After months of teasing we are finally going back to one of the biggest plotlines introduced in DC Rebirth with Batman and Flash continuing their investigation into the Button from Watchmen. This is an investigation that until now has been going on in the background of current events in the DCU. Now it seems that investigation is being brought to the forefront as reality starts to be affected by whatever Batman and Flash are doing. Will “The Button” crossover bring back more characters from the previous DCU, Watchmen Universe or Flashpoint? Any of those are possible with what we recently saw happen during Superman Reborn. Let’s see how things begin with Batman #22.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Jason Fabok
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In Arkham Asylum, inmates are watching the Western Conference Finals for the NHL. Saturn Girl realizes that the game is one where one of the players is killed. She begins freaking out. Arkham Asylum workers try to calm Saturn Girl down as she says “Superman won’t come. Our Friends Will Die. The Legion Will Die.”
In the Batcave, Batman watches the same NHL playoff game on one of his Batcomputer screens while investigating the Button he found. As the playoff game breaks down into a brutal fight with one of the players beating another to death Batman is flipping the Button between his fingers.
Batman turns off his Batcomputer and puts the Button down next to Psycho Pirate’s face mask. As Batman walks away a lightning bolt comes out of Psycho Pirate’s mask and goes into the Button. The Button then suddenly strikes Batman with a larger lightning bolt.
As Batman tries to recover the Flashpoint Batman (Thomas Wayne) suddenly appears and calls out to his son. As Batman reaches out to his father Flashpoint Batman disappears.
Batman contacts Flash to let him know that the Button they’ve been investigating reacted to Psycho Pirate’s mask. While Flash fights an invasion of Samuroids, Batman explains that the radiation from the Button spiked and ripped a hole in the Speed Force and he ended up seeing something. Flash says he’ll meet Batman in one minute.
While Batman looks at the Button a bolt of lightning streaks through the Batcave. Batman expresses his surprise to see Flash get to the Batcave in less than a minute. The real surprise turns out to be the speedster is actually Reverse Flash, who knocks Batman to the ground.
Reverse Flash says that while he should be dead some sort of power called to him and he takes a look at the Button. Batman tries to tackle Reverse Flash from behind but Reverse Flash just vibrates through Batman. Reverse Flash proceeds to take the next five seconds to be the living hell out of Batman.
Reverse Flash is surprised to see that Batman was able to withstand the beating he gave him. Reverse Flash then proceeds to run Batman through one of the glass cases in the Batcave.
Reverse Flash picks up the note from Flashpoint Batman that the glass case was holding. Reverse Flash instantly recognizes this is from Thomas Wayne in the Flashpoint Universe. After reading it out loud, Reverse Flash rips up the note in front of Batman.
Batman tells Reverse Flash to leave his cave, which earns a laugh from the villain. Batman says he knows he can’t touch speedster when he is a blur except when something solid is touching the ground. Reverse Flash doesn’t understand what he just heard so Batman shows him by stabbing Reverse Flash’s foot with a batarang.
Batman is able to hit Reverse Flash a few times before the villain launches a counterattack that sends Batman flying into one of his computers. Reverse Flash gets the batarang off his foot. As he does, Batman says he just needs to survive eleven seconds.
Reverse Flash and Batman spend the next ten seconds trading blows. At the end of the ten seconds a bloodied Batman says that they’ve reached overtime. Reverse Flash then finally knocks Batman out.
Reverse Flash then goes to pick up the Button and as he does a blue light teleports him out of the Batcave.
A few seconds later Reverse Flash reappears in the Batcave with half his body burnt off while saying “God…I Saw…God.”
Flash suddenly runs into the Batcave saying that he is late because he tried to stop the fight at the NHL playoff game but was too late. He finally gets to where Batman is knocked out and sees that Reverse Flash’s burnt corpse is on the ground next to Batman. End of issue.
The Good: Talk about an intense way to kick off a crossover with major implications for the entire DC Universe. Tom King does an impressive job setting up multiple plotlines that started in DC Rebirth that go beyond just the current DCU. That includes bringing in elements from Flashpoint and whatever place Saturn Girl is from and still making it all easy to follow.
Having the entire issue take place over the course of a few minutes is the perfect set-up to let readers know that they should be paying attention to every little detail. There wasn’t a moment in Batman #21 that did not feel important. That included the hockey fight that was playing in the background of Arkham Asylum and the Batcave. The hockey fight, and the outcome Saturn Girl revealed, added to how powerless Batman was to actually stop Reverse Flash from getting the button.
The fight between Reverse Flash and Batman that took up a big portion of Batman #21 was fantastic. The cockiness that Reverse Flash showed throughout the fight as he toyed with Batman is perfectly in line with who the character is. Even though we know that Reverse Flash could’ve killed Batman at any moment, it was his overconfidence that Batman was able to exploit and survive over a minute. That exploit allowed us to see why Batman continues to be able to stand up to characters like Reverse Flash as he takes advantage of his foes character weaknesses.
Batman also brought out the best in Reverse Flash. The way he continued to mock Batman throughout their fight was great. Driving home how much of a villain he is was the moment when he ripped up Flashpoint’s Thomas Wayne’s letter to the current DCU’s Batman. That was a brutal thing to do. It also worked to establish for those unaware that Reverse Flash is a time abnormality who does remember the events of the previous DCU, Flashpoint and other events.
Establishing that fact made the impact of Reverse Flash being teleported by Doctor Manhattan and returning with half his body burnt make even more sense. Because as a time abnormality Reverse Flash is a threat to Doctor Manhattan and Mr. Oz, who has been rounding up these types of characters. Reverse Flash returning and reacting to Doctor Manhattan’s appearance as “God” drove home how powerful the character is, even if they aren’t aware of who he is from Watchmen.
Saturn Girl’s appearance at the beginning of Batman #21 further developed the sub-plot with the character that King has been teasing in this series. Seeing her still in Arkham Asylum showed us that there is definitely something wrong with Saturn Girl. And in having her remember the events of the hockey game further showed that she is a character from the future. It helped make her big freak out and mentioning Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes adds to the mystery around her character.
That is where King is most successful with Batman #21. Because the reality is that King does not answer everything for the reader. Rather, King creates more questions for the events that will be taking place in this crossover, like why the Button reacted to Psycho Pirates mask and Saturn Girl’s appearance. It’s these questions and more that further establish the desire in readers minds to continue reading this crossover and anything related to what DC Rebirth introduced.
Jason Fabok once again delivers artwork that is second to none. Fabok continues to show how to deliver artwork that is worthy of a big event as he elevates everything that happens in Batman #21. Fabok does an especially great job in showing off Reverse Flash’s power as a speedster. The way Fabok drew the character alongside Batman got over how only a few minutes passed during the course of this issue. Fabok’s execution of all the characters facial expressions further added to the weight of King’s story.
The Bad: Nothing
Overall: Batman #21 is an excellent start to “The Button” crossover with The Flash series. Tom King delivered a lot of information without ever losing your attention as a reader. Adding in a dream fight between Batman and Reverse Flash, which had the backdrop of the story behind the Watchmen Button, added to the weight this story carries for the entire DCU. Having Jason Fabok draw everything that took place during the course of Batman #21.