It seems like just yesterday that Wally West returned to the DC Comics Universe, bringing with him a total, company-wide relaunch of its core titles, heroes, and teams. The DC Rebirth paid off big time for the company, bringing in new readers, new creators, new excitement, and above all, industry leading sales figures. But as the heroes pursued their new villains and mysteries hoping to recapture what made them fan-favorites to begin with, the mystery behind it all began to fade... particularly that famous smiley face button that Wally brought with him.
It was the moment that actually concluded DC Universe: Rebirth #1: Bruce Wayne, the first detective Wally had attempted to contact, discovering a glint of light deep in the Batcave. The cause was said button, having rocketed out of the tear between dimensions Wally had opened in his appearance. A button unmistakably tied to the world of the Watchmen, much like its blue-colored character who seemed to be murdering key players in the DC Universe prior to, and during the Rebirth issue.
Fans now know exactly when The Flash and Batman will be joining forces to uncover the truth of Dr. Manhattan, the Watchmen, and the button... and to make things even better, the four-issue crossover will also be returning two fan-favorite Speed Force characters. Things won't get any easier once the pre-New 52 Eobard Thawne a.k.a. Reverse-Flash returns, but having the pre-New 52 Jay Garrick along for the ride should offer Barry Allen a helping hand.
Watchmen Secrets to Be Revealed in 'The Button'
As DC Comics previous announced, "The Button" will consist of four different issues - Batman #21 & #22 and The Flash #21 & #22 - that see Barry Allen and Bruce Wayne reconvene to dig a bit deeper into that smiley face button. The pair first met to discuss it back in The Flash: Rebirth #1 before Barry's new series actually began, with Bruce initially mistaking it for a clue, courtesy of the Joker. But after connecting the button to the mysterious "man made of lightning" who appeared prior to the discovery (a man Barry knows as Wally, but whom Bruce can't yet recall), he called in The Flash for some Speed Force wisdom.
The issue actually kept their initial findings secret, simply saying that the button showed traces of a strange "radiation." And after gathering that evidence, and re-examining the letter from Bruce's father that Barry had given him from the Flashpoint timeline - eventually rewritten into the New 52 - shows similar evidence of cross-reality interference. It's entirely possible that "The Button" will revisit this research in total, and explain why neither Bruce nor Barry thought it was time to bring their findings to the Justice League's attention.
From DC's official description, though, the party is just getting started.
“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!
We know which "third party" will turn their investigation deadly, but to piece together his arrival, and understand how it links to the other speedster set to return, requires a bit of a refresher on where we last left both of them.
Eobard Thawne, The (Original)Reverse-Flash
For those concerned that these details are "spoilers" for the upcoming Flash comic, DC isn't keeping the secret under wraps (as they did prior to Wally West's return in DC Universe: Rebirth). The cover reveal of The Flash #21 - to be released on April 26th - states it plainly: Eobard Thawne is heading back to the main DC Universe in pursuit of that same button (or the secrets it holds). How long he lasts isn't known, but his return is a sign of something far stranger going on behind the scenes. After all, he should be dead for good.
Having been most closely tied to the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, Eobard Thawne made his costumed return to the DC Universe as part of The Flash: Rebirth, the Geoff Johns-scripted event that returned Barry Allen from the grave. The series eventually revealed that Barry's return had been orchestrated by Thawne, having created for himself a 'Negative Speed Force,' and doomed Barry to kill any speedsters he touched. But the biggest change to the existing mythology was that Thawne was the one who killed Barry's mother when he was just a boy... along with every other bad thing that had happened to him in his life.
By the end, Thawne was locked up for good - before he eventually escaped for more evil plotting elsewhere. But when Barry decided to finally prevent his mother's murder - creating the alternate reality of Flashpoint, in which he had no powers, and the world was destroyed - he set Thawne loose. Existing outside of the timeline Barry recreated, Thawne no longer needed Barry alive to maintain his own powers. Luckily, Thawne was killed by a parallel world's Batman (the Thomas Wayne who sent Bruce the aforementioned letter).
It was assumed that Thawne was killed for good - having existed independent of reality, he was now dead independent of reality. Barry re-wrote that reality into the New 52, and Thawne remained lost. Until now, it would seem. Has he been lost to the Speed Force as Wally West was before returning in Rebirth? If so, has he glimpsed more of the Watchmen/Manhattan mystery? Could he possibly be humbled by a truly all-powerful evil, and help to prevent catastrophe? We won't hold our breath on that one, which makes the other speedster now confirmed to return a lot more exciting.
The Return of Jay Garrick
In what appears to be artist Jason Fabok's cover art for The Flash #22, Jay Garrick is similarly making his return to the mainline DC Universe. Since the launch of the New 52, Jay Garrick as older fans knew him has been nowhere to be found - instead, a younger, re-designed Garrick has been fighting as part of Earth-2's heroic community (with a separate origin story tied to the actual Greek God Hermes, or the Roman's Mercury). Since that series is coming to a close before "The Button" launches, some larger predictions can be made.
For starters, this, too, isn't so much a spoiler as a confirmation of an earlier tease. In The Flash #9, Barry Allen was taken to the limits of the Speed Force before receiving some help from Wally West and... Wally West. After returning from the Speed Force, Barry mused on an image he had seen while communing with the source of his powers. The picture of Jay's signature helmet meant a lot more to readers than it could to Barry - for whom Jay still doesn't exist - but it gave him a sensation of "hope" nonetheless. And the same went for readers.
From the artwork, it appears that Jay will be tearing his way out of the Speed Force in the same way Wally did... and with a more modern costume when he does. As thrilling a prospect as that is on its own, it brings with it a much larger question. Artwork for DC Universe: Rebirth was singled out at the time for two reasons. The most well known bit of artwork - used on the standard cover of Rebirth #1 - showed the DC heroes leaping to touch a mysterious blue hand. That hand was soon understood to be that of Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan, who had stolen time from the creation of the New 52 Universe, ensuring that the heroes would be weaker as a result.
It can be assumed, given the evidence gathered since (not least of which is Batman secretly maneuvering his allies to defend Earth from threats) that the same idea is demonstrated in the other artwork. Depicting three separate hourglasses, one clutched by a black hand, bursting open as the current heroes of the Rebirth emerge. Yet two other hourglasses remains closed: one depicting the heroes of the pre-New 52 DC Universe, and another containing the Golden Age heroes. Some at DC confirmed that the message was no accident, and that the other characters may still exist... somwhere.
So if Jay Garrick has managed to find his way back to the current continuity, and he is almost always considered a member of the Golden Age heroes, could the rest of the Justice Society be following behind? Rumors have swirled since the Rebirth art was released, and the cancellation of the Earth-2 version left room for the Justice Society to join the main New 52 Earth. "The Button" may make that dream a reality, but if it's somehow tied to the Reverse-Flash, well... it may not be good news for everybody.
Batman #21 begins the story on April 19, 2017.