Written by Joel T. Lewis
I am at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to the history of the Flash. I was only aware of one man who wore the red and yellow costume as I grew up and that was Wally West. It was just a name I filed away under 'Flash' and I never really thought about the character again. So the brief reappearance of the wing-helmeted first Flash (Jay Garrett) at a pivotal moment in issue 22, while visually spectacular, did not resonate with me that way it might have with the die-hard Flash Fanatics.
That being said, this is the second appearance of a past Flash in the larger Rebirth storyline and that tells something about the importance of the Flash and his history to the larger development of the Rebirth Event. I believe one of the big lessons DC learned from the divisive Flashpoint story-arc was that Barry Allen is a great character to frame massive comic events around. The huge Flash-specific elements that have already been revealed so far in the Rebirth story seem to point to DC capitalizing on his charm and relatability once again as a key component of the Rebirth narrative.
As a conclusion for the 'Button' arc, issue 22 doesn’t really deliver on the massive hype anticipated by audiences desperate for some concrete connections between the DC Universe and the Watchmen Universe. Joshua Williamson does treat us to a final panel confirmation that the 'God' that murdered Eobard Thawne is in fact Dr. Manhattan, but that revelation is slightly undercut by how obvious it was. Again, where this mini arc has shone most brightly has been in its exploration and resolution of loose threads from the Flashpoint Event, and Flash 22 was no exception.
Unable to warn Reverse Flash of his impending doom, Batman and Flash seem doomed themselves as the Cosmic Treadmill, their only stability as they hurtle through space and time, disintegrates underneath them. Tumbling out of control and almost out of existence, Barry and Bruce are saved by Jay Garrett, who’s vintage costume is brought to dazzling life by artist Howard Porter. In an arc that has been characterized by brilliant cosmic panels, Garrett’s return is spectacular and the throwback hero steals every panel he’s in. Tragically, Garrett suffers the same fate as Thomas Wayne before him and is erased before he can explain the bizarre circumstances of his appearance leaving Bruce and Barry back where this topsy-turvy journey began.
As Bruce and Barry ponder the death of Thawne, Thomas Wayne, and the mysterious former Flash, they ruminate over their shared trauma of loss and plan their next steps. Our final glimpse of Batman shows him contemplating his father’s words as the Gotham City skyline lights up with the Bat-Signal, and for the first time, he hesitates to answer the call. Issue 22 concludes with a mind-blowing teaser for the next installment in the larger Rebirth narrative as the Comedian’s button, set adrift in space by Dr. Manhattan, is eclipsed by the iconic symbol of the Man of Steel. Superman: Doomsday Clock is scheduled for release in November, and I am very curious to follow along as the Rebirth story continues to unfold. 'The Button' arc’s most poignant implications, at least for me, concern the future of Batman. By freeing him from the guilt and obligation of vigilantism for the sake of his parents, Thomas Wayne has challenged the very foundation of what Bruce has dedicated his life to. Batman has never had to consider what would make him happy because Batman's mission was so imperative. Thomas Wayne dismantles that logic by begging his son to find a way to be happy. This request leads Batman and his fans to ponder the question: What could make Bruce Wayne happy? Until next time, Geek On!