It's here, folks: the first issue of the four-part crossover between Batman and The Flash, in which those series' title characters find themselves squaring off against a mysterious force with ties to the bloodied smiley face button that appeared in the Batcave during DC Universe: Rebirth #1 last May.
...So, yeah. Batman and The Flash versus characters from Watchmen. It's coming.
The introductory chapter didn't answer as many questions as it raised, but one thing audiences did get to see was a wide variety of visual cues and callbacks to the beloved 1980s maxi-series.
We're going to run them down for you -- at least the ones we spotted. If we missed anything, be sure to hit us up @comicbook!
You can get a copy at your local comic shop today or order a digital copy here.
This has been the biggest thing we've seen in the Rebirth era of DC publishing.
Clocks (and allusions to the doomsday clock that was so prevalent in Watchmen) have appeared in a numebr of DC titles in the last year, from Geoff Johns's Justice League to Dan Abnett's Titans to Dan Jurgens's Action Comics and beyond.
Above, we see the Gotham and Metropolis hockey teams about to face off, with a hockey stick in place and aimed at about ten minutes to midnight.
That same angle is mirrored on the final page, where the Reverse-Flash and Batman's bodies are pointed in that direction on a round platform in the backend.
In Arkham Asylum, we get a glimpse of what Imra -- Saturn Girl from the Legion of Super-Heroes -- is currently up to...
...watching the aforementioned hockey game, of course!
(More on that later.)
Behind her, though, there's a poster of a smiley face, evoking the Comedian's button from Watchmen -- which of course is something we'll see a lot today.
"NO ONE WILL SAVE US."
When Saturn Girl starts to panic about the death of a member on the Metropolis hockey team, she panics, saying in part that "no one will save us."
This seems, in the context of this story, likely to be a reference to Watchmen's famous monologue, in which Rorschach creates an elaborate fantasy about refusing to help the corrupt who will beg him for mercy.
The fact that both Rorachach's monologue and the word balloon from Imra happen while the Comedian's button is pictured on the page.
The nine-panel grid that Watchmen famously employed throughout its 12-issue run gets heavy use in Batman #21.
You can read more about our take on the original Watchmen's use of the structure here.
In the case of Batman #21, we what feels like heavier use of larger panels and splash pages than in Watchmen -- but of course that's way more common in modern comics as a whole, and Watchmen combined panels within the grid plenty anyway.
Yeah, we get plenty of the stark black-and-yellow (with blood red) that defines both the promotional materlal for Watchmen (reliant as it was on the smiley button) and the garish palette of Watchmen's pirate comic-within-the-comic, Curse of the Black Freighter.
In this case, we get it not only through use of the smiley button itself, but in the pages that depict the Reverse-Flash's battle with Batman (as seen above).
(Also, yeah, notice the countdown/timer/watch that's running down in those panels?)
Going back to the Watchmen clocks, here's a different timepiece that played a big role in the story.
As Reverse Flash and Batman duke it out across the Batcave, this overhead shot of the battle certainly brings to mind clockwork -- and the spacing and manner of drawing the images feels reminiscent of the broken watch that's falling in Doctor Manhattan's memory as he's building his fortress on Mars -- one that a recent Action Comics issue implied might exist now.
When Eobard Thawne arrives back in the Batcave at the end of the issue, dying, and mutters that he "saw God," that seems pretty clearly to have been an encounter with Doctor Manhattan, the godlike super-being at the center of Watchmen.
Manhattan has been teased as a possible antagonist to the heroes of the DC Universe since DC Universe: Rebirth #1, and this isn't the first time fans have caught a glimpse of his signature blue energy.