WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash #21 & Batman #22
It changed the world of DC Comics, but thanks to "Rebirth," Flashpoint is back in a big way. And no surprise, it's the most unforgettable Flashpoint character - the Batman, Thomas Wayne - leading the way. The evidence that the Flashpoint timeline survived in some form has been building for weeks, with Bruce Wayne seeing his father in his own Dark Knight costume in the previous issue. The moment was soon overshadowed by the larger mysteries of "The Button" tied to "Rebirth"'s Watchmen secrets, but fans soon got the true rebirth of Thomas Wayne they were hoping for.
It's not an understatement to say that the meeting of Bruce and Thomas Wayne will be remembered by fans for years to come. But just as important as the words shared between the two versions of Batman are the larger mysteries at work. For starters: seeing Thomas Wayne's story get a more conclusive ending is all well and good... but who made sure that the nightmarish Flashpoint reality would keep on existing? Because we're certain it wasn't only intended to give the Wayne family the reunion fans dreamed of seeing.
Thomas Wayne's Future Never Ended
The twist of "The Button" was delivered in the previous chapter, as Batman and The Flash hopped aboard the Cosmic Treadmill to uncover the secret behind Reverse-Flash's murder. All evidence points to Doctor Manhattan, but the duo's trip through time led to unexpected visions. Not of alternate timelines, but their own... showing interactions between the Justice League - including their original formation in DC history, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths - that never happened. The two were soon pulled into a storm of time and space, until they came tumbling out into a familiar cave.
The Batcave, as it appeared when Thomas Wayne occupied it as the Batman of the Flashpoint timeline. Batman #23 follows Thomas Wayne up to that same moment, revealing the dark truth of Geoff Johns's Flashpoint event: when Barry Allen traveled back in time to allow his mother's murder, the universe didn't go back to the way things were. Fans know that already, since it led to the creation of the New 52: a version similar to the way DC should be, but with younger heroes, and several changes to DC history (changes now undone by "Rebirth").
What readers never knew - and what Thomas's introduction to this issue reveals - is that the Flashpoint timeline never stopped. It was never written over, or prevented from taking place. And so Thomas kept on fighting the good fight, as millions more died in the war between Atlantis and the Amazons. With no evidence to the contrary, he could only believe that the strange visitor named Barry Allen who claimed to be a friend of his son's failed... and his efforts to make a world where Bruce, not Thomas survived that night in Crime Alley had failed.
Until that same speedster suddenly pops into his cave... with Bruce next to him.
The Wayne Reunion Fans Dreamed Of
If the brief glimpse through the fabric of reality that allowed Bruce Wayne to meet his Flashpoint father gave fans goosebumps or misty eyes, then their full-fledged reunion is likely to leave them truly touched. We won't spoil too much of the scenes that follow, since it really is a story that every Batman fan will appreciate for their own reasons. There is much to discuss between them, from words of wisdom imparted by father to son, to Bruce's opportunity to pen a reply to the heartfelt letter Thomas fave Barry to deliver in Flashpoint's final act.
But as the Waynes come to grips with seeing eachother for the first time, in many ways, Barry Allen uncovers the real secret of Flashpoint. After all, it isn't an alternate dimension, universe, or plane of existence... Flashpoint was a possible history. It took place in the same universe as the New 52, and the world that preceded that one... so how can it survive while its replacement has flourished for years? The only answer is a being, or perhaps a villain, who has somehow forced it to keep on existing in defiance of all logic. As Bruce and Barry claim, with the simple motive of "haunting" the heroes.
There's little time to investigate, since Bruce and Barry have arrived at an inopportune moment - or one of destiny, depending on how you see it. After years of war, the forces of Atlantis and Themyscira have agreed that it's time to take out Gotham's caped crusader. So as these Flashpoint foes infiltrate the Batcave, the moment every Batman fans has been waiting for since Flashpoint finally arrives...
Bat-Father & Bat-Son Together At Last
Yes, Bruce and Thomas Wayne - father and son forced to lose the other in their own version of history - finally get the chance to leap into action together. As the pair of Batmen show how brutal two Dark Knights can be when fighting for their family, the world itself begins to shudder - whatever forces kept it in place despite reality itself trying to erase it from existence - The Flash struggles to rebuild the Cosmic Treadmill so that all can escape. It offers Thomas and Bruce a moment of quiet, in which they can finally share their feelings... well, as best as Wayne men can.
In a touching twist, the scene confirms that up until the murder in Crime Alley, the life shared by Thomas and Bruce really was identical. That means the boy's first tumble into this cave - and the words of encouragement from his father that forever fueled him - are remembered by both. So despite hailing from two different timelines, their connection as father and son is without qualifiers or asterisks. And when the Cosmic Treadmill is completed, and the universe itself begins to crumble around them, Thomas gives Bruce new words to live by.
The issue ends with Barry and Bruce continuing their investigation into the mysteries of "Rebirth," heading back through the timeline to their own universe. But even if Thomas doesn't return with them, the conclusion of his own story is everything fans could dream. That's assuming it is and ending. But as we've seen before, nothing in "Rebirth" so far has been exactly as it seemed.
We encourage any and all readers to weigh in on the outcome, the mystery, and the true fate of Flashpoint. Not to mention predictions of what comes next, as "The Button" continues to deliver on the very mystery that launched DC's "Rebirth" to begin with.
The Flash #21 and Batman #22 are available now.