DC has been building up the mystery of a button found in the Batcave ever since DC Rebirth over a year ago. Clearly, the iconic button belonging to The Comedian, the on-going story in Rebirth so far as been the unknown identity of Mr. Oz, a figure imprisoning DC figures such as Tim Drake, Doomsday, and Mr. Mxyzptlk. Many fans are of the consensus that Mr. Oz is, in fact, Ozymandias of Watchmen fame, as all signs point to the enigmatic Doctor Manhattan as being behind the changes that caused The New 52.
These story events culminated in The Button, a Batman/The Flash crossover event meant to explore the mystery of the button even further. The story, which was incredibly smartly written by the team of Tom King and Joshua Williamson, opens with Reverse-Flash infiltrating the Batcave. Brutalizing Batman and stealing The Comedian’s button, Reverse-Flash runs through time to confront its owner and finds himself dead. What follows is a murder mystery between two of the DC Universe’s greatest detectives, as The Flash and Batman try to find out who killed Reverse-Flash.
I feel that I, of course, have to touch on a bit of controversy with The Button, though everyone else has as well. Batman #21, the first part of The Button, hit shelves at the same time as Secret Empire #1, which was touted as the best selling book of April by Diamond Comics’ list. Except by everyone’s admission, it wasn’t. Batman #21 actually had its sales split across two entries, because of a lenticular variant cover that had a higher price point. When the two figures are combined, Batman technically outsold Secret Empire by a fairly wide margin. But that’s all water under the bridge now, so to speak.
King and Williamson managed to tell a genuinely thrilling story for this one. Fans have always known that Batman is a detective, but it’s easy to forget that The Flash is one as well. Seeing the two work together is a real treat, a pairing that doesn’t get enough love. But where the story really kicks off is when they find themselves in the last place readers expected: the alternate timeline of Flashpoint, allowing Bruce Wayne to meet his alternate timeline father, Thomas Wayne.
Bruce and Thomas’ meeting is something that fans should have seen coming. A key figure of Flashpoint, Thomas became Batman after his Bruce was killed as a child. He was easily a highlight of the event for fans, and someone who is often requested to turn up again. Here he seemingly gives his life, but also gives Bruce crucial advice: let the Batman die so that he can raise his son correctly.
The Button doesn’t do a lot to set up the upcoming event (which we now know to be Doomsday Clock) despite its vague Doctor Manhattan cameo. What it does do, however, is set up for a blockbuster series of Batman events, culminating in his proposal to Catwoman in the most recent issue.
The effect on The Flash has yet to be seen. Reverse-Flash’s death at the hands of Doctor Manhattan, a force he deems stronger than him, was a shocking moment. But as Barry correctly guessed, Thawne cheated death again, returning in the following issue of The Flash. Barry’s more pressing issue, however, seems to be the near return of Jay Garrick, who he didn’t recognize. This Jay cameo was frustrating for many fans, as it looked like we’d finally gotten the classic character back only for him to vanish back into the Speed Force a few pages later.
We’re ultimately left with more questions than we are answers. We’ve been led to believe that Doctor Manhattan is the one responsible for changes to the timestream recently, but this is still unconfirmed by the books, and we don’t know his intentions. Mr. Oz remains a prudent mystery, and while fans have made plenty of guesses, nothing is concrete. Though The Button was expected to provide some answers finally, it instead gave us more questions and opened up the door for Doomsday Clock. Still, The Button was an enjoyable story, and the set-up it left us with for Batman may be the most interesting one we’ve had to date.