The Flash investigates the strange death of Eobard Thawne, and how it may relate to the mysterious Watchmen button in The Flash #21.
The Flash #21
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: April 26, 2017
|“THE BUTTON” part two!
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!
I have mixed feelings about The Flash #21 and the “The Button” crossover in general, and as a result I am a bit frustrated. On the one hand there are a lot of good individual moments in this issue, with many nods towards longtime fans. On the other hand, the plot is advancing at a snail’s pace and little of consequence has actually occurred. Most of this issue is dedicated to interactions between Batman and the Flash, and playing around with their history. While this makes for some great character moments it does mean that the reason for the crossover itself gets shoved to the side. This was an issue in Batman #21, as well, and it is a worry I am carrying forward as the crossover continues.
There is a lot to like in this issue, and the relationship between Barry and Bruce is a major component of that. They have a mutual respect as detectives that enhances both characters noticably. For Bruce it is another way in which he is humanized, and for Barry it gives him the degree of credibility he needs. Often Barry’s background as a forensic scientist is window dressing to his adventures as Flash, and bringing it up like this legitimizes it. It may not be immediately obvious on the surface, but these two characters are better together than apart.
Another aspect of The Flash #21 that stands out is the inclusion of old events that are no longer recognized as continuity. These are positioned as things that actually occurred, but that our heroes have forgotten about. A large part of Rebirth has been about reintegrating this continuity following the New 52, so this makes sense. I like how it is handled here, and though I am not enough of a DC historian to recognize the events I am certain long-time fans will appreciate their inclusion.
The negative side to all this is that the button itself doesn’t factor into this issue much. True it is the macguffin that is driving them on this adventure, but it has thus far not transcended past that. If this was just a regular plot device that probably wouldn’t matter, but this particular button has a significant history attached to it, so you would expect it to play a bigger role in the plot. I certainly don’t mind them downplaying The Watchmen connection, but if you are going to call the crossover “The Button” then it should actually be present.
The art is from Howard Porter and Hi-Fi Colors, and I have to admit Howard is not an artist I am familiar with. He has an interesting, dynamic style which works well for the content, but isn’t exactly a good match for Jason Fabok’s work over in Batman. The linework is much rougher, with a certain cartoonish quality to it. It is solid within this particular issue, but I am not sure that it will flow well within the tradepaperback. That is as much on Fabok as on Porter so that isn’t a criticism of this particular issue, but it is worth noting in general.
“The Button” is now a third of the way through its story, and things have barely happened. As a whole it has been a disappointing journey so far, but it has been littered with excellent little moments that elevate it. The interactions between Bruce and Barry, as well as their journey through DC history, and lastly the excellent cliffhanger are all highlights of this comic that are worth checking out. I will continue to hope that an actual plot will emerge at some point, though.