The title of the story arc starting in Batman #21 this week is entitled “The Button” and Watchmen fans should already know this is where the DC crossover event starts. The cover says it all, Batman and the Flash are involved in a mysterious button Batman discovered in his cave back in May 2016. Finally some answers, or at the very least the start of something much bigger!
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Jason Fabok
Publisher: DC Comics
So what’s it about? The official summary reads:
“THE BUTTON” part one! The cataclysmic events of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1 continue here! The Dark Knight and The Fastest Man Alive, the two greatest detectives on any world, unite to explore the mystery behind a certain blood-stained smiley button embedded in the Batcave wall. What starts as a simple investigation turns deadly when the secrets of the button prove irresistible to an unwelcome third party—and it’s not who anyone suspects! It’s a mystery woven through time, and the ticking clock starts here!
Why does this book matter?
If you’ve been reading the majority of the DC Comics over the last year you know mysterious things are going on and have led to this. A mysterious Mr. Oz is watching over Superman, characters from the future reference Watchmen in subtle ways and a storm is brewing. This is the beginning of that storm. On top of that, If you dig stories like Watchmen you’ll probably love this issue as there seems to be a lot of subtle details for fans to think about that may or may not be hints of what is to come.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The button does not like that mask.
This issue reads as if we’re outsiders looking in more so than usual, which makes it feel incredibly important. There are no character captions, which forces the reader to experience the moments like the characters in the scenes. This puts a little more focus on figuring out what is happening, and bolsters the little details strewn throughout the issue. It’s a clever way to force the reader to pay closer attention. This isn’t a character work sort of issue, but instead one that seems to be laying a groundwork of something on the horizon. Because of this I got Grant Morrison vibes from the script, which should make comic-detectives quite excited to read this one.
So what should fans expect? Generally a lot of head scratching and a few “aha” moments that seem to connect a few dots. Avoiding spoilers here, but there seems to be some kind of multi-dimensional power emanating from the smiley face button. Tom King writes this issue and it’s the type of script that expects more from the reader — there’s no hand holding. A hockey game, for instance, gets a lot of page time, but ends up factoring into the story more than you’d think. King keeps you on your toes from cover to cover and will most assuredly make you want to read this issue more than once.
Jason Fabok draws and inks this issue and it’s up to the level of quality you’ve come to expect from him. There’s a repeating 9 panel layout used in this issue, which is accompanied with a timer in the bottom corner of each panel. This ends up giving the issue a measured pace like a drum beat, which further increases the intensity of the sequence.
What the hell?
It can’t be perfect can it?
Since there’s some multi-dimensional stuff going down I did find myself confused more than I probably should be. Batman encounters visions (I think they are visions) which don’t mean anything at this juncture. They’ll probably make a ton of sense going forward, but at this point I’m left wondering what it all means. There seems to be clues as to the smiley face’s purpose, a key Watchmen character to look out for soon, and personal stuff with Batman. Aside from that I’m at a loss for some of the more overt details dropped in this one.
The hockey game mentioned earlier does have a good payoff, but I did wonder if it needed to run on so long. Call me a skeptic, but when an idea is used for longer than need be it feels like filler, especially in comic books.
Is It Good?
After reading Batman #21, consider me intrigued. I’m still at a loss for where this is all going, but clearly something is going on in a dimensional sort of way. This issue doesn’t supply answers so much as clues, which will make fans of Watchmen and other detail seeded stories love this issue.