This review will contain SPOILERS! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ BATMAN #21!
So here we are! The tease that started Rebirth is now kicking into high gear and it starts right here in this issue. This is what DC has been hinting at for almost a year now. The Watchmen! Dr. Manhattan! The smiley face button with a smear of blood on it!
This doesn’t feel like a comic. This feels like the first stone being slammed into place that is going to build the foundation that DC will be building from for years. This is a statement to the industry that everything you have loved about DC over the years is about to coalesce into one giant storyline that is going to reshape the characters and company. This was the first shot fired in what feels like a mega summer event that the fans weren’t prepared for. Finally! Things in the DCU are about to get interesting.
The story starts with a group of mental patients watching game seven of the hockey finals; a match between the Gotham Blades and the Metropolis Mammoths. One of the patients begins freaking out, shouting about the impending death of a player; who is subsequently beaten to death by another player on the ice. It’s this vision of future events that has this woman screaming about the death of Superman and the death of the Legion. Does she mean the Legion of Superheroes? Is this blonde woman Saturn Girl? These are all questions that remain unanswered for now.
Cut to Batman in the cave watching the beating happen. He is busy inspecting the classic smiley face button that was worn by Rorschach in Alan Moore’s hailed Watchmen. Bruce gives up trying to crack the mystery of the button and sets it aside; right next to the mask of the Psycho-Pirate. (Fans will remember that Psycho-Pirate has a long history of involvement in reboots for DC that date back to Crisis on Infinite Earths)
What happens next is filled with spoilers, so this is your last warning.
The mask of the Psycho-Pirate and the button spark a rip in the fabric of the speed force, and Batman looks on as his alternate Earth father steps into being for just a brief moment. Before Bruce can gather his wits about him he is attacked by the unlikeliest of foes. Reverse Flash.
The rest of this issue is too good to just ruin in this review. The action and the pacing are impeccable. Batman calls Flash for help and we get a sixty-second countdown that plays out over the remainder of the issue. The fight between Batman and Reverse Flash is the stuff of fanboy dreams. It’s quick, it’s brutal, it plays up the right dramatic tones.
The real gut punch for Bruce doesn’t come in the form of any physical blow landed by Reverse Flash. It’s the act of tearing up his father’s note that Bruce received at the end of the Flashpoint story-arc. This sole reminder and keepsake is the only thing that Bruce truly valued in this world and he has that memento shredded in front of his face.
The final page of the issue raises a boatload of questions that are going to take all summer to unwind. How badly is Batman beaten? When the Reverse Flash disappeared and reappeared in our reality at the end of the issue he deteriorates to dust in front of the reader; mumbling that he has seen God. Is he referring to Dr. Manhattan? Is he referring to someone else? How does the Legion of Superheroes fit into all of this? So many questions!
Tom King stepped up to the plate with this issue and smashed a home run. This is a brilliant way to start a new epic arc. This has something for everyone; new and old fans alike. I have no idea where the story is headed but I am going along for the ride.
Fabok is an artist that I had always hoped would be tapped for a project like this. His artwork is a masterful combination between Jim Lee and David Finch. The page layouts were perfect, often opting to break the page down into 9 panels, just like Watchmen’s Dave Gibbons. The visuals are mesmerizing. Perfect!
This book is an homage to the history that has come before, yet willing to strike out into an exciting new direction. I don’t know what any other company has in store for this summer, but right now it looks like DC will be running the show. Kudos to the creative team for an excellent read!
Final Score: 5 out of 5 Stars
Story: Tom King
Art: Jason Fabok
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics