Written by Joel T. Lewis
I’m rapidly discovering that the Button storyline woven between the Flash and Batman titles is more about the ramifications of the Flashpoint event and giving Thomas Wayne Batman closure than it is about the discovery of the Comedian’s Button in the Batcave. At least in the 3 issues that have been published, we have chased the mysterious button through space and time via the Cosmic Treadmill and reentered the world of Flashpoint, but have yet to encounter any other elements of the Watchmen Universe. Though this is a bit of a disappointment given the title of the arc, I would not trade the closure we get from Thomas Wayne in these issues for anything in the world.
For those of you who may not know, in the Flashpoint Universe that Barry Allen created by going back in time to save his mother, Thomas and Martha Wayne are not murdered in a dark alley in Gotham City that cold night many years ago, Bruce is. As a result of this bizarre twist, Bruce’s father becomes an embittered alcoholic and vicious vigilante, terrorizing the criminal underground of Gotham as a pistol-toting Dark Knight. Martha Wayne, unable to cope with the horror of having witnessing her child murdered in cold blood, becomes the Flashpoint Universe Joker. Though the Flashpoint event is pretty contentious among comic book fans (but to be honest, what isn’t?) the inverted Batman is fascinating, and in this issue we get to see Bruce and Thomas Wayne meet.
The two Batmen don’t have much time to reconnect as the arrival of Bruce and Barry is quickly followed by soldiers of Atlantis and New Themyscira sent to kill Thomas Wayne. As Barry rushes to reassemble the shattered Cosmic Treadmill, Bruce and his father prepare for battle, but before Thomas can unload a clip from his signature Bat-Pistols Bruce Batarangs the gun out of his hand. I love this panel so much. It’s a great testament to the power of Bruce’s conviction but also to Thomas’ immediate respect for his son’s non-lethal philosophy. It’s a small moment in a big issue but it conveys how well Joshua Williamson and Tom King understand both Batmen.
As the Batmen duke it out with Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s soldiers and Barry rebuilds the Cosmic Treadmill, the fabric of the Flashpoint reality unravels in the background. The silhouetted panels depicting Thomas and Bruce Wayne are especially well executed by artist Jason Fabok. The ambiguity you feel seeing just the outline of a Batman shows father and son to be two of a kind as they dispatch the attackers. Finishing the reconstruction of the Cosmic Treadmill as Bruce lands the final punch, Flash tells the Batmen to hurry as the treadmill seems to be about to leave without Barry powering it. Thomas and his son have just enough time for one of the sweetest heart-to-hearts in Bat-history. ‘Father...your letter...it was the greatest gift anyone’s ever given to me. After I read it...I knew I’d never get a chance to respond, but if I did, there was one thing I wanted to tell you above anything else...You’re a grandfather. I have a son.’ Bruce pleads with his Father to come with them but Thomas pushes his son into the flashing light of the rapidly departing treadmill deciding to stay in his own reality. As Flash and Bruce fade into the stream of time and space Thomas tells Bruce, ‘You’re the greatest gift this life has ever given me. And there is more I should have shared in that letter, so 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 to your son in a way I never could be for you. Let the Batman die with me.’ Bruce calls out to his father as he and the Flash wink out of the Flashpoint, ‘We can save you!’
Bruce and Barry hurtle to a destination unknown and Reverse Flash appears behind them in the wake of the Cosmic Treadmill. As he passes them by, the two heroes realize that these are the moments just before Reverse Flash met his end and was sent back to the Batcave. Reverse Flash still has the button and Batman and Flash rush to follow him towards the god that destroyed him. Now if there are dry eyes among any of my fellow bat-fans following the heartfelt speech Thomas Wayne gives to his son as he hurtles away through space and time I’m not sure even Victor Fries’ has a heart as cold as yours. Though I began reading the Batman Rebirth title series just for this four-issue storyline, I’m not sure I can live without following Bruce’s contemplation of his father’s final words. In a way Bruce has been released from a lifetime’s worth of guilt-fueled rage and his obsession with vengeance. How Batman will continue after this catharsis will be very interesting to discover. Also the finale of the Button storyline is rapidly approaching and I can’t wait to read that either! Until next time, Geek On!