Part two of the four-part Rebirth event, “The Button,” dropped this week in THE FLASH #21 and, unsurprisingly considering the titular hero, it hit the ground running...but maybe not where you’d expect.
This issue opens on a face that may not be all that familiar to you if you’re not a Golden Age Justice Society of America fan, or if you haven’t given yourself a refresher on DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1 recently—which, if you haven’t, maybe you should! Go ahead, we’ll be here when you get back.
All set? Good.
So, the old man on the first few pages of “The Button: Part Two” happens to be none other than Johnny Thunder, age ninety-something (both in the story and literally, Johnny was created in 1940). Johnny’s still the ward of a less-than-friendly retirement home and still deeply upset about...well, something. He keeps crying out for “Cei-U!” which apparently sounds like absolute nonsense to the orderlies.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, though. Cei-U isn’t a thing or even a name; it’s a magic word. Johnny isn’t crazy or senile, far from it. He’s a former hero who used to work with a sort of genie-type being (called a “Thunderbolt”) named Yz that granted him wishes and power. All Johnny had to do to summon Yz and get things rolling was to say the magic word (it’s pronounced “say you,” just in case you were curious) and ask it to do something.
So, you can see, Johnny himself didn’t actually have any abilities of his own—in fact, he was kind of bumbling most of the time—but Yz made him a viable hero, and soon enough, a member of the Justice Society of America.
...The disappearance of which is, if you ask Johnny, apparently all his fault. Hmmm…
But of course, Johnny’s troubles aren’t the only issues at hand. Bruce has just been brutally beaten by Eobard Thawne and Barry has just arrived on the scene, thankfully, in time to save Bruce’s life. Eobard, however, doesn’t seem so lucky. Whatever killed him, Barry understands, is something that is immensely powerful as Eobard’s power isn’t so much super speed as it is the ability to consistently manipulate time to cheat his way through fate.
And then there’s the matter of Bruce’s hallucination; his vision of Flashpoint’s alternate Thomas Wayne. It just doesn’t seem like our intrepid detectives are going to get any sort of break in this case any time soon.
Thankfully, they’ve got some tools at their disposal. And when I say “tools,” I mean an entire room full of old Justice League artifacts—and boy oh boy, they may be a couple weeks late, but writer Josh Williamson and artist Howard Porter have set up a truly epic Easter egg hunt for us here.
Just at a passing glance, it’s pretty impossible to miss iconic things both old and new, like Blue Beetle’s “Bug” ship, Booster Gold’s robot companion Skeets, Lobo’s hook, and Martian Manhunter’s original costume stored in among the League’s “Lost and Found.” These, of course, are nothing compared to the crown jewel of the collection: Flash’s Cosmic Treadmill.
First appearing back in THE FLASH #125 in 1961, the Cosmic Treadmill is one of the most recognizable staples of Flash iconography. It’s even gotten its very own live action incarnation over on The CW’s Flash TV show. Essentially, the treadmill allows a speedster to gain enough energy to easily travel through space time by way of the Speed Force. And that’s exactly what Barry and Bruce intend to do now.
After all, if they can’t find a solution for the button problem on their own earth in their own time, they may as well check out the multiverse, right? Except, as Barry realizes...something is strange about the fabric of the Speed Force now. As he and Bruce race through the fabric of reality they see...things. Odd things. Things that you might recognize as moments from classic comics like CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS or the first appearance of the Justice League in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #28. It’s as if Bruce and Barry are looking into their own past and seeing things they can’t recognize.
Which is a problem in and of itself, but one that gets exponentially bigger when the Treadmill careens out of control and lands both Bruce and Barry in an uncannily familiar, but altogether alien version of the Batcave, which just so happens to be occupied by none other than Batman himself, Thomas Wayne.
It’s looking more and more like a bloodstained button might just be the very least of our heroes’ problems.