Sunday, April 23, 2017

Comic Review: Batman #21 (2017) (SPOILERS AHEAD!)

Finally coming back into the 21st Century (after finishing up with my real estate licensing state test), I've been slowly returning to all the things I once loved again, including games, books, movies, comics, etc. I've been on the fence about returning to DC Comics for a while now, especially after all of the controversial decisions they've been making these last few years. I'm not going to delve into all of that here, but I wanted to explain why I kind of jumped off the bandwagon for awhile. I did however, read DC Rebirth #1. Geoff Johns has always been a personal favorite writer of mine in modern comic books. He's the very reason I became a major fan of Green Lantern in the first place, and I was very big on following whatever DC book he would go on to write for. I wasn't really sure what to make of it. Watchmen? Being mixed into the DC Universe?

It seems I wasn't alone in feeling confused and not really sure what to make of the whole thing. Watchmen was created by Alan Moore to be a literal deconstruction of superhero fiction. It was never meant to be expanded upon, despite DC choosing to do just that once before (Many would say that "Before Watchmen" was a hit or miss affair). After hearing that this event (simply titled "The Button") was going to be a four-issue mini-series, I finally decided to give it a shot. If X-Men: Days of Future Past could tell one of the arguably best X-Men stories of all time in a span of two issues, there was certainly hope for "The Button" as well.

One of the best things about jumping into this story is that you don't need to have read much prior, in order to get up to speed. Have you read the six-issue Flashpoint series and DC Rebirth #1 issue? Then you're all set (at least so far). The issue begins with Saturn Girl watching a hockey game from in prison, realizing that one of the players is about to die. She begins freaking out and saying that someone has to stop it, while the prison guards try to calm her down. We then go to Bruce (apparently watching the same hockey game in the background), who is starting to research the smiley face button that he found at the end of Rebirth #1 (aka, the button from Watchmen). From here, we learn that the button has strange radioactive properties. A few pages in, lightning shoots out of it, knocking Bruce back and seeing his father in front of him. This is the version of Thomas Wayne from Flashpoint, still in the same bat-costume. As Bruce reaches out to touch his hand, he vanishes. After this, he reaches out to the Flash, advising him that the button has been reacting strange ever since he put it near the mask of Psycho-Pirate (a DC villain who played a major role in Crisis of Infinite Earths). He also tells Flash that the radiation of the button is getting stronger. Flash tells Bruce that he'll be able get there in a minute. That minute makes up the remainder of the issue.

Reverse Flash suddenly appears and begins to pummel Batman to the ground. He says that he was dead, but that "a power" called to him, and he is now resurrected. He then noticed Thomas Wayne's letter to Bruce (from Flashpoint), and proceeds to tear it up. Bruce manages to slow him down enough to land some hits, but it does him little good, as he continues to get knocked around and bloodied by Reverse Flash's repeated attacks. In his last few seconds before Reverse Flash can land a finishing blow, Bruce admits that he was just buying time. Reverse Flash proceeds to knocking Bruce out cold and notices the button on the ground, alongside all of the projected images of it on all of Bruce's computer monitors. This is when things start to get... odd.

After picking up the button to take a closer look, Reverse Flash suddenly gets zapped away by a blue light (the color may or may not be key here). He finally zaps back to the batcave after a few seconds, with a strange blue aura surrounding him, causing his skin to slowly disintegrate. In his final panels, he utters "God... God... I saw... God...," before collapsing on the ground, now simply a skeleton with a Reverse Flash costume. It's at this moment that Flash finally arrives, only to see the wounded Bruce and apparently dead Reverse Flash. End of Part 1.

One thing I noticed right away while reading this issue, was the paneling structure. I'll post a screenshot below, so that you can see what I'm talking about.

Does this style look familiar? If you've ever read Watchmen before, it should.

The creative team is very clearly trying to evoke the look and feel of the original Watchmen comic with this mini-series. How far the similarities go are still up for debate until we know more, however. As for who killed Reverse Flash at the end of the issue, it is more than likely that the "God" being referred to is none other than Dr. Manhattan. This is the reason I mentioned the color blue above, as it was likely meant to be another hint.

While I can't say I'm necessarily excited for this event (since I still have no clue as to where DC is going with it), I admit I am now on board to see where they take things. I'm also kind of relieved that nothing about the story has felt rushed so far, despite the short amount of issues to contain it all in. Bring on The Flash #21!


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