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Comic Book / The Button

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That night, a button was found in Gotham.

The Button is a 2017 crossover between Batman and The Flash. Serving as the first immediate follow-up on the Watchmen Myth Arc present throughout DC Rebirth, it is written by Tom King and Joshua Williamson, the books' respective regular writers at the time, with art by Jason Fabok and Howard Porter, beginning in April and ending in May.

When Wally West returned in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 and informed Barry Allen of an outside force's Cosmic Retcon that created the New 52, he somehow also caused the Comedian's bloodstained button to get embedded in the wall of the Batcave, which Batman soon found. In the follow-up, The Flash: Rebirth #1, both Bruce Wayne and Barry Allen agree to keep the button's existence and their investigation a secret from the rest of the Justice League, while Wally heads off to look into things with the Titans. The Button takes place some time later, and follows Bruce and Barry's investigation into the eponymous button.

The crossover runs through Batman #21, The Flash #21, Batman #22 and The Flash #22. Issue #19 of The Flash also contains some stuff leading into it, namely the return of the Pre-New 52 Eobard Thawne, the original Reverse-Flash.

The crossover also serves as a sequel to Flashpoint (DC Comics). The Watchmen myth arc was continued in the Doomsday Clock event.

The Button contains examples of:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Eobard when he runs into Doctor Manhattan has this reaction, about a second after boasting about how awesome he is.
  • Asshole Victim: Eobard, a person who made it his life's goal to ruin Barry Allen's life. Barry, however, doesn't see it this way, since being a cop, he still wants to know who killed him. That it ties into the stolen years and Wally West's return probably helps. In fact, later on when Barry and Bruce run into a past version of Thawne, Barry still tries to stop him from getting himself killed.
  • Back for the Dead:
    • By the end of the first issue Eobard died again; nothing's left but a skeleton.
    • By the end of the third issue, Flashpoint!Batman is dead again, destroyed by an entropy wave that eradicates the Flashpoint world.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • The Pre-New 52 Eobard Thawne (killed in Flashpoint by Thomas Wayne) returns, apparently possessing the New 52 Eobard's body and having overridden the latter's powers, memories, personality and costume with his own.
    • Flashpoint!Batman is alive again, despite seemingly dying of his wounds at the end of Flashpoint. He had previously been revived in Convergence. By the end he is dead once again, this time along with all the other Flashpoint characters.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Thomas and Bruce Wayne together as Batmen facing a gang of Themiscyrans and Atlanteans.
  • Badass Creed:
    Thomas: Sometimes we fall, son. But always remember, Waynes never stay down. We rise.
  • Badass in Distress: Saturn Girl is still inside Arkham Asylum, and seems to have no access to her mental powers. If she did, getting out would be incredibly simple for her.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The covers featuring Jay Garrick have him obscured in shadow, with glowing red eyes. This led to a lot of people thinking he was actually the Rival. Nope, it was just Rule of Cool — that's Jay Garrick.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The cosmic treadmill is destroyed, Thawne is dead, and Bruce and Barry are about to fall into the timestream. Who saves them? Jay motherfucking Garrick, that's who!
  • Body Horror: Eobard, when teleported away after contact with the Comedian's button, comes back... not in good shape. Half of his body is little more than a skeleton, with the flesh progressively disappearing from the other half on-panel.
  • The Bus Came Back: Jay Garrick makes his first full appearance in the post-Flashpoint DCU... for all of five pages before disappearing back into the Speed Force.
  • Call-Back:
    • The idea of Psycho-Pirate having ties to the multiverse is established in Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis.
    • In Batman #21, Bruce calls Barry to the cave to discuss the Comedian's button. Barry says he'll be there in "one minute", and Bruce actually times him. He's late, as a callback to Geoff Johns' Barry Allen works where he makes being late a habit of Barry's, and where the Flashpoint/New 52/Rebirth saga truly began.
