Recently, I wrote about what I consider the actual start of the Rebirth era for DC Comics, and that would begin with “The Button” arc currently running in the pages of both Batman and Flash. My gut continues to tell me that I was right and that this story is going to propel Rebirth to its next stages, but there is definitely more going on than just this one story. And, although I am not privy to every detail published so far (mostly because I cannot afford to pick up every DC comic), there is definitely a lot going on in some of the books to lay out the next stages of this mystery…
The last 2 issues of Action Comics (977 and 978) are an epilogue to the recent “Superman Reborn” story arc. The previous arc had created an amalgamated Superman and Lois, combining the pre-Flashpoint version of themselves with New 52 versions. The intent, I believe, is to bring some closure to which pieces of earlier stories were still in continuity and which were not (which was a big pain point for readers when the New 52 launched).
This continued epilogue has Superman in his fortress, discovering what the new continuity is. There are certain things from the previous timeline that appear now in continuity – such as when Superman received changed powers and now had an electric-blue suit.
Most notably, his death was now in current continuity. One of the largest events in comics, which occurred in Superman #75, was written out with the launch of the New 52. Action Comics #978 made it relevant again. (Worth noting is that Dan Jurgens wrote that iconic issue, and with this recent Action Comics issue it is that same writer who put things back.) The aftermath of his death was also included, including a handful of others who claimed to be Superman… with one notable exception: Superboy.
This issue showcased others in the “Superman Family” – Lex Luthor (yes, he has a technology suit he built to honor his friend, the New 52 Superman), Supergirl, Superwoman (Lana Lang), Steel, and the New Super-Man. Steel appeared both here as well as in the list of Superman replacements after his death, but the original Superboy was now missing from that list. Why is that? Well, below I’ll put my speculation goggles on and chime in.
(My only gripe about this issue is that the original Death of Superman issue was also drawn by Dan Jurgens, not just him writing it. The scene that showed Lois with Superman’s body… I would have loved for Jurgens to even have taken that panel on himself. Not a negative, as Carl Barberi did a fantastic job, but an image like that from its original creator would have been fantastic and a fantastic reference.)
One of the outcomes of the death of Superman was the destruction of Coast City, the home of Hal Jordan, the main Green Lantern. The Action Comic issue shows both Mongul and Hal together, which was the catalyst for Hal to break his oath as a Lantern and go a little crazy. (Author’s note: I use the wording “little crazy” quite loosely. “Bat-shit crazy” is a much better phrase.)
Hal took on the mantle of Parallax and decimated the Green Lantern Corps. This led to a new ring-bearer, the only one in the universe: Kyle Rayner. Recently, Kyle returned in the pages of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps in his original outfit. Whether this is a sign of something as to how the spectrum of the Lantern corps fit into the re-solidifying the missing time of the DCU. (10 years are missing based upon the Rebirth one shot.)
Although there was nothing direct in recent issues of either Green Lantern title, apart from the return of Kyle, it is worth noting that many of the larger events that occurred before Flashpoint revolved around the Lanterns, including Blackest Night and Brightest Day.
Although much of the GL stories of late have ben focusing on the relationship of the Greens and the Yellows (with a dash of Red and Blue Lanterns tossed in), the last couple of issues of the Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps series have introduced a familiar face: Rip Hunter. Why is this significant? Unsure… yet.
The first 2 parts of “The Button” arc are now out and it brings in 2 of the strongest detective minds in the DCU – Bruce Wayne and Barry Allen. Bruce is strongest in the detective arena, but Barry is the forensic scientist. And these 2 seem to have a very unique relationship.
At the end of Flashpoint, it was Barry who delivered a note to Bruce from his father, who was the Batman of the Flashpoint period. The two knew each other well and were actual friends, the Barry’s monologue within The Flash #21 explains that a litte more (which you don’t see much of anywhere else, including in Justice League):
The day I joined the Justice League was the first time in my life I felt like I had real friends I could relate to… But whenever I talked forensics… I could see in their eyes that I might as well have been speaking another language. Except Bruce. We could talk about evidence for hours.
This description outlines a special relationship of the 2 characters that has not been shown much in recent years, but makes a lot of sense. The 2 Leaguers who focus heavily on science to solve problems would have such a relationship, using those techniques to battle their enemies.
This arc so far has not explained much more of the mystery of “The Button”, but it has opened up a number of possibilities. First, the button was pretty much just what it appeared to be. That is, until it came within range of the Medusa Mask, an item that Bruce has in his possession which allows its wearer to control the emotions of others. Once it was nearby, a burst of lightning shot out from the 2 items and hit Batman, giving him a vision of his father.
And then Batman gets the absolute crap kicked out of him by Eobard Thawn, aka the Reverse Flash. And because Thawne fights in super speed, Bruce can only do so much. What is stranger is that as soon as he touches the button, he vanishes… only to return seconds later, surrounded by a blue energy which slowly destorys his body. And once again Thawne dies, after stating that he has just seen God.
