At a first glance, Punchline looks like the average superhero comicbook. All that Issue #1’s shiny and well finished cover features is a close up of Versema. We hear a bit more about the main character in a freely-available prequel, but much is left to imagination.

What really caught our attention though, to the point that Elisa texted me to let me know about it,  is the roster behind this series. Both writer Bill Williams and artist Matthew Weldon can boast an impressive resume. The former apparently contributed to a few DC Comics products, the latter has a long list of achievements to his name.

Curious and willing to know more, we requested a review bundle. Here’s more or less what happened next!

Peculiar and Well-Conveyed Scenery

It’s a weird feeling, the one we got when we first opened these volumes. Extremely thin in size, Punchline #1 and #2 waste no time with small talk. Fly past the cover and you’re immediately plunging into the action. Leaning against a statue, a mysterious yet important character bleeds profusely while she assesses her own situation.

From here on out, Weldon’s pencils more than prove their mettle. punchline issue 1 indietoaster reviewThe environment surrounding Mel – that’s the name of the wounded young lady – perfectly blends with the events. The world in which she lives feels cold and unforgiving. Desensitized settlements produce desensitized people, who seem unaware of the eternal struggle between good an evil ensuing only a few meters away from their noses.

Throughout the three issues, Punchline’s design choices play a vital role in achieving success. The comicbook’s color schemes and the peculiar artstyle seamlessly work together to captivate the audience.  Bright yet ominous, each of the pages is a homage to the plastic-coated counterparts that characterized our youth.

Albeit independent, Punchline features the traits of a full-budget production. Characters are unique, locations feel polished, and the images just dance in front of our eyes. The stuttering and confusion typical of smaller projects seems nowhere to be found. Regardless of how we looked at them, these volumes were nothing short of flawless!

Dynamic, Fast-Paced, And Innovative Narration!

Obviously, graphics are only half of a successful comics album. Your drawings, colors, and pagination might be on point, but your product will get nowhere if you can’t keep readers glued to the screen. Many independent creatives tend to underestimate the power of a solid narrative. Unless addressed in time, such a shortcoming can doom the entire endeavor.

Fortunately, Bill Williams knows what he’s doing! The plot marvelously unfolds with each new speech bubble. Spectators are fed just enough information to crave a touch more. In a matter of minutes, Punchline effectively becomes a drug. Elisa and I both rushed through it to reach the end. We didn’t put the volumes down until we were done, we didn’t take a bathroom break, we didn’t eat. All we wanted was to see where this story would go.

For all its darkness and the violence it contains, Punchline upholds extremely positive standards. The story of Mel and of her exploits pivots on friendship, trust, and mentoring. It’s almost a shame that we can’t tell you more about this comicbook’s storyline. We always try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but it goes without saying that we thoroughly liked it.

Much Deeper Plot Than What We’d Expect!

Some independent comics are a one-off occurrence. In the space of a few pages, they manage to drag their story from point A to point B. Plots aren’t always extremely fleshed out and branching gets lost in favor of a more linear narration. These products aren’t all inherently bad, they simply suffer from the effects of their own minimalism.

On the contrary, the team behind Punchline seems to go all out. We received no information on the number of issues that this series comprises.  What we were given, though, was early access to the third one of them. Out of four volumes, Williams, Weldon, and the rest of the group spend a full two to expand upon the plot. The aforementioned prequel gives us a general idea of the story, but it’s #3 that really sets the tone for what’s to come.

punchline issue 3 indietoaster review

Sitting in a diner and lost in conversation, Mel and Jessie soon find themselves trading anecdotes. Through her own words, the former superhero shows us a  glimpse of her past. Readers soon understand just how big the universe in which Punchline takes place is. Recurring enemies, references to the real world, and an army of goons ready to die for their master’s evil plans are all extremely enticing promises.

We just hope that future releases can keep up with that!

An Instant Favorite!

By this point, a final paragraph that summarizes our conclusions is pretty much useless. Despite trying, we found nothing that could have resulted in a negative review. Nitpicking is still a possibility, but we sincerely feel that going down that route would be unfair.

In its current stage, Punchline is extremely promising. For less than a dollar each, these volumes have the potential to become instant favorites. The complete answer still lies deep in the darkness of an uncertain future, though. Will the team behind this tiny masterpiece continue to pour their skills and passion into it? Can Punchline stand the test of time?