Review: Batman #21

Quick Summary

Pros: This is a pulse-pounding and exciting start to this story arc. It is a strong indication that this crossover event is in good hands.

Cons: Readers unfamiliar with Watchmen may be confused.

Overall: This is a fantastic story on its own so knowing that it is simply part one of a crossover event makes it that much better. The story, the art, the Watchmen references, and the potential implications for the DC Universe all make this a must-read for anyone interested in DC Comics. If fans were hesitant about how “The Button” was going to be, this issue should put all of those doubts aside.

Story

DC Comics started building up excitement for Watchmen crossing over with the DC Universe since DC Universe: Rebirth came out. Since then, not much has happened with this crossover. Casual references have been made, but nothing substantial has been done. That all changes with this event.

Batman #21 provides “The Button” with a fantastic start. It is gripping, intense, and leaves the rest of the event with near infinite potential. What happens in this issue is great, yet it is the excitement it builds for the next few issues which make this issue even more amazing. Overall, this is a great start for what looks to be an even greater event.

(spoilers start here)

One technique utilized in this comic, which I thought was particularly effective in delivering the pulse-pounding suspense that this book desired, was the countdown clock in each panel. Batman and the readers know that the Flash is the only hero capable of taking down Reverse Flash and they also know that he is on his way to the cave shortly. This is Batman’s trump card and the only way he has a chance at surviving this encounter. So seeing Batman being pummeled close to death while the time ticks down is simply agonizing. It creates a level of urgency and suspense that I was hardly aware was even possible to do in a comic book. This is, without a doubt, the best part of this issue and is potentially one of my more favorite moments from recent comic book history.

This crescendo of intense buildup delivers its finale as the timer reaches zero… and Flash is nowhere to be found. It is a disheartening and crushing moment that should be expected, yet was absolutely not. However, this shocker is followed immediately with another as Thawne is killed by Dr. Manhattan. All of this happens within three pages. It is a shocking conclusion that is sure to leave readers in awe. This is an excellent way to end what is only the start of this event.

In addition to providing an entertaining story, this issue also provides the questions which will, undoubtedly, propel the rest of “The Button” crossover. Why did the Button interact with Psycho-Pirate’s mask? Does this mean that Crisis on Infinite Earths will come into play as well? How did Thawne know about the Button and what was he trying to do? Why would Manhattan kill Thawne? And, above all, what are Batman and The Flash going to do next? This first issue gave this event tons of potential, hopefully it will all be put to good use.

(spoilers end here)

Art

Right off the bat, it is worth nothing that Jason Fabok is a fantastic artist and that his work in this issue is an excellent example of that. Characters and scenery are detailed and beautiful while still being menacing when necessary. Fabok makes every punch have weight and every drop of blood have meaning. Simply put, this is a great comic in terms of visuals.

In addition to how nice the art is, it also does a great job with thematically tying Watchmen to the story. Smiley faces on posters in the background, the constant use of 9 panel pages, and even the blood spatters from the fight all harken back to the book this entire event stems from. DC has made some excellent Watchmen references in a number of Rebirth comics but this may just be the best of them all.

Plus, the comic comes with an awesome 3D lenticular cover. Click here to see what we mean.

Continuity

This comic mostly flows out of the events of DC Universe: Rebirth and Flashpoint (Review) and does not rely much on what has happened in the previous few issues of Batman. Thus, new readers will be able to jump into “The Button” crossover without having read the previous Batman and The Flash stories.

However, this story does reference other comics. Readers should make sure to have read Watchmen, Flashpoint (Review), and DC Universe: Rebirth before reading this.

  • Batman has been investigating this Button since it first appeared in DC: Universe: Rebirth.
    Many references are made to Watchmen.

    • Most pages in this issue are constructed in a 9 panel design, extremely similar to that used extensively in Watchmen.
    • The Button itself is from Watchmen.
    • Eobard Thawne being teleported away and returning seems to reference Dr. Manhattan.
  • A few references are made to Flashpoint (Review).
    • Flashpoint Batman (A.K.A. Thomas Wayne) makes an appearance in this issue.
    • Eobard Thawne’s death at the hands of Thomas Wayne is brought up.
    • The note that Thomas Wayne wrote Bruce Wayne is shown.
  • Eobard Thawne received a new origin and life in the New 52. However, he was seemingly reset back to his pre-Flashpoint self in The Flash #19, collected in The Flash Vol. 3: Rogues Reloaded.
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths plays a small part in this comic. In this event, the entire universe was reset due to an attack by the Anti-Monitor and the Psycho-Pirate. Now, in this comic, Psycho-Pirate’s mask interacts with The Button, potentially referencing its prior role in resetting the universe.

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