Stillanerd Reviews: The Flash vol. 5 #22 review


The finale of the Batman and Flash crossover, “The Button,” arrives, but leaves you wondering if the “mystery” behind said button was worth all the fuss.

The Flash vol. 5 #22

“The Button, Part Four”

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Writer: Joshua Williamson

Artist: Howard Porter

Colorist: Hi-Fi

Letterer: Steve Wands

Cover: Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson

Variant Cover: Howard Porter and Hi-Fi

As mysteries go, “The Button,” doesn’t seem like much of a mystery at all. Aside from being a direct follow-up with last year’s DC Universe: Rebirth #1, we already know that whatever is going on has direct ties with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s classic graphic novel, Watchmen. We also know the titular smiley face button of this Batman and The Flash crossover belongs to the Comedian. And we also know that the “god” behind all this could very well be Doctor Manhattan.

What we don’t know is why. Why is Manhattan (if it is really him) altering reality and history, plucking certain people out of space and time, and experimenting with the DC Universe at all.  And after The Flash vol. 5 #22, we still don’t.

Credit: Howard Porter and Hi-Fi (DC Entertainment); from The Flash vol. 5 #22

[The Flash vol. 5 #22], and “The Button” overall, [are] both intriguing and frustrating…Yet all we’ve have thus far are glimpses of the larger conflict to come, but still no clue as to how we’ll arrive there.

Instead, what the finale of “The Button” does is lead Batman and Flash literally back to where their case began with Batman vol. 3 #21: the murder of Eobard Thawne, a.k.a. the Reverse-Flash, after his encounter with “God.” Just like the readers, they’re still not any closer to the truth of what is really going on. Maybe even less so. At least now they know someone with omnipotent powers has been interfering with their reality for years. And as Bruce Wayne tells Barry Allen, what happened to them over the course of this story didn’t happen by accident.

What most likely did, or perhaps almost threw a wrench into whatever clockwork Manhattan engineered, was the return of another time-displaced speedster, Jay Garrick. Not the New-52 Jay Garrick from the Earth 2 comic series, but the original, pre-Flashpoint, Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick. Like the pre-Flashpoint Wally West, Jay also somehow became trapped and forgotten in the Speed Force, and seeks Barry as his anchor back to reality, too. But whereas Wally succeeded in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Jay fails, with Barry still having no memory of him.

Also like DC Universe: Rebirth #1, this comic also contains an epilogue lifting dialogue from Watchmen verbatim. It also makes a surprising, if cryptic, connection between the Comedian’s button and a very noteworthy DC superhero. Of course, it’s setting up yet another four-part miniseries which DC is planning on debuting this fall—which is what makes this comic, and “The Button” overall, both intriguing and frustrating.

Credit: Howard Porter and Hi-Fi (DC Entertainment); from The Flash vol. 5 #22

[The Flash vol. 5 #22 is] an enjoyable, well-crafted, but thin conclusion to what was ultimately an enjoyable, well-crafted, but thin four-part mystery with little resolution.

Clearly, the various writers, artists, and editors at DC (and Geoff Johns in particular) have a well thought-out, meticulously planned, overarching story in mind. Even as fan-service, it’s brilliant. How could it not be when the basic premise is the DC Universe vs. Watchmen, cast as an ideological battle between hope and pessimism? Yet all we’ve have thus far are glimpses of the larger conflict to come, but still no clue as to how we’ll arrive there.

So instead of getting any closer towards “solving” this “mystery” behind DC Rebirth, “The Button” and Flash #22 opts to show us how this mystery has potentially affected its protagonists. Bruce’s encounter with the Flashpoint version of his father is now causing him to second guess his vocation as Batman. Barry, meanwhile, seems quick (no pun intended) to drop the case and blame Thawne for the changes to the timeline, uncomfortable with the notion that “God” is responsible.

But if the endgame was to throw two of DC’s greatest detectives off the scent, it doesn’t seemed to have worked completely. Despite their doubts and confusion, Bruce and Barry still decide to continue trying to figure out who changed and altered their timeline. Which makes us wonder what the overall point of “The Button” even was?

Still, to this comic’s credit, the characterization and dialogue are solid throughout. That Bruce and Barry share a lot in common, but still have different outlooks on life is something you don’t often think about. Seeing this addressed and explored more thoroughly works strongly in this comic’s favor. As does Joshua Williamson’s portrayal of Thawne, and that downfall come not just from a desire for greater power, but his hubris over having cheated death numerous times.

Credit: Howard Porter and Hi-Fi (DC Entertainment); from The Flash vol. 5 #22

Thawne’s latest demise, and his changing reactions from arrogance to fear upon seeing “God” is also wonderfully depicted by Howard Porter. So too are his scenes of the Speed Force, making the pages crackle with as much energy being generated during the speedsters race through time. But, of course, the highlight is the splash page where Jay Garrick frees himself. Porter’s addition of reflections in Jay’s helmet only elevates an already iconic image.

In fact, any time Jay is on the panel, the art is at its strongest and most visceral.  There’s beauty when we see the glowing, residual sparks flaking off Jay and Barry in-scene, which deliberately evokes the scene between Barry and Wally from DC Universe: Rebirth #1. There’s also awe and horror when you see him being forcibly lifted out of existence—the way he appears to stretch through the whole frame. The slience makes it all the more unsettling.

I wish there was more to say about The Flash vol. 5 #22. But, honestly, there isn’t much to say about what was ultimately an enjoyable, well-crafted, but thin, four-part mystery with little resolution. Granted, I’m not suggesting DC should give us all the answers about DC Rebirth now.  Even so, we shouldn’t have to feel like we’ve been running in place either. At least Flash’s cosmic treadmill, unlike normal treadmills, can actually take you somewhere.

Stillanerd’s Score: 3 out of 5

Next: Stillanerd Reviews: All-Star Batman #10 review

Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (potential spoilers)

  • Yep, Barry did kill Eobard when he mistakenly thought Eobard murdered Iris West. This also cost him the love and sanity of his fiancee, Fiona Webb. So yes, good ‘ol Barry was making things worse even before Flashpoint.
  • Hmm … if I don’t know any better, I’d think Thawne’s talk about making Barry an “acolyte” is a tongue-in-cheek nod towards the first (and still the best) season of CW’s The Flash.
  • So any guesses about what Thawne actually saw that terrified him so much before getting fried? Cause I doubt it was seeing what might’ve been a giant naked blue man.
  • Yeah, don’t ask me why Barry needs “traction” when traveling through the Speed Force when other speedsters seem to have no problem whatsoever.
  • So I’m guessing Jay’s “lightning rod” is his wife, Joan. Thing is, does she still exist on Earth Prime?
  • That’s a lot of similar looking panels of Bruce literally standing by the window doing nothing.
  • “Big Blue” vs. “Big Blue,” huh?
  • The August Strindberg quote comes from The Red Rooma 19th century Swedish novel about a struggling writer. And if you read the description on what it’s about, it could very well be applied as a metaphor for one Jon Osterman, actually.