To stry to solve the problem, Barry and Bruce then time travel to follow a radiation signature connected to the button. And what do they find? Or rather, who? The image of the Flashpoint button may not have been just an image, but rather a break in time, as they encounter Thomas Wayne, alive and kicking.
With all sorts of hints now continuing to go on, I am going to speculate wildly. I could be right, I could be wrong, I could be completely out of my rocker. (Well, that last one is already true – now it’s more a matter of how out there I am.)
First, Superboy. I have a feeling that we will be seeing Conner Kent, aka the clone of Superman, at some point. Whether that is soon or not, no idea. But I do think he will be returning. Why?
- He was missing from the replacement Superman list in Action Comics.
- Kelex (the Fortress robot) made mention of reality being fractured (as mentioned by Mxyzptlk during “Superman Reborn”).
- The last time we saw reality fractured, Superboy Prime had punched it (seriously – not Geoff Johns best explanation for anything) and proceeded to kill Conner Kent.
- Superboy was a mainstay of the Teen Titans for a long time, and is currently missing.
Add to that, Geoff Johns and others appear to have a real enjoyment of the character. The New 52 Superboy was different, which was both good and bad. But for a beloved character such as Conner Kent who was growing into his own character, it’s a shame that he was written out. But he could come back…
I think that the Speed Force is what will answer everything. When the most-likely-Comedian’s pin came into close contact with the Medusa Mask, an energy burst that looks very much like Barry’s streaks as he runs was present. And everything ties back to the Speed Force and this mask…
- The last person Barry had contact with before he died in Crisis on Infinite Earths was the Psycho Pirate, the individual who utilized the Medusa Mask.
- Barry was resurrected from the Speed Force in the pages of The Flash Rebirth (not to be confused with the current Rebirth era of the DCU).
- Thawne was responsible for the death of Barry’s mother, leading to Flashpoint.
- Thawne was killed in Flashpoint by Thomas Wayne.
- Barry changed the past by saving his mother, which (supposedly) created the New 52.
This all revolves around time travel and the Speed Force. What else has the Speed Force had? Well, during Infinite Crisis both Superboy and Bart Allen (Impulse/Kid Flash/Flash) had taken Superboy Prime into the Speed Force and stranded him on a parallel world. So the precedent that the Speed Force could take someone to a parallel Earth was confirmed. It may have been done before, I don’t recall; but in that arc it most definitely was present.
I also mentioned time travel. We haven’t seen too much time travel in Rebirth, and only a smattering within the New 52. But Rip Hunter is a consummate time traveler within the DCU and we have recently seen a few other time travelling hints, such as the start of Batman #21 where a young lady is in a mental health hospital, with knowledge of the future. Who is she? Although I don’t believe they have outright said yet, my guess is that this is Imra, Saturn Girl of the Legion. Why? Well, she had a Legion ring for one, and she is one of the Legionnaires who first traveled through time to recruit Kal-El to the Legion (depending on which Legion continuity you follow).
So Flashpoint was an alternate reality where different events occurred. And Barry got there with the Speed Force. Thomas Wayne is back and only existed in that parallel world, and Barry and Bruce travelled to see him via the Speed Force. Barry came back from the dead as he travelled within the Speed Force. So, is it too much a stretch (in a comic book universe, not in our own) that perhaps Connor Kent could return as he, too, was in the Speed Force? Remember that in the Rebirth one-shot that Wally returned via the Speed Force, so it’s not too out there (for the DCU).
It’s also worth noting that in The Flash #21 the opening scenes showed Johnny Thunder (a mainstay of the original JSA) shouting for his Thunderbolt. Yet another lightning reference. And he says it’s all his fault. Barry has been seeing the original Jay Garrick’s helmet in his mind, and since DC has also indicated that the original JSA will come back it’s only a matter of time. We also saw some JSA costumes within that same Flash issue – Hourman, Star Spangled Kid… They were on display in the JL Watchtower, so there is definitely something on the horizon and is being lightly teased.
But what about the Watchmen references? Well, we have the button, which is obvious. We have Mr. Oz telling Superman to keep his eye on the long game, which describes the methods of Ozymandias throughout the Watchmen series. When Thawne dies we also see a blue light surrounding him which looks remarkably like the energy around Dr. Manhattan.
OK, so lots of speculation. But as Mr. Oz is saying “consider the long game”. Geoff Johns also plays very long games and he has a passion for these characters that I am pretty sure is unsurpassed with most people at DC. He also had a special thanks credit in The Flash, which may be reading too much into things, but perhaps not if he has a stronger tie to what’s coming up for the DCU.
DC is definitely in the long game. But at least they are also making the current stories interesting while we get there. They are making long-time fans happy and also allowing for ease of jumping on to new readers. They have learned from their mistakes. They remember who their characters are. And I am excited to see what comes next.