Thoughts on Batman #21 – “The Button Part 1”

Batman #21

The much-anticipated “Button” crossover begins with a Flash villain visiting the Bat-cave in Batman #21.

Batman #21

Batman #21 Cover“The Button Part 1”
Writer: Tom King
Penciler: Jason Fabok
Inker: Jason Fabok
Colorist: Brad Anderson

Cover Price: $2.99

Release Date: April 19, 2017

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Collected in: Batman/Flash: The Button

“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!

Background

Back when Rebirth first came out there was quite a bit of a stir over the appearance of a mysterious, though familiar, button that appeared in the first comic.  DC has wisely allowed that particular plot thread to incubate for a while, but they’re pushing forward with it in the six-part crossover event “The Button”, starting this week in Batman #21.  The Flash was heavily involved in the early plot points of the story, so it makes sense that he would also be included here, and his title will contribute to half of the crossover issues.

The titular button in this case is the now-iconic smiley face with a blood smear on it from the classic comic series, The Watchmen.  Its inclusion in the DC Rebirth suggests that some, if not all, of the core Watchmen characters will be making appearances in the DC Universe.  Dr. Manhattan has apparently already made the jump, but guys like Ozymandias and Nite-Owl could certainly also be on their way.  So far, everything is just speculation, but “The Button” may help with that.

General Thoughts

As far as story and revelations go Batman #21 doesn’t offer much.  Following the events of the previous arc Batman has returned to studying the button, and makes an unexpected discovery when he tosses the button next to the Psycho-Pirate’s mask.  What significance the mask has is not yet revealed, but I’m sure it’s coming down the road.  Following that it is just an extended fight with the Reverse Flash, who says he was drawn to the power coming from the button.  There is then an enigmatic revelation of sorts and the comic ends.  With the exception of a few ravings of a madwoman apparently reciting a prophecy intercut with an extremely violent hockey fight, that is all there is to the comic.

If this was a story that was coming out once a month this would be unacceptably paltry, but as a crossover coming out weekly for the next month and a half it is actually fairly effective.  The fight with Reverse Flash is suitably vicious and kinetic, with Batman holding up as best he can against a speedster (which is honestly better than he should… the fight should be over before he can do anything).  Interestingly, the book does acknowledge that Batman really shouldn’t be able to go toe-to-toe with Reverse Flash at all, but does pull just short of following it through to the logical conclusion.  Tom King’s take on Batman pulls back on his “prepared for everything” mantra and instead focuses on his grim determination no matter the odds, and that makes for a more interesting character.  Reverse Flash catches him by surprise, and he doesn’t have Reverse-Flash-Repellent conveniently tucked into his belt, which means he has to improvise a solution to his problem.

Batman Loves Hockey in Batman #21Art comes from Jason Fabok with Brad Anderson, and it is a good looking book as a result.  Fabok’s name may not come up immediately on the list of hot artists, but I think if you give it a little more time it will start making its way up that chart.  His work with DC has only started in the last few years, but his catalog is already fairly impressive with Detective Comics and Justice League under his belt.  The art in this issue is proof that he is an artist to watch, and as this crossover continues I suspect we’ll see more examples of why he deserves these high profile assignments.  We’ll have to see how well Howard Porter is able to keep the style consistent over in The Flash, but he’s another artist with an impressive résumé and I’m not worried.

Final Thoughts

There isn’t much meat to Batman #21, but what little there is is high quality.  The art from Fabok and Anderson is excellent, and Tom King’s take on Batman has become a fairly fascinating one.  His first arc on this book, “I Am Gotham“, was a bit suspect, but it has been all uphill since then.  The story he has been telling has been more nuanced than it originally appeared, and has grown stronger in the re-reads.  “The Button” is starting off in a stronger place, so hopefully the upwards trend will continue from there.  I went into “The Button” not expecting much, and being pleasantly surprised.  I still question the wisdom of bringing The Watchmen into the DC mainstream, but if they can maintain a good quality of storytelling then I’m willing to roll with it.  The bottom line is that writer Joshua Williamson and artist Howard Porter have a tough task ahead of them keeping the momentum going in The Flash #21 next week.

Batman #21

$2.99
Batman #21
9

Batman #21 Final Score

9/10

    Pros

    • Excellent fight between Batman and Reverse Flash
    • Art by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson is lovely
    • Lots of hints about what is to come
    • Ending cliffhanger is great

    Cons

    • Not much meat to the story
    • Do we need the Watchmen in the DCU?