SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for "The Flash" #21, on sale now.
DC Comics’ current "Batman"/"The Flash" crossover "The Button" has fans on the edge of their seats, eagerly looking for answers as to where the DC Universe is going and what the future holds for the arrival of the Watchmen characters. Now two issues in, the mini-crossover event has proved to be a big, deep dive into the DCU’s past. So far, it’s more of a sequel to "Flashpoint" than anything else, as little hints and nods to a larger past than the heroes are aware of have become more and more apparent.
In this week’s "The Flash" #21 (by Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter, Hi-Fi and Steve Wands), Barry Allen takes a trip to the Justice League’s "Hall of Lost And Found" to retrieve a classic DC Comics device that hasn’t been seen in some time. During the issue's brief visit, readers get a glimpse at dozens of past adventures and hints at characters and artifacts we haven’t seen in a long time, that may provide clues to the DC Universe’s future.
The most exciting items might look a bit unfamiliar unless you’re die-hard devotees of Grant Morrison and Porter’s run on "JLA" and the stories that spun out of it. The glowing item right at the very front is the android Hourman’s Worlogog, an incredibly powerful time travel device that was gifted to him by Metron of the New Gods. The ship in the back also belongs to Hourman, and was last seen way back when Geoff Johns was writing "JSA." Perhaps the saddest item on display is in the lower right corner, as Booster Gold’s robotic body Skeets has apparently been been deactivated and left to gather dust.
Hourman was a big deal to DC’s overall timeline in the late-90s and early-00s, back when the DC Universe was operating under Hypertime rules, and Booster Gold hasn’t been seen since "Convergence." It wouldn’t be too surprising to see either of those characters make a grand reappearance somewhere down the line as the mystery behind the DC Universe’s missing ten years ramps up, especially considering in a later page Barry zips past the costume of the original Hourman, Rex Tyler.
The rest of the panel is packed full of secrets and Easter eggs, as Porter manages to fit more into half a page than some could with a double-page spread. The most prominent item is Blue Beetle’s flying ship, The Bug, which is interesting considering the current "Blue Beetle" title recently re-established the legacy aspect of that line, confirming that Ted Kord was Blue Beetle at some point before Jaime Reyes acquired the Scarab. Blue Beetle also has links to "Watchmen," as the character of Nite Owl was based on the original Charlton Comics iteration of Blue Beetle. Like his inspiration, Nite Owl had a flying owl-inspired ship named Archimedes, or Archie for short. The mystery of what the "Watchmen" characters' involvement in the DC Universe will be remains a massive mystery, but the temptation to have them meet their inspirations must be a strong one for the creators at DC.
Could we see a resurgence of the Charlton characters with the "Watchmen" story on the horizon? Captain Atom has his own miniseries at the moment that could lead into future storylines depending on how it wraps up, and The Question is a character who is in tremendous need of a DC Rebirth back-to-basics approach after the quasi-mystical reinvention of The New 52 and The Trinity of Sin.
It’s also interesting that there appears to be a Helm of Fate resting barely in the show over what appears to be Big Barda’s Mega Rod, considering that Fate is currently serving as a supporting character in "Blue Beetle" and his DC Rebirth status is kind of up in the air. Just prior to Rebirth, the Doctor Fate identity was taken up by Khalid Nassour, a new character created for the DCYou initiative. In the pages of "Blue Beetle," however, Fate seems more akin to his classic Kent Nelson incarnation. With one of the big mysteries surrounding Rebirth focusing on what happened to the Justice Society of America, the multiple Doctor Fates floating around the DC Universe may be something that finds itself addressed sooner than later.
Elsewhere in the panel, a keen eye will spy Martian Manhunter’s original Silver Age costume, a Phantom Zone projector, the Hero Dial of "Dial H for Hero" fame, an amethyst which no doubt has links to the fantasy hero Amethyst, Hero of Gemworld, and what looks to be Wonder Woman’s shield from Phil Jimenez’s tenure on the character. Closer to the doorway, there’re a couple of costumes on display including what looks to be Sargon The Sorcerer’s trademark outfit, and a cloak and flaming sword that may possibly belong to Azrael.
There’s so much to find in this one panel, you could get lost in it all day. Do the prominently featured book and the wand have anything to do with Tim Hunter and The Books of Magic? Is that the Tangent Universe Green Lantern’s Green Lantern behind the shield? If so, is that really Tangent Universe Superman’s staff next to it? What does that mean for the multiverse and the Justice League’s understanding of it? And why in the world does the Justice League have an unexploded H-Bomb in its Hall of Lost and Found?
Did you spot anything we couldn’t see? Anything that might hold clues for the future of the DC Universe and the ongoing mystery of DC Rebirth as a whole? There’s so much to unpack, that some things are going to slip through the cracks, but it’s obvious that the creators at DC are having a ton of fun toying with us on the road to discover those answers.
"The Flash" #21 by Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter, Hi-Fi and Steve Wands is on sale now, digitally and at your local comic store.