James Tynion IV is taking his Punchline even further. This brand new debut issue lays the groundwork for what comes after Joker War and part of the 2021 Batman comics. I have to say that Punchline has grown on me, and I am intrigued to see how her story will play out as she faces trial for her actions. Yet she is played off so well that you will have to decide what she really is in this case…victim or manipulator? So let us take a dive into the story crafted by Tynion and Sam Johns to see what makes this a good starter comic.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Punchline #1!
Punchline #1 features the initial hearing, where we witness that Alexis Kaye aka Punchline has been determined fit to stand trial for her numerous crimes by Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Two things I find interesting in this exchange: Gotham City is in a state that practices capital punishment, so luckily the Joker is insane otherwise that would’ve ended a long time ago, but also Dr. Thompkins is able to determine Kaye’s state of mind for trial. I’ve always understood Dr. Thompkins to be a medical doctor, but regardless, I am glad to see her character here for this story and that means we are treated to the Row siblings. They play into this story quite nicely, as the two find themselves divided when it comes to Punchline’s guilt and sorrow.
Punchline releases a video after her arrest in which she expresses sorrow for her actions and plants the seed that she may actually be innocent. I appreciate that Tynion and Johns are establishing that Alexis Kaye has an undiagnosed personality disorder and some PTSD trauma, so maybe Punchline is a byproduct of those issues and her early meeting with the Joker back in her senior year. It really plants some doubt that her sorrows are sincere and that she is most likely cooking up a major plot to go to trial instead of Arkham, and with that I am intrigued by what this character can do.
This issue delivers great setup, but the flaw of Punchline #1 comes in the layouts. For the most part the pages were good, and I am not dissing Mirka Andolfo’s art one bit as it’s very good, but sadly there isn’t much story in this comic, making for a lot of talking heads as we are seeing how people divide themselves when it comes to Punchline’s innocence. I feel there was a missed opportunity when it came to the podcast parts as there could’ve been some stronger reenactment of those famous moments at those famous locations. Mirka does a great job with stern, tense moments as the divide comes to a head with Harper and Cullen, but by then we’re on the downslide to the issue’s end.
As it stands, Punchline #1 is a good setup issue that dives into Punchline’s origins and motivations, but still enough to question her mentality. I appreciate the commentary she brings and how divisive she can be. Plus, getting to see Harper Row again is very exciting.
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