For those who have been scratching their heads since the beginning of DC Rebirth how the timeline of the Rebirth DCU jives with the previously introduced and established timelines such as Flashpoint or The New 52, to name just a few, and yes, even the Watchmen universe, the four-part story titled “The Button,” which runs through Batman and The Flash this month, is dropping hints all over the place.
We looked at Batman #21 last week to try to make sense of how all of this is possible and the link with the Speed Force and the vicious sneak attack by Reverse-Flash on Bruce Wayne inside the Batcave caught us all off guard. Now we’ll look at Part 2, which takes place in The Flash #21, written by Joshua Williamson and is drawn by Howard Porter, so beware of spoilers in case you want to check out the story yourself.
In the opening teaser page, we see a 90-year old Johnny Thunder atop a nursing home yelling out at a night storm in the sky, “Where are you, Thunderbolt! CEI-U! Please! I didn’t mean for any of this to happen …” Just before he’s dragged away by two buff orderlies he says, “We lost the Justice Society! It’s all my fault.” The last we saw Johnny Thunder was in Rebirth #1, when Wally West was looking for someone from the Justice Society to tether himself to, but as we know to this point, The Justice Society of America has been absent since Flashpoint placed them in a way on Earth 2, and besides, they would be in retirement homes as they were heroes from the 1940s-1950s era.
Then we move back to the Batcave, and right after the events of Batman #21 takes place. Barry Allen AKA the Flash explains the crime scene and the reasons to why he became a forensic scientist. There on the floor is what remains of Eobard Thawne AKA Reverse-Flash’s body. Something smoked half of Thawne’s flesh off, literally as half of his corpse is a skeleton. Allen mentions how Thawne was a criminal from the 25th century and traveled through time to do Allen harm, but Thawne eventually found Allen’s mother and killed her to inflict pain and misery upon Barry.
The big problem happens when Allen investigates Thawne’s corpse, he doesn’t find the Negative Speed Force, which he expected to find. Instead he finds his own Speed Force signature. There’s a chance that the instance of when Thawne picks up the button to when he was incinerated could have been actually drawn out to a longer period of time for speedsters–and gods – and Batman never saw it.
Flash notes that each person has their own unique energy signature so if there are traces of his energy on Thawne, Barry wonders if he kills Reverse-Flash in the future. Of course nothing is captured on the Batcave’s surveillance cameras, as it's chalked up to Reverse-Flash's presence that disrupted the system and Batman is the only witness to what happened to Thawne.
A conscious Bruce Wayne relays to Flash that he saw a ghost of his father as Batman before the attack, which confirms the Flashpoint universe. Wayne also tells him that Thawne said that he saw God, which is peculiar given that he was more of a man of science than he was faith. Flash ran blood tests on the button, which is now missing, and came up with nothing, which supports the Comedian’s blood wouldn’t be in their records. It is stated once again that the button appeared on the night that Wally returned.
The Flash mentions two visions that he’s had since Wally’s return. One was of Reverse Flash and the other was the Helmet of Mercury, which is a reference to the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick. This is the second indirect mention of the Justice Society of America in this issue. Flash travels to the Justice League Watchtower where he goes into the Hall of Lost and Found, stray artifacts loaded with Easter eggs for the DCU fan but most notably, on hand are Lobo’s hook and Martian Manhunter’s suit.
As Flash works his way around the Hall, more costumes are seen including Hourman II, Star-Spangled Kid, Booster Gold’s Skeets. Why are these artifacts significant? It proves the existence of again, the Justice Society of America, Justice League International, and the 853rd Century, suggesting the DC One Million storyline share this timeline too. There’s even a single “Kirby Dot” encapsulated, referring to Jack Kirby’s crackle of energy he would often draw. So this could suggest the New Gods in this timeline.
Flash uncovers the method at which he will travel through space and time, the Cosmic Treadmill, and follows the radiation found on the button. Unfortunately, the last time the Flash used the treadmill was to try and thwart Thawne’s mission to kill Barry’s mother, and thus creating the Flashpoint universe. Rather than going back for selfish reasons, Flash uses it to figure out who killed Thawne and ripped through space and time. Batman crashes the party and insists on joining Flash, despite his warnings that could find both of them lost in time.
The following two-page spread then shows both Batman and Flash traveling through time and witnessing the formation of the Justice League in different eras. With Superman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Flash and Martian Manhunter present, Flash experiences all of them, as well as the disintegration of these memories. Batman’s mind wipe from Identity Crisis. Batman wonders if these are alternate realities and Flash notes that Wally told him, “years were taken” from them. Flash corrects Batman and tells him that these are not alternate realities, that this is in fact their own universe.
The treadmill becomes highly unstable and starts to break up. After a flash of light, Batman and Flash wake up in what appears to be the Batcave but without all of the sophisticated technology. There are artifacts, including the gun used to kill Bruce’s mother, which means they’ve landed in the Flashpoint universe where Bruce is confronted by Thomas Wayne. And you have your cliffhanger for the week.
Now there aren't a great deal of clues in this issue of Flash that would lead us to think Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan is pulling the strings, but there was a lot of blue energy surrounding the use of the Cosmic Treadmill and we will recall the flashes of blue energy in Batman #21 when Reverse-Flash met his maker ... or something God-like.
There's also enough clues given as to what has gone on in what is the present DC Rebirth timeline, including more than enough visual references noted above of the existence of these other stories and that has added to the mystery of the present-day Rebirth timeline.
Did you find any more clues of other timelines? Perhaps you caught something we missed in this issue or some of the other DC Rebirth titles that would tie "The Button" to Watchmen more. Share your comments below.