While “Batman” #22 serves as the penultimate chapter of the Watchmen-fueled storyline “The Button,” Joshua Williamson and Tom King’s story focuses more The Batman, or more specifically, the Batmen. Readers of the previous chapter (presented in “Flash” #21) discovered that both Batman and Flash found themselves back in the Batcave at issue’s end – that is, the Batcave from the reality of “Flashpoint,” where the man underneath the cowl is not Bruce Wayne, but his father, Thomas. Drawn by Jason Fabok, Williamson and King’s story sets up a unique confrontation between father and son, both of whom each still grieve for the other, with the circumstance carrying the potential to give Bruce closure that’s long been denied him. As executed by the entire creative team, the issue is an emotionally powerful reunion spanning alternate histories, serving as a moving and long-delayed epilog to the origin of both Batmen.
It would have been all too easy for Williamson and King to go the sappy route, with a tearful, touchy-feely reunion capped off with an overly sentimental sendoff. Instead, though, Williamson’s script keeps in mind that both father and son are Batman, after all, so their encounter carries that Bat-swagger without compromising the significance of this special moment. Despite being father and son, the two are nonetheless strangers, separated by both an emotional and multiversal divide that can’t be bridged with a man-hug, especially with the short amount of time available to them.
The two bond, in fact, exactly how one would hope two generations of Batmen would: fighting side-by-side with a common goal. It’s a moment beautifully captured twice by Fabok – once when both men simultaneously don their cowls in preparation for battle, and again in a dynamic spread, the breadth of which captures the historical significance and emotional impact of this pivotal event.
Of course, this special moment can’t last forever, and in fact its impact is heightened by its action and brevity. When the time comes for the two to part ways, Bruce’s emotion over losing his father a second time is palpable, while Thomas’ heroic farewell is eloquently paced and structured. The elder Wayne’s resignation regarding his fate, knowing that his final act was saving his own son, is poignantly delivered and evocative of a classic moment harkening back to “Crisis on Infinite Earths'” often tearful goodbyes as antimatter waves destroyed entire planets and their residents. Bruce, still with a mission to accomplish, doesn’t wallow in losing his father a second time – his loss is conveyed through his discourse with Barry and makes for a skillfully composed climax that conveys his distress without slowing down the story.
If there’s any fault with the script, its something Williamson gets out of the way early on; a contrived rewriting of the fate of the “Flashpoint” reality (extending years it beyond the event’s final pages) makes for an all-too convenient setup to lead off the issue. Thankfully, it’s only a one-page intro that establishes the setting for the remainder of the issue, but it’s one that could have been altered through other storytelling methods. Near the end of the issue, the story somewhat abruptly shifts to a brief epilog, but it’s one that pulls the story back to its original focus in advance of the upcoming final installment.
Overall, though, “Batman” #22 is another superbly constructed chapter of “The Button,” as well as another excellent issue that stands up strong alongside the rest of King’s run on the title.