Writers: Tini Howard and Blake Howard
Art: Gleb Melkinov, Will Robson and Luis Guerrero
Letters: AW’s Justin Birch
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: November 22nd, 2022
Punchline, having reassembled the Royal Flush Gang under her command last issue, guns for Yakuza boss Eiko Hasigawa in Punchline: The Gotham Game #2. Punchline wants control of the Ace Chemicals factory so she can be the sole manufacturer of XO, the new drug that’s sweeping Gotham, poisoning teens and making drug lords millionaires. But Punchline gets more than she bargained for when none other than Batman shows up, wanting to take her and the Royal Flush Gang before a full-blown war with the Yakuza happens. But Punchline has a few surprises herself, both for Hasigawa and Batman.
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Punchline: The Gotham Game #2 continues Punchline’s story and wonderfully differentiates her from Harley Quinn. I have to admit, when I first heard about Punchline, I figured she was going to be just a bad copy of Harley Quinn, another psychotic woman infatuated with the Joker. But this mini-series does a great job of showing how Punchline is a much more malevolent and focused person who’s the antithesis of Harley Quinn.
Where Harley Quinn was all about random chaos and destruction (at least during the years she was in love with The Joker), Punchline is only concerned with becoming a power player in Gotham, planning each step out logically and using violence and manipulation to move the pieces into place. She’s absolutely cold-blooded and doesn’t give anyone second chances if they screw her over. The bulk of the issue has Punchline and her Royal Flush Gang setting up a trap for Hasigawa and her soldiers then launching an assault on them. The Royal Flush Gang, after being given some personality last issue, this issue come off as generic characters but are still visually interesting.
Once Batman appears, it sets up an interesting three-way battle between Batman, Hasigawa and Punchline, which puts Batman in a moral dilemma where he finds he’s forced to ally himself with one of them against the other. It’s an intriguing turn of events, and Hasigawa (who’s been featured prominently in the Catwoman book recently) really shines here. She’s no pushover, she’s a very formidable fighter and the battle turns surprisingly ultra-violent. I’ve never been a fan of Batman (I honestly find him boring) but his appearance here adds to the story instead of detracting from it. Imagine that, a guest-star appearance by a character that actually matters, rather than just a cheap tactic to boost sales.
Gleb Melkinov and Will Robson’s art on Punchline: The Gotham Game #2 is reminiscent of Frank Miller’s art in the heyday of Daredevil. It’s gritty and the fight scenes have impact. You can practically feel each punch and kick as the characters battle each other. Gotham City looms in the background of every scene, portrayed as an urban hellscape that you definitely wouldn’t want to visit if it existed in the real world. The Royal Flush Gang are drawn with old-style colorful villain costumes that make them a great counterpoint to Punchline and Batman and gives the book a great visual flair.
Punchline: The Gotham Game #2 continues Punchline’s story and it’s action-packed from beginning to end. Punchline’s ruthless obsession with taking over the XO drug market in Gotham City and her conflict with Yakuza boss Eiko Hasigawa has made her a major force in Gotham City’s criminal underworld. It’s a great mini-series so far, with a cliffhanger that’ll make you count the days to the next issue.