Back in May 2016, the DC Rebirth initiative was started with the release of DC Universe Rebirth Special #1. The important thing about this book was that it brought back the original Wally West into continuity. Not by just re-introducing another Wally West into the universe, but instead, by bring the pre-Flashpoint back into the fold. The message Wally carried with him was that someone was actively stealing time, changing their histories. The end of the book saw Batman fine the smiley face button from Watchmen in the Bat-cave.
I don’t read everything, but nothing I know of had really dealt with that since that single issue. So, here we are a year later, and finally we are getting something more regarding this plot in a 4-issue crossover between Batman and The Flash. That’s right, just a crossover. No special event. Not yet, anyways.
The story starts with a freakout by Saturn Girl, though I’m not certain what’s been going on with her. She’s in Arham, and goes on about a hockey player about to die. But anyways, Bruce is taking a moment to ponder “the button” that was found, when it gets close to Psycho Pirate’s mask, and causes a spark. Bruce briefly sees his father from the Flashpoint timeline. Bruce decides to call Barry, and Barry says he’ll be over in a minute. This leads to a wonderful set of pages in which Reverse Flash shows up in the cave. There’s a minute countdown as Batman tries to fight him.
This “minute” long segment last for 8 pages, 7 of which are 3×3 (9 panels/page). That is 69 panels of Reverse Flash pummeling Batman and gloating about it, Batman absorbing the beating and fighting back, and Reverse Flash ultimately knocking him out. I must say, it was refreshing to see Batman lose the fight. It has gotten to the point where Batman finding a way to win against all odds is a cliche. It was nice to not see that happen.
So, Reverse Flash picks up the button and vanishes. He then returns, only half of him is a skeleton that appears to be on fire from a blue flame. Then, The Flash arrives. While The Flash investigates, Bruce fills him in on Reverse Flash disappearing and also that he saw his father before everything went down. The Flash decides to pull the Cosmic Treadmill out of Justice League storage, and attempt to travel to where, or when, Reverse Flash visited. Of course, Batman refuses to let him go alone. So, Flash runs while Batman is holding onto the treadmill via grappling hook. While traveling, they see visions of a past they do not remember. One of the visions is from when the League was formed. Another appeared to be from the Identity Crisis story. They are traveling along when a bolt of lightning hits the treadmill and knocks them off course. They find that they are in the Batcave of the Flashpoint Batman.
After the expected initial mistrust, you get the moment of Bruce being able to talk with his father. Then, when they are attacked by the Amazons and Atlanteans, you get the super special moment of Thomas and Bruce fighting side-by-side as Batman. It is a powerful moment. You see them put the cowls on at the same time, then turn the page and boom, two page spread of punches being thrown. Here, Jason Fabok did something wonderful with the art, in having Bruce and Thomas essentially throw the same punch. You could almost put one on top of the other and have the same pose. A “like father, like son” kind of thing.
The fight ends and Barry gets the treadmill rebuilt, and then the Flashpoint timeline starts to crumble, being that it should not exist in the first place. Bruce tries to convince Thomas to come with him, and tells him that he is a grandfather. Thomas pushes Bruce onto the treadmill and tells the Flash to keep his promise about saving Bruce. Thomas leaves Bruce with the message to not be Batman, find happiness, and be a father that he could not be.
While Batman and Flash ponder why The Button came to the cave and then led them there, Reverse Flash passes them. He is still holding The Button, so it must be from when he left the cave earlier. Reverse Flash is running toward the source of the power in the button, thinking he should be able to easily conquer and control it. He comes to his destination and immediately regrets it. But nonetheless, he is burned and in the state we see him in when he came back to the cave. Batman and Flash are saved by another speedster that Barry is unable to remember named Jay Garrick. Before they can talk for very long, Jay is pulled away by some blue force. The story ends with Dr. Manhattan picking up the button.
All in all, this was a pretty good, quick little story to generate interest in what the future holds with the Watchmen characters in the DC Universe. Tom King and Joshua Williamson did a fine job keeping the story moving, while still being to bring a focus to the story beats that needed it. I also felt that it was a great point for readers that do not keep up with The Flash or Batman to jump into the story. All you really needed was to have read the DC Universe Rebirth Special. At the end, there was an announcement for Doomsday Clock, another symbol from Watchmen. This appears to be a Superman focused story written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank. Just those names alone are enough to get me excited for it.