REVIEW: BATMAN (Vol. 3) #21
AUTHOR: John Bierly (Follow @JOHNBIERLY)
DATE: April 19, 2017

SYNOPSIS: “THE BUTTON” part one! The cataclysmic events of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1 continue here! The Dark Knight and The Fastest Man Alive, the two greatest detectives on any world, unite to explore the mystery behind a certain blood-stained smiley button embedded in the Batcave wall. What starts as a simple investigation turns deadly when the secrets of the button prove irresistible to an unwelcome third party—and it’s not who anyone suspects! It’s a mystery woven through time, and the ticking clock starts here!

I'm sure other writers have beaten up Batman more than Tom King has, but if someone else holds the record, it can't last for much longer.

BATMAN #21 kicks off "The Button," a four-parter that continues in THE FLASH #21, wends it’s way back into BATMAN #22, and concludes in THE FLASH #22. Tom King and artist Jason Fabok are doing the Batman installments; Joshua Williamson and Howard Porter are writing and drawing the Flash chapters, with both teams getting a plot assist from Geoff Johns.

As the story takes us from Saturn Girl's realization of a violent outcome as she and fellow inmates watch a hockey game in Arkham Asylum to the Batcave, where Batman and his central monitor are surrounded by multiple screens of the Comedian's blood-stained smiley-face pin that Batman previously found embedded in the Batcave, the pages ominously snap into the nine-grid format Dave Gibbons employed in WATCHMEN.

And when the button gets too close to Psycho-Pirate's mask, the supernatural reaction leads Batman to call a fellow super-detective: Barry Allen. Deep in the middle of some deliciously kooky Flash business, Wally says he'll be at the Batcave in a minute...and it's a minute Batman might not have.

A devil's advocate might say that we're seeing yet again the same thing we've gotten in not one but several of Batman's King-scripted battles with Bane, which is Batman using his brains and brawn to take a beating just long enough to get the job done. My answer would be, "How else is a guy whose powers are cash and exercise going to handle threats with super abilities? By taking the beatings for as long as he can take them. Because he can!"

The grid format really lets Fabok do some inventive storytelling that gives the action both momentum and dread. Fabok also inks himself here, making stellar use of shadows and silhouettes that are made even more striking by their synergy with the brilliant blasts of Brad Anderson's colors. (And even if the issue had been awful, the variant cover by Tim Sale and Brennan Wagner would have been, yet again, worth the price of admission by itself.)

I'm not a fan of crossovers, but this first issue ends on a note that can't be denied. I'll be checking out THE FLASH #21 next week to see where this issue's bloody, bonkers cliffhanger takes us. I think you will, too. - John Bierly

GRADE: A

John Bierly still can't believe he
gets to write for BOF.
Check out JOHNBIERLY.COM to read about the other things he writes about.


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