    • Bruce stabs Eobard in the foot when he's standing still, as it's the only "solid" part of him when he's vibrating. The idea of Eobard being too stupid and arrogant to realise he shouldn't stand still is a call back to when Flashpoint!Batman (Thomas Wayne) killed Eobard when he stood still.
    • In The Flash #21, when Barry inspects Eobard's body, he finds that it's giving off massive doses of radiation, further hinting that Doctor Manhattan is behind the New 52.
    • When asked how he knew that Flashpoint!Batman was his father, Bruce mentions that his dad had a certain way of carrying himself. This is a character point established in Batman (Tom King), which had Bruce describe Thomas as carrying himself with dignity and being difficult to approach.
    • Barry mentions his brief vision of Mercury's helmet from his own ongoing series. Although that's what he thinks it is, out of universe, it's clearly supposed to be Jay Garrick's helmet.
    • Thomas telling Bruce to "let Batman die" plays on the narration in the "I am Gotham" arc of Batman (Tom King). Some narration from Gotham Girl makes it clear that Batman does die in Tom King's run, just not how or whether he literally dies or if it's just a symbolic death. This idea was also played with in The Flash #21, with it hinting that Batman may have died from his fight with Reverse-Flash. Noticeably, in a case of averting Trailers Always Spoil, the arc after The Button in Batman is a story taking place in the past.
    • Thomas telling Bruce that he doesn't have to be Batman for his parents is interestingly timed, as Batman had just moved past seeking a "good death" as Batman to make his parents proud of him in his own series. However, in that series, he pictures himself talking to his mother, while here it's his father.
    • The way Jay Garrick comes back is the same as the way Wally did, even with similar poses. But since his connection to Barry isn't as strong as Wally's, it doesn't pull him out. Barry laments that he can't be Jay's lightning rod like he was for Wally.
    • The narration from the epilogue is Doctor Manhattan explaining his view of time from Watchmen.
  • The Cameo:
    • Saturn Girl makes a brief appearance at the start of Batman #21 and actually name drops the Legion of Super-Heroes this time.
    • In the same issue, Flashpoint!Batman appears when the Comedian's button reacts to Psycho-Pirate's mask, but only for a second.
    • The Flash #21 briefly features another escape attempt by Johnny Thunder, still trying to summon his Thunderbolt and bring back the Justice Society.
    • At the very end of The Flash #22, Doctor Manhattan himself finally shows up, after a year of teasing, but only for a few panels.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: For one panel, Jay looks a lot like John Wesley Shipp.
  • Comic-Book Time: Batman #22 says it's been "months" since Flashpoint, when it's been, at minimum, a year as established by Death of the Family. It may or may not just be awkward wording, but given the nature of this crossover and Rebirth as a whole playing with continuity, it's unclear.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Eobard using a sonic boom clap against Bruce. It's a trick he learned from Hunter Zolomon, the second Reverse-Flash, and first used in The Flash: Rebirth, the first Barry Allen work by Geoff Johns, who's overseeing the Rebirth line and began the Watchmen story. He later uses the the typical finger-snap that Hunter used to use.
    • In Flash #21, we get to see inside the JLA Watchtower Vault, which holds various artifacts from the JLA's various adventures. Interestingly, some of those artifacts include Ted Kord's Bug hovercraft, Martian Manhunter's original costume, the Worlogog and one of the Dial "H" for Hero Dials, the former three never seen in the post-Flashpoint universe. This is because, as an after-effect of Superman Reborn, a lot of Pre-Flashpoint material was restored to canon.
    • Before Bruce and Barry use the Cosmic Treadmill to travel through time, Barry gives Bruce a lecture about the perils of time travel. Bruce says he's been time travelling before. He's referencing the events of Final Crisis (where Barry returned, in fact), and The Return of Bruce Wayne.
    • While Bruce and Barry are travelling through the time stream, they see images of the Silver Age origin of the Justice League, Zatanna wiping Bruce's memory in Identity Crisis (2004) and Barry's death from Crisis on Infinite Earths. While Bruce assumes these are alternate universes, Barry is pretty sure they're the history that was stolen from the DCU.
    • Eobard laments how Barry snapped his neck and let Flashpoint!Thomas Wayne drive a sword through his chest. These are the ways he's died.
