Monday, May 29, 2017

Comic Review: DC's "The Button" Parts 2-4 (2017) (SPOILERS AHEAD!)

As a way of making up for falling behind on comics this past month, I decided to simply read through all three remaining parts of the storyline (Flash #21, Batman #22, and Flash #22) and write up one final review for it. The good news is that the next major event involving this story isn't coming out until November, so I had plenty of time to catch up!

Flash #21 continues right where Batman #21 left off, leaving us to question what really killed Reverse Flash, and where would we go from here? As Barry/Flash attempts to make sense of everything going on around him, more parallels to Watchmen begin to stand out. In the double-page spread below, you can clearly see the black, white, and red coloring of the smiley face pin being displayed in the smaller panels, showing Bruce getting pummeled by Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash:

Once Barry finally speaks with Bruce again, he blames himself for the issues with the current timeline. Bruce tells Barry that it couldn't be his fault, as the issues they were experiencing pre-dated Flashpoint (still not fully understanding what Bruce is talking about here???). We get more reflections on Wally telling Barry that moments of their history were stolen from them, and what it all means. Barry also remembered the helmet of a different Flash (Jay Garrick from Justice League of America), and the fact that it left him feeling calmer as a result of it, without really knowing why.

Barry decides to use the cosmic treadmill (that he once used to try and save his mother in the past), to follow the radiation of the smiley face button to its source, and determine what could have possibly killed Thawne. Bruce decides to go along too, despite still recovering from his encounter with Thawne. As they travel, they begin to see events from the past that they themselves don't even recall happening. This prompts Barry to question if this is some of what was "stolen" from them previously, but once again, it leaves us with more questions than answers.

Once they reach the end of their journey they come to meet Bruce's father, Thomas Wayne from the Flashpoint universe. (I suppose if Reverse Flash is going to rip up your only memento of the guy, the next best thing you can do is actually go see him in person, right?) This concludes Part 2.

Batman #22 (Part 3) continues with Thomas, Barry, and Bruce briefly following up on events. The most poignant question proposed is how the Flashpoint universe could still be existing at this point, if Barry prevented it from ever occurring at the end of the original Flashpoint comic. They begin to deduce that someone is purposely "holding" on to these different histories for one reason or another. We learn that Thomas was planning to commit suicide right before Barry and Bruce arrived, and that he was also about to be ambushed by both Amazonians and Atlanteans from the Flashpoint war. Bruce also gets a brief moment to tell Thomas that he's a grandfather.

Due to an incoming ambush of the Amazonians and Atlanteans, Bruce and Thomas unfortunately get no time to talk with one another, and immediately have to prepare for the onslaught coming their way, while Barry works to fix the cosmic treadmill. As this is all going on, the Flashpoint universe itself begins to come undone. Barry makes a point to say he felt like it was done on purpose, possibly by the same person who was "holding" these different points in history. Barry manages to fix the treadmill just in time. Just before leaving, Thomas says something quite bold to Bruce: "DON'T BE BATMAN. Find happiness, please. You don't have to do this. Don't do it for me. Don't do it for your mother. Be a father for your son in a way I never could be for you. Let the Batman die with me."

I admit, if I were Bruce, I would have no idea how to react to that. It also obviously has some type of impact, as I'll get into a little farther down.

Bruce and Barry continue on as the Flashpoint universe now becomes completely destroyed. After this, they immediately get passed by Reverse Flash. Wait, I thought he was dead!? Well, he is, but this is revealed to be the Reverse Flash of the past, right before the moment that killed him. He states that he knows who the power of the button belongs to, as he leaves Barry and Bruce behind. End of Part 3.

Flash #22 (Part 4) opens with a bit of a rehash of things we already saw from the previous issue for about six pages (which is kind of annoying when this story is only a short 4-part arc to begin with). The scene follows about the way you would expect it to; with Thawne going forward to his death by the hands of what we're pretty sure is Doctor Manhattan. The cosmic treadmill begins to break, while Bruce and Barry keep hearing a voice calling out to them. Barry couldn't seem to place the voice, but eventually listened and started to say his name, "... Jay?" If the cover didn't make it completely obvious, Jay Garrick (the original Flash from DC's Golden Age) makes a triumphant return in order to save Barry and Bruce, and quickly rushes them back to the batcave, where the entire event started. Unfortunately, Jay and Barry also don't get much time to talk, before Jay is whisked away once more. This leaves everyone with far more questions than answers (ugh!).

We finish things off with two more memorable moments. The first being Bruce, looking out at the batsignal, but reflecting on his father's words about not being Batman anymore. Bruce's silence in this scene actually said quite a bit, and it will be interesting to see how this affects his judgement going forward. The second scene in the epilogue, however, is the real big moment:

Yes, with that direct quote from Watchmen, familiar type of comic bubble, and gigantic blue hand, we can finally confirm that it was in fact Doctor Manhattan that killed Reverse Flash. Following this is an ad for DC's Doomsday Clock event, further continuing this story, and hinting at a very strong connection between the colors of the Watchmen pin and Superman's chest emblem.

I could easily see why some people would feel let down by this story arc. Like a lot of hype-train events from both DC and Marvel, many of these stories end up feeling like long advertisements for future events (in this case, the upcoming Doomsday Clock event in November), and this is really no exception to that rule. Part of the reason that I still came out of this event with more positive reactions than negative is the fact that I was expecting it to go that way. From the moment DC announced this was going to be a 4-part story arc, I knew there was no way we could have a story that would resemble anything complete or totally comprehensive. While I admit I did feel a little disappointed that we didn't get ANY answers to our questions yet, I'm also not one of those people who was expecting to get EVERY answer either. Looking back on this event for what it WAS instead of what it WASN'T, left me with a much more positive outlook. I was originally cringing at the thought of DC combining with the Watchmen universe, and now have to admit I'm actually kind of excited to see where this is all going.

If you've also read "The Button," feel free to share your thoughts with me.

Thanks for reading!

Flash #21 - 8/10
Batman #22 - 8/10
Flash #22 - 7/10

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