Punchline: The Trial of Alexis Kaye

Punchline: The Trial of Alexis Kaye
Punchline The Trial of Alexis Kaye review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: DC - 978-1-77951-796-8
  • Release date: 2022
  • UPC: 9781779517968
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Punchline was introduced by James Tynion IV during his Batman run as someone who actively supports the Joker’s murderous atrocities. She differs from Harley Quinn, not being a wacky sidekick, but a ideological companion unapologetic about who she is. Other than her lacking any form of ethical brake she transmits as sane, and is considered as such for her trial.

This collection serves up her introduction, then jumps to the aftermath of the Joker War, and her trial for crimes committed during it. Any feeling of disappointment about the leap is rapidly dispelled as Tynion and co-writer Sam Johns employ a storytelling method filling in background while simultaneously ensuring Punchline’s is a very modern trial. She releases a widely shared video linking to podcasts that colour public opinion in her favour, while Mirka Andolfo’s accompanying illustrations (sample art left) show her guilt extends far further back than the relatively recent events.

It’s a clever story based on the maxim of being able to fool some of the people some of the time, and there’s hardly been a shortage of people achieving that in 21st century USA and parlaying it into great power. And they’ve been able to persuade others to do their dirty work. The trial rapidly goes sideways when witnesses are murdered. The other side of the coin is Bluebird, an obscure Batman ally able to see through Punchline’s manipulative methods and determined right will win the day.

Everything goes swimmingly until the change of artist to Sweeney Boo, although it’s nothing to do with her solid cartooning. Part of the plot is Bluebird’s good intentions outweighing her capabilities, and it leads to the interesting moral aspects being temporarily ditched for the tension of a protracted action sequence. Rosi Kämpe’s producing the art once the story heads back on track, her scratchiness a marked contrast to what’s come before, and she’s followed by Belén Ortega, talented but unnecessarily exaggerating facial reactions. The title story covers around 75% of the pages, but in short chapters, so why couldn’t any one of four capable artists have drawn the entire story instead of having vast swings in style?

A short story completes the collection. Alex Paknadel’s creation of Punchline’s own acolyte is brutal, but unconvincing, if nicely drawn by Vasco Georgiev.

Smart and cynical, the outcome of the title story is intended as divisive because there are circumstances where Punchline is an effective character and those when she’s not. A saggy middle section only briefly diminishes the overall effect, although attempts to reinforce her name are forced. However, Punchline is a very modern creation, which alone stands her apart from much of DC’s output, and monsters come in many forms.