  • Covers Always Lie: The Flash #22 is guilty of this for a few reasons:
    • Both covers feature Jay Garrick covered in shadow with glowing red eyes, hinting that he may be the Rival. Nowhere in the issue does he have red eyes.
    • Said cover also features Tim Drake as one of the "featured" characters, alongside Bruce Wayne, Barry Allen and Eobard Thawne. Tim is nowhere in the issue, nor is he ever mentioned.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
  • Downer Ending: Barry and Bruce have returned with nothing in to show for everything as the button is lost thanks to Thawne's actions, Bruce is shaken by his father's request that he stops being Batman and the duo are unable to rescue Jay Garrick, not even knowing who he is.
  • Dying as Yourself: Instead of blowing up the Batcave as the entropy wave hits, Thomas Wayne puts on the cowl and charges headlong into it.
  • Evil is Petty:
    • True to form, Eobard. He destroys the letter that Flashpoint!Thomas wrote to Bruce, the only true form of contact Bruce had from his father about his parents' deaths, as revenge for his murder. Eobard actually one-ups this, and mocks Barry that he'll travel back in time to become a social worker and take Barry in as his son, and to groom him to become his acolyte.
    • Barry believes whoever led them to the Flashpoint Universe was mocking them.
  • Foreshadowing: The ending is this to Doomsday Clock as we see the button spin and the panels close up on it, then pull back revealing Superman's S-Shield.
  • A Good Way to Die: It's implied that Thomas might have joined Bruce and Barry to their dimension, but upon hearing he had a grandson, he accomplished everything that he'd wanted, and was happy to die knowing he was dying a granddad.
  • Heroic Willpower: Like Wally before him, Jay is able to muster enough strength to break out of the Speed Force, if only temporarily.
  • Hope Spot: Jay is able to break free of the Speed Force, but because he doesn't have the right "lightning rod", Manhattan pulls him back in.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Eobard is really trying hard to cement his Asshole Victim status by telling Barry after he kills Barry's mom, he'll trick him into being his Parental Substitute and raise him as his own son. This after we've already seen him suffer a grisly (well-deserved) death.
  • Last Words:
    • From Eobard Thawne, making their implication all the more serious.
    Eobard Thawne: God... I saw God...
    • From Thomas Wayne:
    Thomas Wayne: We rise.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Despite Barry warning Thawne not to face down the entity making the changes, Thawne insists on doing so, thinking he can beat them.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Batman #21 makes use of Dave Gibbons' 9-panel layout, popularised in Watchmen. Although Tom King already regularly makes heavy use of it in his works unrelated to Watchmen; it just doubles as a mythology gag here.
    • The cover of The Flash #22 features Jay Garrick drawn in a more modern style and with the main characters of the story (and Red Robin) replacing Hawkman, Johnny Thunder, the Whip and Cliff Cornwall, but is otherwise a recreation of Flash Comics #1, which was Jay's first appearance.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: A fight breaks out during a hockey game Batman is watching, with one player beating his opponent to a bloody pulp. The beaten player ends up dying from his injuries. This almost parallels Bruce's fight with Eobard. In the case of Eobard's beatdown of Bruce, Barry notes that the evidence shows someone who isn't just trying to kill (which he could do incredibly easily before Batman could have ever reacted), but to torture.
  • Oh, Crap!: Thawne meeting Dr. Manhattan for the first time has him immediately regret it and beg for his life before he's promptly vaporized.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: As skilled as Bruce may be, it's made clear that no amount of prep time will make him a match for someone who can move faster than he can blink.
  • Ret-Gone: It's implied that Doctor Manhattan removed Jay Garrick's relationship with his wife Joan Williams, like what he'd done to Wally West and Linda Park.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Ignoring that Flashpoint!Thomas was right to kill Eobard, since he was planning on killing Barry and preventing him from restoring the timeline, you could at least understand Eobard wanting revenge on Thomas. Except he goes after Bruce, since Thomas is dead, and he figures he may as well go after his son. May also count as Sins of the Father.
