Punchline Stands in the Spotlight!
When James Tynion IV started his run of Batman, he introduced the character of Punchline to the world. Joker’s new right-hand woman would play a major role in the Joker War story, from being Joker’s middleman to the villainous bank brokers to concocting a new Joker toxin. In the real world, this character has also gained popularity for her design and attitude. With the war behind us, the clown princess of crime is heading to trial, but under her true identity. She proceeds to make dozens of videos proclaiming her innocence and posts them online. This couldn’t possibly swing the public in her favor, would it?
*Some Spoilers Below*
We open with Punchline revealed to be Alexis Kaye, stating to the court that she is innocent. After getting approved by Leslie Thompkins, the trial is pushed forward, with Kaye defending herself. This causes a schism between the youth of Gotham and other Gothamites as she uses social media to promote her innocence. One such example is the Row siblings, Cullen and his sister Harper, also known as Bluebird. While Harper understands and believes Punchline must be charged, Cullen begins to change gears when finding Alexis’ old blog. From there, the tale of how a senior in college met the Clown Prince and began.
Punchline isn’t innocent. We learn that not only did she descend into the madness, but she is pulling strings to manipulate Gotham. The argument between Harper and Cullen should be the heart of this issue. The pair butt heads of whether Punchline is guilty or not. It’s actually a surprisingly topical comic, showing how a person could abuse social media. If it wasn’t for the fact that we see Punchline’s origin, this could have been a great issue to have the fans debate.
Unfortunately, we do see the truth, and it ruins the potential. Punchline’s actual origin is in the same vein as Harley Quinn, being twisted due to trauma caused by Joker. However, the main difference is that she searched for the Joker and demanded to be treated as an equal by stabbing him. The difference between Harley and Punchline had to be clear, or else it could lose readers, but to get that difference out, Johns and Tynion IV lost the opportunity to make a story that people could debate about.
Mirka Andolfo is the artist behind this issue, and she does a great job. The way she frames Punchline during the flashbacks gives off an unhinged feel. The panels start off being straight, but slowly over time, the angles become more apparent until she kills a rat. By that point, Mirka cements her style and delivers a great look for Punchline and the other characters of Gotham. When the story picks back up, hopefully, Mirka returns to bring it to life.
Overall, despite a very cool look and topical subject matter, the writers don’t take a chance to invest in the latter. Comics are a great platform to take a stance on societal topics, and while they touch on it here, it could have been done better. This issue was designed to have us understand who Punchline is, and it did succeed in that. This comic does deserve some praise, but it isn’t essential for reading.