Thanks to the finale of this week's The Flash #19, readers know why both Eobard Thawne and the Flashpoint Batman are going to be part of "The Button" crossover in theApril issues of The Flash and Batman.
Spoilers ahead for this week's The Flash #19.
The involvement of the two characters had been teased in February, when DC released one of the lenticular covers for Batman #22 - featuring the original Reverse-Flash Eobard Thawne and the Thomas Wayne version of Batman from the Flashpoint universe.
At the end of this week's The Flash #19 by Joshua Williamson and Jesus Merino, readers were shown that Eobard Thawne has not only been freed from Iron Heights Penitentiary, but he has now remembered the events of Flashpoint.
"I remember…" the villains says on the final page of The Flash #19. "The Batman … Thomas Wayne … he killed me in the Flashpoint. I should teach his son a lesson."
The teaser at the end of Flash #19 says the story will be continued in Batman #21, which is the first issue of "The Button" four-issue crossover in April.
There will now be a lot of players in "The Button," but it promises to be a key piece of the solution to puzzles that have surrounded the "Rebirth" universe since May 2016's DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
The Button's Origin
In that May issue, which kicked of DC's new "Rebirth" era, readers were shown that Batman has discovered a bloodied smiley face button that was embedded into the wall of the Batcave - one that hints about Watchmen characters being involved in the manipulation of DC continuity.
(The issue also showed several other hints about the involvement of Watchmen characters - including the death of Pandora, Owlman, and Metron - and readers have seen a few other hints about Watchmen since. Even this week, Action Comics #976 teased that someone on Mars - perhaps Dr. Manhattan, who had exiled himself to Mars in Watchmen - was a looming threat who has been meddling in the events of the DCU.)
According to last June's The Flash: Rebirth #1, when Wally West appeared briefly to Batman in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, his lightning embedded the Watchmen button in the wall.
Although Batman originally suspected a connection to the Joker, Batman and the Flash now believe the button is connected to the same timeline mystery that Wally West told them about. And tests on the button have shown that the "blood on the button has traces of a radiation unlike anything we've seen."
Now the investigation of "The Button" will apparently involve Reverse-Flash's attempt at revenge for the events of Flashpoint.
The connection between Flashpoint and "The Button" have also been teased before. Readers were shown months ago that a letter from Bruce Wayne's father, which is in the Batcave, serves as evidence of the timeline alteration during Flashpoint. Wally cited the letter to Barry, and the letter was seen in the Batcave as Batman and the Flash were talking in The Flash: Rebirth #1.
Previously, Barry was under the impression that he caused the "New 52" to be created because of his time travel in Flashpoint (and readers thought so as well). But when "Rebirth" began, Wally West cleared Barry Allen of those charges. In DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Wally said that when Barry Allen initially caused the Flashpoint universe to be created, "someone outside of time watched it all happen."
"And when history was coming back together, they attacked," Wally said. "As our time lines reformed, someone stole ten years from us. A decade was removed like a Jenga piece."
That statement indicates that some outside force created the "New 52" universe at the end of Flashpoint.
The current "Superman Reborn" crossover also strongly suggests that someone - called "him" in that story - caused the "New 52" Superman to be created at the end of Flashpoint.
So the connection between Flashpoint and the mysterious missing decade (linked to Watchmen) is well established. And both those things are going to be featured in "The Button."
Psycho Pirate and Multiverse?
There's another character who's been teased as part of "The Button" storyline - Jay Garrick. In previous continuities, Jay was the Earth-2 Flash, but has also spent time on Barry's same Earth - and was an elder/mentor Flash in the Justice Society of America.
So along with Flashpoint and Watchmen, it appears that Jay Garrick - and perhaps the Justice Society of America, a team that was teased in a Johnny Thunder scene of DC Universe: Rebirth #1 - is a factor in "The Button."
How Jay gets involved isn't clear, but this won't be the first time readers of The Flash have seen a hint of his existence. At the end of The Flash #9, Barry revealed that he had seen Jay Garrick's helmet while he was in the Speed Force, something that filled him "with hope."
Another character may also take part - one that's currently in Gotham City. In the current Batman story, a battle is ensuing between the Caped Crusader and Bane. And the reason for that conflict? Psycho-Pirate.
In Batman #2, writer Tom King re-introduced Psycho-Pirate to the "Rebirth" era as a prisoner in Arkham Asylum who escapes - and is later under the protection of Bane. Batman ends up needing to steal Psycho Pirate away from Bane to help someone the Pirate previously injured.
Psycho-Pirate is the alter ego of Roger Hayden, a man who not only has the ability to project emotions onto other people, but in previous timelines, he could remember DC's continuity changes.
According to Batman writer Tom King, Psycho-Pirate retains the continuity-remembering abilities in "Rebirth" era. As he told Newsarama after Batman #4 was published, "as established in Grant Morrison's Animal Man, the Pirate remembers continuity that no longer exists," and that's "one of the appeals of having him in this book, and tying him into the story spine of the greater DCU."
If Psycho-Pirate ends up remembering the 10 years of erased continuity, he should be a key element in Batman and Wally West's quest for answers to the mysteries of "Rebirth." And with the current "I Am Bane" finale coming in Batman #20 - one issue before the beginning of "The Button" - it's likely that Psycho Pirate's knowledge of Flashpoint (and/or the timelines before and after) will play a role in what's coming up.
In the aftermath of the current "Superman Reborn" crossover, Superman is said to be enlisting his family to find out why he was "split" by someone, and the existence of Mr. Oz is supposed to be explored. (And there are clues pointing towards the idea that Mr. Oz could actually be Ozymandias from Watchmen.)
That "Superman Reborn" aftermath story, which starts in April, will be taking place at the same time that characters in Batman and The Flash will be pursuing the meaning of "The Button."
As mentioned previously, "The Button" starts in Batman #21, with Eobard Thawne and time travel involved. The story continues in The Flash #21 and Batman #22, then ends with The Flash #22.
The time travel appears to be continuing in The Flash in May, where issue #23 is solicited to visit "Eobard Thawne's 25th Century stronghold."
Whatever the two characters discover in "The Button," it appears that it will be connected somehow to Watchmen. Not only does the "Button" cover featuring Eobard Thawne have a splash of Watchmen-esque blood on his chest logo, but King teased "The Button" storyline with an interior page and a quote from the Watchmen character Rorschach.
And Batman #24 is solicited to say that, when that Bruce Wayne has gained knowledge in "The Button," the Caped Crusader knows that "war is coming." War with Earth-2? War with the future of Eobard Thawne? War over the revelations of the newly-announced Dark Days: The Forge and The Casting, the major event that it leads into? Or is the threat the one that readers have suspected since the beginning of "Rebirth" - war with the Watchmen?
Or, it is all these things somehow all tied up together?