WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Batman #21 & Trinity #8
The world of superhero comic books may be one big cycle of reboots, twists, and retcons, but the DC Rebirth succeeded where other publishers (or DC initiatives) failed. They did it by returning to the characters that fans had loved, and righting the mistakes made in their 'New 52' relaunch. In some cases, that was as simple as telling the kind of stories that made fans fall in love with heroes to begin with. In the case of Superman and possibly even Flashpoint Batman, it meant returning heroes from the pre-New 52 DC Universe to the forefront. And they're just getting started.
When the DC Rebirth officially began, it did so cloaked in mystery, revealing the New 52 Universe to have been manipulated in its creation more than anyone noticed. The artwork depicting DC's heroes breaking free of an hourglass with new energy and purpose captured the "spirit" of Rebirth... but the other hourglasses had people scratching their heads. Was DC confirming that prior versions of their heroes still existed, trapped in unknown realms? The post-crisis Superman is alive and well, and the Batman/Flash crossover promising more answers has already brought back even more.
As momentum builds, DC may be dropping more clues throughout their comic titles - clues we've done our best to catch. More proof is being hinted at, but if the coming tide of reborn heroes is what it appears to be... DC's next "Crisis" may be coming sooner than fans expected.
The Medusa Mask Holds The Secret
The bombshell began simply enough, with Bruce Wayne thoughtfully tossing the iconic button in his hands, before dropping it onto a table (clearly having found no new lead or theory). But as Bruce walked away, the button sparked a bit of lightning between itself and the nearby Medusa Mask, the one worn by the villainous Psycho-Pirate. The moment caught Bruce's attention, but before he could inspect it, a larger blast of lightning surrounded him, knocking him off his feet - directly in front of his father. Well, the Thomas Wayne from the Flashpoint timeline where Bruce died, and he became Batman instead.
Bruce didn't have time to even begin deciphering what had just happened - thanks to a visit from the resurrected Reverse-Flash - but readers have the luxury of previous issues. For those who may not know, the Flashpoint timeline was caused when Barry Allen traveled back in time to prevent his mother's murder. She lived, but he lost his powers... and the world fell apart, with Thomas Wayne's vigilante career the least of anyone's problems. So why does his appearance from an alternate universe or Earth matter? Because when Barry traveled back to let his mother be killed as she had been in the first place, the Flashpoint reality was rewritten. Or, so Barry and Bruce thought.
The presence of Thomas Wayne - and we say presence, because he doesn't just stand still, but reaches out to his son - is a conundrum. If this is a glimpse of an alternate reality, then it changes the rules of DC's Multiverse. There are parallel universes, sure... but Barry Allen rewrote this universe, creating the New 52 reality to replace the one that had existed. So Flashpoint should have been undone... right?
The answer might lie in the Medusa Mask itself, which is obviously a key component in this entire enigmatic moment. Given its place in DC history, it might even be the real culprit. On the surface, Psycho-Pirate's mask allows its wearer to project emotions onto its subjects, and at times even produce something akin to hallucinations. But back when Grant Morrison was leading the fourth-wall-breaking and supremely 'meta' Animal Man series following DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, he gave the Medusa Mask a new power.
Readers hoping to grasp the real meaning behind DC's ongoing Multiverse would be wise to do a little digging into that Crisis, but to make a long story short: the many worlds of the DC Multiverse were collapsed into just one. But in the pages of Animal Man, Psycho-Pirate began to panic when he realized characters from those other worlds hadn't been destroyed, as previously thought. In fact, further investigation revealed that the Medusa Mask was acting as a gateway of sorts. Not only could the wearer see into those other universes (still existing, although forgotten by the reader), but they risked pouring out into this world if the wearer couldn't hold them back.
So, did Batman inadvertently create a burst of static energy between the Watchmen button, and The Flash's meddling in the Flashpoint reality? It's the simplest explanation... but this may be just a single clue towards something far greater coming over the horizon...
Superman Sees a Coming Crisis?
If the Medusa Mask is the smoke, this the most recent issue of Trinity may be the fire. The issue spins out of the Man of Steel's recent "Superman Reborn" story, in which the New 52 Superman returned and merged with his older, pre-New 52 replacement. It was an amazing moment for Superman fans, as DC Comics and writer Dan Jurgens found a way to both return the New 52 Superman many fans embraced, while getting to keep the older husband and father version from being brushed off into oblivion like the rest of his pre-New 52 colleagues. But that's where things get interesting.
The implication in old and young hero creating a brand new Superman was that the two were intended to be of one essence. Either they were intended to be, or simply had to be in order to both occupy a place in the DC Universe at the same time. But Trinity opens with Superman filling Batman and Wonder Woman in on the truth: he is not at peace, but haunted by the feeling that something isn't right. Something he can't quite put a finger on, but something that seems connected to a dream he keep having - in which old Superman and New 52 Superman beat eachother bloody.
The union of the two heroes appeared to be a positive interaction, but in the dream, they're fighting for their right to exist. And when they've reduced Metropolis to rubble in their battle against oblivion, Superman tells his real-world friends, Diana and Bruce show up in the dream to try to calm them down... but they're not alone.
"Out of the ether" comes a wave of other Batman, Supermen, and Wonder Women from throughout the Multiverse. For fans waiting to see evidence that the prior DC heroes or alternate universes weren't forgotten, merely waiting to return, we would say this is reason to get excited. But paying closer attention to the men and women soaring into Superman's dreams from... somewhere, a detail seem to suggest that this isn't just a glimpse of DC's Multiverse being shown. Because some of these variations of the heroes aren't from different universes at all.
Scanning the crowd, it isn't "Elseworld" variant shown, but the original Superman, earlier Batman from different decades, Wonder Woman from prior to the New 52 relaunch, Wonder Woman from the 1970s, Wonder Woman's original New 52 look (with pants) and the change that soon followed (shorts)... you get the idea. That means it's possible Superman is seeing not version of the heroes that currently exist somewhere in the Multiverse, but ones that existed before the New 52 replaced them in the main DC Universe.
That opens up a brand new set of story possibilities, but again, this is all taking shape in Superman's dreaming mind alone. So it's impossible to know if this is DC teasing some new form of Crisis, a "Rebirth" for characters thought wiped out or erased, or - perhaps most mysteriously - a strange way of Superman's brain making sense of more than one "true" Superman existing in a single body. Needless to say, we welcome any and all theories.
Batman #21 and Trinity #8 are available now.