Writers: Tini Howard and Blake Howard
Art: Max Raynor
Colors: Luis Guerrero
Letters: Becca Carey
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: January 24th, 2023
After the events of Catwoman #50, Punchline’s operations are in total disarray. Or are they? In Punchline: The Gotham Game #4, Roman Sionis (AKA Black Mask) attempts to gain control of the Gotham drug trade, pulling together the heads of all the Gotham crime families, as well as recruiting Tiger Shark and The Ventriloquist (along with Mr. Scarface) to assist in keeping the drugs flowing. But Punchline and her Royal Flush Gang aren’t going to give up control that easily, and Bluebird (AKA Harper Row) is also gunning for Punchline. Gothamites, clear the streets, there’s a Mexican standoff coming!
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It’s interesting that Harley Quinn’s and Punchline’s books come out the same week, because they’re such polar opposites. Where Harley is chaotic, fun and (at least these days) heroic, Punchline is vicious, logical and as evil as the worst villains in Batman’s Rogues Gallery. In Punchline: The Gotham Game #4, there’s a tense confrontation between her and Bluff, a member of her Royal Flush Gang, where she pulls a knife on him and threatens to gut him as casually as if she were pulling out a cigarette, because he’s getting a bit close with Harper Row’s brother (who she’s imprisoned). It’s a great scene and like most things involving Punchline, you don’t know what’s going to happen, and I love that about her. It really makes the book unpredictable. Punchline’s written expertly, moving out of Joker’s shadow and quickly building her own unique and powerful identity throughout the series. So many other interesting characters fill this issue also, including several of Gotham’s crime bosses.
Between Catwoman’s book and this book, we’re really getting a crash-course on Gotham’s big crime families. The Ventriloquist and Mr. Scarface are brought in by Black Mask as part of his plans, and seeing the Ventriloquist’s dummy Mr. Scarface interact with the befuddled mob heads is hilarious. I’d love to see a book where the crime families are just interacting with Mr. Scarface and trying not to toss him into the nearest fireplace. The issue’s action-packed and filled with numerous subplots and a couple great twists. This series has been an exciting ride so far and it doesn’t look like it’ll be letting up anytime soon.
Max Raynor’s art on Punchline: The Gotham Game #4 is polished and streamlined, reminding me of Alan Davis’s work on some pages. The facial expressions are always dead on and enhance the dialogue, and he always adds wonderful details in scenes, as when Punchline pulls her knife on Bluff and holds it up to him, and we see the terrified look in his eyes mirrored in the reflective surface of the knife. He draws Punchline with a swagger. When she walks out of a room, you can practically see her exit with a menacing and confident strut. It’s beautiful work.
Punchline: The Gotham Game #4 continues the story with various subplots, all of them interesting, and gives us another issue filled with great characters, intrigue, a couple great twists and Punchline continuing to be a fascinating and menacing counterpoint to Harley Quinn.