Wouldn’t you know it, DC Comics' Multiverse has no limits — and this week we got some traction with the world of Watchmen, originally written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, infiltrating the DC Rebirth universe. We're going to try and make sense of it all, so beware of the spoilers that will follow in case you planned to read Batman #21, Flash #19 and Action Comics #976.
For those not following, back in the Rebirth Special, Batman found a small trinket glimmering in the Batcave. After some scraping, Batman plucked what looks like the Comedian’s bloodstained smiley face button out of the wall. Just before that sequence, we notice that Bruce Wayne has in his museum of memories, a letter written by his father, Thomas Wayne of the Flashpoint reality where he sacrificed himself to help make the New 52 Universe a reality in 2011. Batman confides in the Flash about the discovery of this "artifact," while thinking aloud about a foreboding presence that they’ve never seen before.
The button and context of the story accompanying this suggests that Dr. Manhattan played an important role in creating the Rebirth universe. The Speed Force is also important, as a hole was ripped into it and that allowed this crossing over of realities. In Batman #21, written by Tom King, with art by Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson and colorist Deron Bennett, that letter and the pin are featured prominently in the first part of a four-part storyline called “The Button,” which is going to run through two issues of Batman and Flash.
Batman is thinking about the button while simultanously watching a playoff hockey game between the Gotham Blades and the Metropolis Mammoths that has gone into overtime. In that game, a fight breaks out and Taylor, the Mammoths' player, dies from the punches he received by Shuster, the Gotham Blades' player.
We know that this button is exclusively from the Watchmen world, so that it is giving off crazy energy is no surprise. The radiation spikes though when it gets close to Psycho-Pirate’s power amplifying Medusa Mask. This is important because Psycho-Pirate has been established since the New 52 Universe as a psychic who can telepathically manipulate the emotions of his targets. This spark allows Bruce Wayne to experience a brief rip in reality where he comes into contact with Thomas Wayne of the Flashpoint universe before he vanishes. That’s why Batman calls for Flash, who gives him a minute–comics' longest minute ever, by the way–before he joins Bruce in the Batcave.
Except within that minute, Batman is caught off guard by Reverse-Flash AKA Eobard Thawne sporting his classic yellow threads, attacking him instead, and in the time it takes for Bruce to outsmart Thawne, he takes more than a dozen brutal punches for every one he is able to land. Thawne perished in Flashpoint but made a surprising return in Flash #19 and Action Comics #976, after his pre-Flashpoint self and his New 52 self re-combined. Shockingly though, he can recall what Thomas Wayne did to him in Flashpoint. But for Thawne, revenge on Bat-Dad’s son is short-lived when he picks up the Comedian’s button.
Who is this god? Most likely it's Dr. Manhattan and when god giveth life the god can taketh away. But why? Why help bring Reverse-Flash back only to destroy him? Is there something symbolic about half of Thawne being toasted? Was that the pre-Flashpoint half or the New 52 half being incinerated? Also, where is that slippery little button at the end of Batman #21? What kind of grief is Batman going to give Flash for being late? What does this mean for other characters that could potentially be recombined with their pre-Flashpoint and New 52 selves?
Is there a deeper connection to the story of the Button and the Metropolis Mammoth's hockey player also dying on ice besides the beating he takes? And finally, what's up with Saturn Girl, a character from the future, stuck in Arkham Asylum seemingly predicting the hockey player's death? As usual, we're left with more questions than answers but we can start to see how Dr. Manhattan could enter the DC Rebirth universe. This long drawn out, but thrilling fight between Reverse-Flash and Batman may not give as many talking points to the Watchmen-DC Rebirth merger, but it was an entertaining issue.
Listen, if you’re one of these purists who believe that the Watchmen universe needs to be left alone, steer clear. For the rest of you, this is scratching at the surface of what could be a very good story. Fabok tipped his hat to Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons with the 13 pages with nine-panel layouts. Sometimes, DC's events come off as forced, but this one has started off in a big way and it will be interesting to see how it plays out as it moves to Flash #21 next week.