Flashpoint Beyond has not just been a return to the Flashpoint Universe, but an expansion of it. Regular continuity characters like Jason Woodrue have joined the formerly-dead world, and plotlines that had been extinguished, such as the war between Atlantis and Themyscira, have been reignited. But perhaps the most intriguing, or at least the most mysterious addition to the Flashpoint Universe is the Clockwork Killer, an enigmatic villain whose true identity has been concealed.
Flashpoint Beyond #4 is drawn by Xermánico and Mikel Janin, written by Geoff Johns, Tim Sheridan, and Jeremy Adams, colored by Romulo Fajardo Jr. and Jordie Bellaire, and lettered by Rob Leigh. The issue came out on August 2, and it sees Thomas Wayne's Batman investigating the latest victim of the Clockwork Killer (we'll tell you who in just a sec). By the end, he discovers who the killer is, and it's someone we've met before.
If it's not already obvious...
Spoilers ahead for August 2's Flashpoint Beyond #4
Up until now, we've known two things about the Clockwork Killer: First, that they leave clock parts inside their victims. Second, that they have something to do with the return of the Flashpoint Universe. That latter fact is what has kept Thomas obsessed with the case and made it more important to him than any other issue on his world (like, say, the incoming Kryptonian invasion). The former might be his only clue, but it's something he's yet to understand at all…
Issue #4 begins with Thomas removing clock parts from the killer's latest victim, Eobard Thawne. Yes, you read that right - Reverse Flash has been temporarily resurrected, only to be put down by our mysterious serial killer. As Thomas ponders over Thawne's reappearance in this reality, it occurs to him that maybe the cogs and gears Clockwork is leaving aren't a signature at all, but part of a puzzle. And perhaps the key to unmasking the killer is solving it.
Meanwhile, another issue that Thomas has chosen to ignore has reached its breaking point. Dexter Dent, son of the recently murdered Harvey and institutionalized Gilda, has decided that he's not happy with staying in Wayne Manor (see issue #1). Using the gear and training he picked up from Thomas when he semi-adopted him, Dexter becomes the Flashpoint version of Robin. His first mission: to break his mother out of Arkham Asylum.
Down in the Batcave, Thomas's puzzle is beginning to come together. He was right; the parts are all from the same clock. There's only one problem - the final piece of the clock is missing. Or is it? In a moment of terrifying realization, Thomas discovers that he knows exactly where the final piece of the clock is. It's upstairs in Wayne Manor.
Over at Arkham Asylum, the Pre-Teen of Terror, Dexter, has snuck by security and capacitated the guards (is it any wonder criminals are breaking out of there all the time?). Using one of their keycards, Dexter gains access to Gilda's room. He wraps his arms around his mother, but the moment is anything from sweet. Half of Gilda's face is gone, leading us to believe she's the "Two-Face" of Flashpoint. But even worse, Gilda and Dexter are not alone. There's a voice coming from behind the wall. Just as, across town, Thomas understands what the clock parts mean, the wall in Arkham opens to reveal…
The Joker, AKA Martha Wayne.
Readers familiar with the Flashpoint universe recall that Martha's Joker was introduced in the alternate-world story Batman: Knight of Vengeance. In this grim tale, it's revealed that Martha Wayne went mad after her son Bruce died. Carving a smile onto her face (a la Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight), Martha became a child murderer called the Joker and plagued her ex-husband for years.
At the end of that story, Thomas tells Martha that in the "real world," it's the two of them that die, and Bruce survives. At first, it looks like Martha's madness has abated, but then Thomas goes on to explain what happened to the "real" Bruce, that he became the Batman. This is too much for Martha, and she commits suicide.
So, what is Martha doing alive and back in the world of Flashpoint? Why has she taken the identity of the Clockwork Killer? And what does she have to do with Flashpoint's resurrection? We don't have all the pieces of the puzzle just yet, but just like the gears inside the Clockwork Killer's victims, we suspect time will tell.
Thomas Wayne's Batman versus Martha Wayne's Joker is a fascinating twist on one of comics' greatest rivalries. But did Knight of Vengeance make it into Newsarama's best Batman and Joker stories? You'll have to read it to find out.