It has been over a year since DC started their big relaunch “Rebirth”, a new initiative following the New 52 (which ran for five years) that restored the DC Universe to a form much like that prior to the Flashpoint storyline, kicked off by the return of Wally West in DC Universe: Rebirth Special #1 by Geoff Johns. In that particular issue, which sets up many threads throughout the current DC lineup, Batman discovers a smiley face button in his cave and this is where the four-issue event “The Button” picks up from.
What’s it about. Here’s the official DC solicit:
The explosive storyline from BATMAN #21-22 and THE FLASH #21-22 is collected in a new Deluxe Edition hardcover! 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!
After months of investigation and getting nowhere concerning the origins of The Button, Batman is confronted by the Reverse-Flash who is after the mysterious object that apparently carries a great power. Pairing up with Barry Allen/The Flash, Batman goes on a time-travelling and reality-warping journey, where he discovers an alternative version of a familiar face from his past.
With a story by Tom King and Joshua Williamson (respective writers for the main Batman and The Flash titles), “The Button” works best in the characterization of its two heroes who, despite their distinctly different colored costumes (one embodies the light-ning whilst the other is all about the darkness), share a very tragic common bond in witnessing a family tragedy at an early age that defined them as superheroes as well as their shared interest in forensic evidence.
Given that he gets first billing, you get more of Batman’s perspective than The Flash’s; the former’s character arc consists of his journey through Flashpoint where a certain family member who is donning Bruce’s cape and cowl, shapes his actions and demonstrates to him how being Batman may not be the sole focus of his life.
The Flash, on the other hand, feels more like a device for the plot to progress, which is both a continuation of the Flashpoint narrative and a prelude to something grander in the future. It raises interesting questions and it’ll be exciting to see the answers coming in the future, but it does make this event feel somewhat superfluous.
When you get more than one artist to tackle a single story arc, the distinction between one illustrator to the next can create inconsistency, and that is certainly the case here. Drawing the Batman issues is Jason Fabok whose illustrations – reminiscent of Gary Frank – show a good mix of action and drama, in particular the first issue that is primarily done in the traditional nine-panel grid with Batman trapped in his own cave against the Reverse-Flash.
Having worked on Geoff Johns’ run of The Flash, it would seem appropriate for Howard Porter to draw the two issues of the Scarlet Speedster. Known for his exaggerated illustrations, Porter’s art here is not exactly terrible, but because his issues are more outlandish in showcasing the Flash’s abilities, there’s a roughness to the action and the
characters that can look a bit ugly — although the brief return of a Golden Age superhero is a proper fist pump moment.
What is basically a small piece in the larger picture that is Rebirth, what works best about “The Button” is the characterization of the eponymous pair, and how their ties to Flashpoint shaped them. However, in setting up the upcoming Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, “The Button” also creates interest in how the Watchmen will fit into the DC universe.