Spoilers ahead for this week's Batman #22.
The latest revelation in "The Button," DC's current "Rebirth"-defining crossover, is that all histories of the main DC Universe still exist somehow, being held in place by someone for suspected nefarious purposes.
For example, even though the Flashpoint reality – defined as an alternate history and not an alternate universe –should have been erased when Barry Allen changed its history and should have been overwritten by the new DCU history — it was being held as a separate and still-functioning timeline.
In fact, the glimpses of DC's past that were shown in The Flash #21 — from the original formation of the Justice League to the Identity Crisis mind-wipe of Batman — were alternate histories of the current-day DCU that should have been overwritten.
But somehow they still exist, and Barry Allen is convinced that "someone" is behind it.
Flash's suspicion that "someone" is keeping past histories around is given even more merit when, as Batman and Flash visit the still-existing Flashpoint timeline, that world begins to disappear in front of them, destroyed by an unknown force. Flash says that he thinks "whatever was holding the Flashpoint in place, it just let go."
Backing up, let's review how we got to this point. In the last issue, Bruce and Barry are reacting to the death of Eobard Thawne (a.k.a. Reverse-Flash), who was somehow instantly transported away from the Batcave when he held the blood-splattered Watchmen button. He reappeared in the Batcave seconds later with half his body vaporized by someone.
But Reverse-Flash wasn't holding the Button anymore when he returned and died. So The Flash decides to use the Cosmic Treadmill to follow the radiation signature of the Button and find where Reverse-Flash went.
Bruce Wayne demands that he come along on the road trip. (Flash can't say no to Batman.) And both characters are aware that the Button might lead them to the "ghosts" they previously saw — Bruce saw his father Thomas Wayne as the Flashpoint Batman, and Barry saw Jay Garrick's helmet (which, although unrecognizable to him, made him feel "hope").
So the two heroes travel on the Cosmic Treadmill through a blue-hued force of some kind (the Speed Force gone blue? Dr. Manhattan's creation?), and they end up in the Flashpoint timeline.
As mentioned before, this freaks out The Flash because he knows that the DCU's Flashpoint history shouldn't exist anymore.
But Batman is even more freaked out because he sees his dad, Thomas Wayne. Again. Dressed as Batman and standing in a rather sparse Batcave.
Unfortunately, there's not much time for a family reunion. The Cosmic Treadmill was smashed to bits when it landed, and at the same time, there's a force of Atlanteans and Amazons coming to kill Thomas. (Yeah, remember the soldiers from Flashpoint?)
So Flash works on rebuilding the Treadmill while Bruce and Thomas hold off the invasion.
Yep, Thomas and Bruce fight side by side. Both as Batman.
Then comes the aforementioned destruction of the Flashpoint history by "someone." The Treadmill is fixed, so Bruce and Barry can leave, but Thomas wants to stay. Bruce begs him to come with him, but Thomas is intent on sacrificing himself to make sure the Treadmill gets away safely.
Now comes some daddy dialogue that might come back to haunt Bruce later…
Thomas Wayne says to his son, "Listen to me… Don't be Batman. Find happiness. Please. You don't have to do this. Don't do it for me. Don't do it for your mother. Be a father for your son in a way I never could be for you. Let the Batman die with me."
Road Trip 2
Barry and Bruce take off on the Cosmic Treadmill just in time, as the Flashpoint history is destroyed.
But look! It's Reverse-Flash, running ahead of the Treadmill. Didn't he die?
Nope, this is the Reverse-Flash from the past. He's still holding the Button.
The Flash warns Eobard that, if he keeps running, he'll die.
Silly Reverse-Flash. He doesn't listen.
Instead, Eobard says, "You have no idea the things I've seen, Allen! The places I've been!
"I know who the power of the Button belongs to!"
OK, so, will he spill?
That's not the only question that needs asking as this crossover heads into its final chapter (The Flash #22):
- Will Bruce and Barry happen upon the Jay Garrick helmet again, and maybe even free the JSA-ers, who've either been kept in stasis by this unseen force or — if Johnny Thunder's ramblings mean anything — locked away somehow by the Thunderbolt?
- What's the point of all these various histories still existing somewhere? And who's doing it? Will Reverse-Flash survive long enough to say? Or better yet, will Bruce and Barry learn it themselves?
- Are these various histories connected to the future of the Legion of Super-Heroes (since readers saw Saturn Girl in earliest pages of "The Button")?
- And will this story ever get around to exploring why Psycho Pirate's mask interacted with the Button in the first chapter of the crossover? Or does that even matter now...?
The next chapter of "The Button" crossover was recently delayed a week, so readers won't learn the resolution of this story for another couple weeks. And fans have been told by various DC folks that the answers to "Rebirth" mysteries won't be fully resolved for another year (because, they say, it's a "two-year story"). So it looks like readers will have to just keep collecting and analyzing clues for a while, although "The Button" has likely been chock full of them.