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Unbuttoning "The Button": A Flash of Danger

Unbuttoning "The Button": A Flash of Danger

By Meg Downey Friday, April 21st, 2017

The mysteries of Rebirth expand in "The Button," a four-part crossover unfolding this month in the pages of BATMAN and THE FLASH. In this series of columns, writer Meg Downey unpacks each new chapter, revealing things you may have missed and exploring what it all may mean. Note that columns contain SPOILERS.

It’s finally here. The moment we’ve been waiting for since that massive reveal at the end of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1. It’s time to focus on “The Button.”

It’s been almost a year, so I’ll catch you up, just in case you need a refresher: Barry Allen was able to fish the long lost Wally West from the Speed Force for an explosive (and super emotional!) reunion—but Wally didn’t come alone. After the fireworks settled down a bit, Batman found a strange button in the Batcave, apparently manifested from thin air (or, more likely, the residual Speed Force energy that manifested around Wally). It was a smiley face with a single drop of blood on it...the Comedian’s button.

Now, since the events of DC Universe: Rebirth #1, things in the DC Universe have been...well, a little strange. There are anomalies cropping up left and right in the form of mysterious doppelgangers (check out “Superman Reborn” in ACTION COMICS and SUPERMAN), old villains and allies (take a gander over at HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS), and hallucinations of alternate worlds (like, say, the ones happening in NIGHTWING right now). So far, no one’s really been able to make heads or tails of them, despite their best efforts.

That is, until now.

“The Button” began this week in BATMAN #21 and it would seem that the World’s Greatest Detective has been spending his spare time studying the button with the help of Barry Allen. (What little spare time he has, at least—between his work in Gotham, duties with the Justice League and his new JLA team, he’s been a little busy.) Batman hasn’t had many leads, just some trace radiation that may or may not be an effect of the Speed Force. Of course, like most difficult cases, it helps to have all the pieces on the board before anything can fit together, and it just so happens that Bruce was missing one until recently. The Psycho-Pirate’s mask unwittingly sparks a reaction in the button when they’re placed close together and it prompts Bruce to hallucinate a very familiar face: his father. Or, well, kind of his father. His father from an alternate earth where Bruce was the one murdered in crime alley and Thomas Wayne was the one who became Batman.

You might remember that version of Thomas Wayne as a featured player back in FLASHPOINT, but if you don’t, that’s all right. I’ll fill you in on the highlights. During his dimension hopping extravaganza, Barry Allen came across this version of Thomas and was able to strike up an alliance and bring a letter from him to his son back to Bruce’s reality. The letter—extradimensional as it may be—was the last “official” communication between Thomas and Bruce, ever. So, as you might guess, a pretty emotional thing.

It’s also pretty heavily tied back to Eobard Thawne, one of the main antagonists in Flashpoint and all around thorn in Barry Allen’s side. I bring this up because Eobard just recently found himself back on the board after a long, long post-Flashpoint absence in the pages of THE FLASH #19. And it just so happens he’s still kind of (“kind of” definitely) holding a grudge for some Flashpoint-related nastiness.

This is unfortunate for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that the hallucinogenic rift in spacetime the button and the Psycho-Pirate’s mask seemed to have produced apparently is enough to summon Eobard right to the Batcave. Bad news for Bruce, who, despite being Batman, isn’t really a match all on his own for an evil speedster.

Though I will give it to Batman here: Even when he’s getting definitively knocked around, he still manages to make it look and feel like he’s got it all figured out. I feel like Batman’s one of the only super heroes that I love to watch lose fights just as much as I love to watch him win. (Is that weird?)

Anyway, as this issue shows us, in Tom King’s signature twelve-panel grid styling, one minute alone with a speedster who wants to kill you may as well be a lifetime. But something strange happens before Eobard can well and truly finish Bruce off—he picks up the button from Bruce’s desk, and just like it did with the Psycho-Pirate’s mask, it reacts to Eobard. Only instead of bringing about a vision of an alternate world, it transports Eobard out of the cave for a split second, and when it transports him back... Well, let’s just say Eobard’s rebirth was pretty short lived. (At least for now. Speedsters are historically pretty hard to kill, after all.)

Some other important things to note in this issue, for those keeping score:

  • Saturn Girl! She’s still, unfortunately, locked up in Arkham, but apparently regaining her memories...even if they’re not very pleasant. Saturn Girl talks about the Legion—meaning the Legion of Super-Heroes—and the fact that Superman isn’t able to save them. Now, the Legion hasn’t been around for a hot second (their last official publication was back in 2013) so this is especially interesting...and maybe prophetic? So far Saturn Girl’s the only legionnaire we’ve seen in Rebirth, but there’s a pretty long list to choose from in terms of cameos, so it’s best to keep your eyes peeled.

  • When Eobard flashes back into our reality, shell shocked and half burned alive, he claims to have seen “god” in whatever dimension he was teleported to. He, obviously, makes no move to clarify this before he collapses in a skeletal heap, but it’s strongly inferred in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 that Doctor Manhattan is involved with what’s taken place with the timeline. Is it possible that the good (or, well, not so good) Doctor is the one pulling the strings here? Or is there something else just waiting to make itself known? Whoever (or whatever) it was that Eobard encountered, they were clearly powerful enough to easily take out a speedster. So nothing to shake a stick at, that’s for sure.
     
  • The button and the Pirate. It’s definitely worth noting that the button reacted when put near the Psycho-Pirate’s mask—that is anything but chance. If you think back—way, way back—to the late ’80s and CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, you’ll remember that the Psycho-Pirate is one of the original characters with the ability to remember the DC Multiverse as it once was. This may not sound like a huge deal, but when you’re dealing with omnipotent, reality bending forces, memory can be a very powerful thing. In fact, Crisis on Infinite Earths isn’t the only Crisis event that the Pirate has played a large hand in. INFINITE CRISIS also ushered him into the spotlight for many of the same reasons its predecessor did. All of which is to say that it would definitely be wise to keep an eye on the Pirate...and anyone else who may start to crop up with a Crisis-level history tagging along with them.

Luckily, we won’t have to wait to long for what is sure to be even more Rebirth mystery. “The Button” continues next week in THE FLASH #21. Look for my thoughts on that issue here on DCComics.com next Friday, and let me know what you thought of the first chapter below in the comments!  
 

Meg Downey writes about Rebirth for DCComics.com and covers DC’s Legends of Tomorrow for the #DCTV Couch Club. Look for her on Twitter at @rustypolished.

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