This issue continues the Joker War storyline as weak as it may be. I’m not really sure there was a solid pitch made about this through line. From what I can tell, the Joker is trying to torture Batman now that he’s learned his secret identity, and he’s trying to gas the entire city. Like I said, not much of a plot, especially when it’s spanning multiple issues throughout multiple titles.
The issue begins with Punchline addressing the Joker’s masked minions about moving the gas through the Narrows to drop them off at ACE Chemicals. I would like to pause here for a minute to talk about Punchline. She is supposed to be Harley Quinn’s replacement as the Joker’s girlfriend and an imminent rival for her. But let’s face it, she doesn’t measure up in the least. The reason Harley became so popular, so quickly, was because of her over-the-top personality. In comparison, Punchline has no personality in the least.
She’s been in several issues now and I’m realizing that there’s just nothing to this character. Yet another element of the Joker War that should have been developed before launching this. When she was announced, I had high-hopes for a new Joker-type character, but thus far, this punchline is falling flat, and it’s pretty disappointing.
Now, back to the review. The Joker’s goons are afraid to go through the Narrows because a vigilante, calling himself the Clownhunter, is picking them off. Meanwhile, Batman is attempting to escape a zombie-ridden movie theater as the Joker verbally tortures him about the night his parents died. How the Joker knew exactly what movie the Waynes saw that night is anyone’s guess.
Harley finds Batman unconscious – again (This is not something Batman is prone to be and for it happen multiple times is hard to believe, especially when he usually has a contingency for everything). Punchline and Joker discuss the Clownhunter and Punchline doesn’t understand the Joker’s respect for the guy killing their men. Here’s another example regarding Punchline’s incompatibility with the Joker. Though there are numerous times that Harley didn’t agree with the Joker, she always understood his warped logic.
Batman wakes up in Ivy’s garden of Eden. Why Harley would take him to here when it was a secret place just for Harley and Ivy is also unknown. It doesn’t seem quite smart on Harley’s part, since she’s still an on-again, off-again criminal. She drugs him, explaining that the drug will purge his system and he begins to hallucinate. This is again strange for Batman’s character. He can usually simply smell a substance and tell you the ingredients. But not this time. Now he can’t even smell the contaminants.
I feel overall that Tynion doesn’t really know Batman’s character well enough to pull this thin-as-toilet-paper story off. For the world’s greatest detective, he’s sure making a lot of mistakes. The writer is making concessions in order to squeeze Batman into his plot, instead of building the plot around the character’s skills and flaws. I hope it gets better and I hope they find a personality for Punchline soon.