Batman/The Flash crossover The Button moves DC’s Rebirth saga forward in some crucial ways.
Batman discovers that the blood-spattered smiley face button discovered in his cave in the Rebirth special has a strong reaction to the Psycho-Pirate’s Medusa mask. That energy release draws the attention of the villainous Reverse-Flash, determined to exploit its power. But the evil speedster winds up murdered instead, prompting Batman and Flash onto a cosmic odyssey that gives them glimpses of “lost” realities, before landing them in the Flashpoint world, inexplicably preserved, where Batman has an emotional reunion with an important figure from his past. When Batman and Flash seem like they could get lost in a cosmic storm, the brief return of one of DC’s most beloved heroes saves them and helps point the way toward an epic showdown.
The Button could have been merely an exercise in moving some pieces around the DC board on the road to Doomsday Clock, the big saga that will pay off the plots begun in Rebirth. But writers Tom King and Joshua Williamson are too interesting to let this crossover be a rote exercise. The writers zero in on the unique bond between Batman and Flash among all the Justice League characters, their devotion to forensic detection, which casts them as natural allies. The plot deftly deploys key emotional triggers for the two heroes and further shows how their individual losses give them common ground, but also how differently each hero developed from similar tragic backgrounds. While the story is careful not to dole out too much information, it provides just enough details to move DC’s current umbrella plot forward, while also reminding fans that the publisher hasn’t forgotten about seeds first teased in the special (Saturn Girl, Johnny Thunder). With a couple of crowd-pleasing character returns and a few carefully-placed background details evidencing how DC’s timeline has been re-worked since various Rebirth changes have taken effect, The Button is a key stop on the larger journey.
Art duties are shared by A-list talents Jason Fabok and Howard Porter (working with colorists Brad Anderson and Hi-Fi). The two alternate chapters, but work in styles that mesh rather well, filling pages with smart details but not cluttering the scenes unnecessarily. They do some bold figure work and show off strong design skills and both artists are also rather canny with page layouts. At times, both deploy the classic nine-grid scheme as a deliberate reference to Watchmen, whose specter hangs heavily over this saga. But each also produces some dazzling large-screen scenes and proves equally adept at complex action sequences and quieter character moments. The color team is essential here, really nailing the complex effects and color themes vital to give the visual half of the storytelling the impact it needs.
Both a crucial part of the Rebirth tapestry and a compelling team-up, The Button makes a strong case for DC’s line-wide course correction.