Following last week’s Flash-centric Batman: The Red Death #1, the second of DC Comics’ Dark Nights: Metal tie-ins spotlighting on the next of the Dark Multiverse’s nightmarish Batmen ties this incarnation of The Dark Knight to this dimension’s version of Victor Stone, aka Cyborg. Frank Tieri, James Tynion IV and Riccardo Federici’s Batman: The Murder Machine #1, though, takes a different approach to the two characters than what fans might be expecting, and also prominently figures in another player from the Bat-family.
While what drives Batman to become, well, a murder machine plays on a familiar theme, and Cyborg’s imprint on the character remains important, Tieri and Tynion are careful to remember that the worlds within the Dark Multiverse have as many dissimilarities to the main Multiverse as they do similarities, and begin to explore them here.
The Murder Machine is Actually Batman and …
In a flashback taking place on the Dark Multiverse’s Earth -44, Alfred is brutally beaten and slain by Bane and other members of Batman’s rogues’ gallery. The Batman of this world appears to have had an even closer bond to Alfred than most established incarnations, one that had led him to create an A.I. copy of Alfred’s mind well before his death, and Bruce seeks Victor’s help to bring Alfred’s cyber-presence to life. Once done, the so-called Alfred Protocol repeatedly replicates itself and unexpectedly takes on a self-created mission to destroy all of Batman’s enemies, in a clinically fatal interpretation of Alfred’s concern for Bruce and his yearning to protect him.
In an effort to stop A.I. Alfred’s murderous rampage, Bruce allows the intelligence to confront him, intending to shut the Alfred Protocol down one and for all. Instead, artificial Alfred catches Bruce off-guard and destroys his form – off panel – and incorporates its own presence and rebuilds Bruce as an emotionless, cybernetic construct of Batman, now dubbed by the Cyborg of that world as a murder machine. When Cyborg assembles the Justice League to battle the deadly Batman/A.I. Alfred construct, the League is defeated, and possibly killed, while Cyborg is graphically murdered by the very machine he himself helped create.
Welcome, My Son – Welcome to the Machine
The Murder Machine, therefore, isn’t exactly a mashup of Batman and Cyborg – instead, it’s more of an amalgamation of Bruce and Alfred, oddly enough, but with Cyborg playing an indirect role in its creation, although he’s later removed from the picture entirely. Upon their initial unveiling, many had presumed the Dark Knights each to be some kind of alternate combination of Batman and another prominent DC hero or villain. This notion was seemingly confirmed in Batman: The Red Death #1, where the Speed Force merged Batman and The Flash into the singular entity indeed known as The Red Death. This issue puts forth the possibility that the remaining five Dark Knights are also entities more unique than a simple assimilation of two different characters.
In fact, the fusion of these two particular mindsets resulting in such a murderous creation is arguably a more compelling idea that the simple joining of two superheroes, and plays into the emerging nature of the Dark Multiverse. Earth -44’s Bruce Wayne is one who’s suffered the violent deaths of two fathers, one conceivably due to his existence as Batman, while the Alfred of this world is shown the he might have willingly crossed moral lines to protect Bruce from harm. The broken, distorted histories of the two characters resulting in such a grim outcome highlights the level of corruptness in the Dark Multiverse, if one of the greatest heroes in the “Light” Multiverse and his unwavering, emotional co-pilot can be turned into an entity capable of such evil.
Another Potential Threat to the Dark Knights
The above origin and background of the Murder Machine is laid out throughout the course of the issue, interspersed with present day events of the Dark Multiverse’s incursion into the Earth-0. As Cyborg mans the JLA Watchtower communicating with his father at S.T.A.R. Labs, M.M. Batman of Earth -44 transmits itself into the Watchtower and attacks Cyborg, revealing not only his origin but that his replicated constructs have invaded the world below. M.M. Batman incapacitates Cyborg, in time for the remainder of the Dark Knights to arrive on the satellite, which has now been transformed into an almost alien-like spacecraft bearing a sinister resemblance to Batman’s visage, with a large, corrupted version of the Bat-signal shining on the surface of the planet below, signifying the Dark Knights’ arrival in the Multiverse.
The Batman Who Laughs makes mention of the metal in Cyborg’s body as a potential weapon against the Dark Knights. In the process, he elevates Cyborg’s potential importance to the overall events of Dark Nights: Metal. Other metallic elements and artifacts within the DC Universe have been shown to have pending, if yet unknown, significance to the upcoming revelations of the series, so The Batman Who Laugh’s reference serves as a logical continuation of those past revelations. Victor’s father, who played a large role in Cyborg’s creation – just as Alfred did in the creation of M.M. Batman, ironically – stands to figure in more prominently in the future, as well.
The next installment of the origin of the Dark Knights, Batman: The Dawnbreaker #1, teases the story of what the Dark Multiverse has coughed up for an integration between Batman and Green Lantern. The one-shot issue arrives in comic stores and digitally October 4.
(Courtesy of CBR.com)