  • Say My Name: Subverted. Jay needs Barry to say his name to get out of the Speed Force, and Barry doesn't really say it normally. He hears some of it and just repeats it, and it's later made clear he didn't even fully acknowledge it. Still, it's enough to give Jay enough footing to get Bruce and Barry home.
  • Secret-Keeper: Eobard somehow knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne. This may or may not be because he's from the future.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • At the end of the story, the Bat-signal is turned on. Bruce questions answering it after Thomas told him to stop being Batman.
    • Jay ends up back in the Speed Force, with Barry lamenting that he wasn't the lightning rod Jay needed.
    • In the epilogue, Doctor Manhattan picks up the button, and the panels zoom into the Comedian's blood. They then zoom out to Superman's symbol, dented and scuffed. This sets up Doomsday Clock.
  • Sequel Series: While the series follows up on the Watchmen myth arc, it's more directly a sequel to Flashpoint, and characters refer to those events more actively than anything else that's happened since.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Jay appears for a total of five pages in The Flash #22, but singlehandedly saves Bruce and Barry and reveals to Barry that even more people were stolen from history.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: Wally West doesn't appear in the story, which is strange as he's the one who notified Bruce and Barry of the changes to the timeline. Barry later explains that it's because he intentionally kept the Button's investigation a secret from Wally, in order to keep him safe.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Batman and the Flash discover Thawne as they're escaping the Flashpoint world despite him being dead. Barry realizes that he's from earlier, before his death.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Bruce kept the letter Flashpoint!Thomas Wayne wrote to him. Thomas used his last seconds asking Barry to give it to him... Eobard shreds it, because he's a dick.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • The Flash #21 cover showed the original Eobard Thawne months before his return in issue #19
    • The Flash #22 didn't have its cover present in solicitations, but before its release, its cover was shown and depicts the original Jay Garrick! This version of Jay had disappeared following Flashpoint, and was replaced by Earth 2's version of Jay Garrick.
    • The then-upcoming arc of The Flash specifically deals with Barry waging a war with Eobard Thawne, so we know he appears in future stories. Though given past usage of him often liberally applied Timey-Wimey Ball, it's not a straight example.
    • Because The Flash #22 was delayed by a week, this led to Geoff Johns spoiling the epilogue in his initial interview for Doomsday Clock.
  • Tyke Bomb: Reverse-Flash considers going back in time to the night of Nora Allen's murder and posing as a family friend so he could adopt Barry and raise him into becoming his sucessor. Thankfully, this plan is cut short when Doctor Manhattan roasts him.
  • Villain Team-Up: For whatever reason, it appears that by the time that Barry and Bruce get to the Flashpoint timeline, Wonder Woman and Aquaman of that world have both survived and allied with one another to bring down Thomas Wayne's Batman.
  • Visual Pun: The hockey stick is placed at the 10 minute mark in the first image of the story - which is where the blood splatter was located on the Comedian's smiley face button. The smiley face also appears as a poster in Arkham's TV rec room.
  • Walking Spoiler:
    • The existence of Thomas Wayne is one, especially since he supposedly died in Flashpoint. This may be because the Flashpoint timeline was preserved by the events of Convergence.
    • Jay, although spoiled by the cover, still counts too, given his large role and importance to the pre-Flashpoint DCU.
    • Doctor Manhattan, as The Flash #22 seems to confirm that he's not a Red Herring.
  • Wham Line: Delivered by Thomas to Bruce shortly before the latter is whisked away back into the timestream with Barry to escape the destruction of the Flashpoint universe.
    Don't be Batman.
  • Wham Shot:
    • At the end of The Flash #21, Barry and Batman travel to the Flashpoint Universe, and Bruce meets Thomas Wayne!Batman face-to-face.
    • At the end of The Flash #22, there's one: one of Dr. Manhattan picking up the Comedian's bloodied button, quoting Watchmen, specifically that everyone is a puppet but Manhattan can see the strings.

"Why does my perception of time distress you?
Everything is preordained, even my responses
We're all puppets, Laurie
I'm just a puppet who can see the strings" -Doctor Manhattan