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BATMAN #21 & FLASH #21

For the month of May I've decided to do something a little different with my comic book reviews. Or, to be more specific about it, the way in which I review the Flash and Batman titles! Well, as the two of them are both crossing over, I might as well do exactly the same thing when reviewing them! So, without any further ado, let's sit back, relax, and see what Tom King, Jason Fabok, Joshua Williamson, and Howard Porter can do with this very different kind of dynamic-duo. It's May, 2017, and it's time for a team-up in review.

TO QUOTE Doc Brown from "Back to the Future": 'If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you're gonna see some serious shit'.

Many years ago Alfred Hitchcock was awarded the title, 'Master of Suspense', largely due to the stylistic way he crafted each of his films. Essentially he would structure and pace each film so the overreaching narrative would gradually creep up upon the audience, one story beat at a time, until eventually a crescendo would occur -- an explosion -- resulting in an act of skulduggery that would sometimes come across as being shocking, alarming, yet at the same time rewarding because of the incremental nature of its build-up. And to me, that's the only real way I can explain to you how I felt about part one of The Button. It's an Alfred Hitchcock film disguised as a comic book.

Otherwise known as issue 21 of Batman, overall this story generally acts as an introduction to what is yet to come. Within the first few pages we are presented with a scene set in Arkham Asylum, where we see a group of inmates casually watching a football match on the TV. Suddenly, one of them (namely Saturn Girl from the Legion of Superheroes), notices something wrong with the match, presumably because she's seen it already -- in the future -- where one of these football players' attempts to kill another out of anger.

But wait up; before the plot evolves any further, we quickly cut to the next scene, set in the Batcave, where Batman is standing by his computer -- also watching the same football match -- while investigating the button he discovered at the end of Rebirth. After a while he decides to toss this button right next to another object he has in his possession, the Psycho Pirate's mask, and for some strange reason this causes an electrical disturbance to occur, a flash, a quick flash that briefly manifests the Thomas Wayne version of Batman -- from the Flashpoint universe -- standing right next to his son and calling out his name. 

Shocked by this event, alarmed even, Batman then takes it upon himself to call the Flash up on the phone and asks him for some help, namely, when he'll be able to come over so they can investigate this strange phenomenon. But unfortunately the Flash is currently preoccupied with another case -- something to do with an army of Samurai Warriors -- so he says to him, 'give me one minute to resolve things here and I'll be right over', which he does, and this results in the both of them ending their conversation, click! But alas, one minute may be too long for Batman to wait! Especially since another throwback from the Flashpoint universe suddenly turns up! A throwback, I might add, that goes by the name of the Reverse Flash, AKA Eobard Thawne, who quickly attacks Batman before he knows what's going on.

Don't worry though. Despite the Reverse Flash initially having the upper hand, smack-smack-smack, Batman cleverly manages to slow him down, so to speak, doing so by using his mind and sometimes a very sharp batarang, ouch! But that said, the Reverse Flash eventually manages to overpower him, which, in a roundabout way, leads me nicely onto part two of The Button.

Now this takes place in issue 21 of The Flash, where we get to see how the final few pages of the previous chapter ultimately played out -- with the Reverse Flash laying dead on the floor after taking a quick trip into the time stream. You see, after beating Batman, he picked up the button and it magically warped him in and then out of reality. But upon his return, shock-horror, he turns up dead, really dead, even though he's able to scream something out about seeing the Face of God prior to his passing. A few moments after this happens the Flash turns up and he -- yep, you guessed it -- tries to investigate the crime scene while Batman tries to recuperate.

Sometime later the Flash goes to Batman and tells him what he's discovered. He doesn't tell him everything, of course, and Batman picks up on this, rather quickly, which is why in the next scene, set in the Justice League Watchtower, we see Batman sneaking up on his fast friend as the two of them then decide to take a trip on the cosmic treadmill. And why would they want to do such a thing? Why to travel through time and see what the heck is going on!

Now I think it best that I stop myself there or otherwise I may spoil how this issue ends. That said, however, what I can say is that all in all these two issues were great to follow because they both had a real suspenseful and exciting edge! What excited me the most was the way in which the story kind of insinuated that it's somehow connected to the 1985 multi-part classic, 'Crisis on Infinite Earths'. For instance: Johnny Thunder's implication that he might have something to do with the disappearance of The Justice Society, inadvertently implies that his 'alleged betrayal' might be connected to their disappearance after the Crisis, in theme if nothing else (as seen in the pages of 'America Vs the Justice Society of America' and 'Last Days Of The Justice Society Of America'). Then there was that one scene where our heroes saw a reflection of themselves during the Crisis, specifically, from issue 2, when the Flash dissolves into the time-stream while warning his friend of the impending doom. Plus, let us not forget about those little Easter eggs peppered about all over the place, like the two notable cameos, the connection between the Psycho Pirate and the main villain behind the Crisis (the Anti-Monitor), those references to Flashpoint, as well as that scene set in the Watchtower showcasing a number of 'lost artifacts' found by the League (Blue Devil's Trident, Sargon's cape, Timothy Hunter's magical paraphernalia, Chronos' time thingy, plus I think that's Starman's rod).

Something else about these issues I really enjoyed had to do with the artwork provided by both artists on both titles. As per usual Jason Fabok's glorious illustrations were bold, cinematic, well paced, plus I especially liked the way he laid out and choreographed those fighting sequences between Batman and the Reverse Flash. Not only did his wider paced visuals have a very lavish quality to them, but in addition to this, his tighter paced visuals were very suspenseful by design, and sometimes they kind of reminded me of the shower scene from the Alfred Hitchcock film, Psycho.

Along similar lines I have to also applaud Howard Porter's work in Flash #21. Even though some of his layouts did seem a little bit inconsistent in places, on the whole I loved the way his style complemented Jason's style in both pace, tone, and vibe. Honestly, I can't wait to see what these two creative teams have in store for us next time round.

Come on, let's push that Button and see what's going on.

One of the things I failed to mention in my review is what I thought about those two cameos highlighted at the start of each episode. Well, worry not, my friends, because now, in this very section, I will not only tell you what I thought about them in musical form, but I will also tell you who they are within the lyrics of the following song sung by Amii Stewart: 'Knock On Wood'.

Dynamic, isn't it? Just like these issues.

I think that I've answered this question already. So once again, I'd like to compare issue 20 of Batman to an Alfred Hitchcock film, like Psycho, albeit with some more colorful characters.

At the very end of issue 21 of the Flash both Bruce and Barry travel through time and come face to face with another interesting character. So, for the sake of time-travel, can you guess who they meet out of the following eight options? Could it be...

  • Kim Kardashian: So they can use her butt to plug the whole in time.
  • Jay Garrick: So they can finally start reforming the Justice Society.
  • Albert Einstein: So they can cleverly figure out whose better at all that forensic stuff.
  • Nora Allen: So she can see how much her son has grown.
  • Steven Spielberg: So he can make a film about the Flash. After all, he is a big fan!
  • Thomas Wayne: So he can not die in front of his son.
  • Elvis Presley: So he can sing to them something like, 'Love Me Tender'. 
  • Me: So I can apologize for my review.
Nuff said.

BATMAN #21 & FLASH #21 BATMAN #21 & FLASH #21 Reviewed by David Andrews on May 16, 2017 Rating: 5

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