead, Knave “One-Eyed-Jack” Seal tries to salvage the battle by hosting a violent live stream event. Predictably, this is precisely what “Punchline had in mind all along.” In a bit of a retcon, she insinuates that she blew up the XO drug plant on purpose to create an mob of mindless junkies. The most unpredictable part of this entire showdown is that Batman uncharacteristically decides to retreat! Consequently, Bluff’s reign at the top ends just as soon as it began. At the very least, Punchline leaves the battle knowing who she can rely on.
I’m not a fan of Melnikov’s fun but often disproportioned line art and questionable backgrounds. I can’t tell if the awful foreshortening is worse than the sparse background rendering found in settings like The Joker’s neighborhood. There isn’t much appeal to the balding Joker design either. Although, his oversized clothing successfully makes him look like a bum. Melnikov’s version reminds me of the original concept art for Woody in Toy Story. The weirder bit of costuming comes with Punchline’s awkwardly torn lingerie. It feels more like fan service that no one wants, rather than a real organic sequence. Fortunately, there is a shift into Max Raynor’s much clearer illustration near the beginning of the battle.
Finally, the Gotham Game leaves readers with few thoughts to consider. The themes and concepts of clout chasing, influencing, and establishing your own identity feels murky at best. Every false hint about a bigger picture amounts to a not so cohesive third act flash mob. It has become apparent that Punchline’s story extends further to other titles like Catwoman or The Man Who Stopped Laughing. Even characters like the Queen of Hearts finds herself entangled in Tini Howard’s Catwoman #53 and beyond. Maybe this will also crossover with Howard’s upcoming Harley Quinn title. Alas, I wish I could say the story was continuing because it is good, but honestly there is no justification for this at all.
- You are a reader of Catwoman, The Man Who Stopped Laughing, or Punchline: The Gotham Game.
- You are a fan of Tini Howard’s writing.
- Seeing the Joker/Punchline in anything makes you happy.
Overall, The Gotham Game was often happily and proudly about nothing at all. Alexis Kaye began her story as a wanna-be and hasn’t undergone any change in her mediocrity. It doesn’t have a coherent beginning, middle, nor end. When things happen to Punchline, she says it was the plan all along. When anyone calls her out on not having a plan, she says “the plan is having no plan at all!” Every promising argument the book could’ve used falls to the wayside in favor of parading in this contrarian manner. Lastly, Alexis leaves the story with the mission statement of “becoming the Joker” without actually telling a story worth repeating. Other writers have put her in the Legion of Doom among the greatest antagonists in fiction, but the only material Punchline features in are jokes.
DISCLAMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.