Batman: The Murder Machine #1
Writers: Frank Tieri and James Tynion IV
Artist: Ricardo Federici
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Cover Artists: Jay Fabok with Brad Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics
A review by Stacy Dooks
One of the interesting notions to come out of Dark Nights Metal has been the opportunity to explore the character of Batman, specifically in his role on the Justice League as the “ultimate human.” The term was coined by Grant Morrison in an interview done for a Wizard special detailing the then-recent hit title JLA back in the ’90s. Batman is a member of an elite cadre of heroes whose ranks include demigods, aliens, magic-users, and more, yet he himself is “merely” the pinnacle of human ability. The conceit of the various Dark Nights specials (each chronicling a different Evil Batman from the Dark Multiverse) allows us to explore various roads that were not (or should never be) taken, worlds where Batman attained power, but at a horrible price. So it is with Batman: The Murder Machine.
On the parallel world designated Earth -44, Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred is brutally murdered by a cadre of Batman’s Rogues Gallery in the batcave. Unwilling to let go of the closest thing he’s ever had to a father, Bruce enlists the help of Victor Stone, aka Cyborg to enable the Alfred Protocol, bringing online an artificial intelligence whose memory and personality have been modeled after Alfred’s own. Needless to say, this goes wrong in the most horrifying ways imaginable, and the Cyborg of Earth-0, the central world of the DC Multiverse we all know and love, is trapped alone on the Justice League satellite. Although he is with a being that might have once been a friend and ally, he is now an entity that is completely devoid of anything resembling empathy or humanity. The Dark Knight of Earth -44 is no more. Now there is only Batman: The Murder Machine.
Now that we’ve had two Dark Nights one-shots detailing the evil Batmen, I’m beginning to see an interesting pattern emerge with the release of Batman: The Murder Machine. It’s been clear from the ending of DC Dark Nights Metal #2 that each Batman summoned by Barbatos through his primary agent The Batman Who Laughs was meant to parallel a member of the contemporary Justice League. However, what’s interesting about their stories is the way each comments on the hero this Batman has become a dark inversion of. Where Batman: The Red Death highlighted Barry’s optimism and compassion, Batman: The Murder Machine brings Cyborg’s inherent humanity and warmth to the forefront. The story by Tieri and Tynion again has that nice balance of heroism and horror, kind of like Silver Age Justice League of America stories by way of Tales from the Crypt. The art by Ricardo Federici is epic and disturbing all at the same time. And, the colors by Rain Beredo and the lettering by Tom Napolitano deserve special praise for highlighting the inherent differences between the warm life of Victor and his father and the cold, calculating implacability of the Murder Machine and it’s own warped father/son dynamic.
Buy It! If you’ve been enjoying the recent DC Dark Nights Metal series and it’s various crossovers and want to know more about the villains, these one-shots have proven to be great. Likewise, if you just want twisted Elseworlds tales of heroes gone wrong, there is plenty of fun to be had in that vein as well. Batman: The Murder Machine is a delectably creepy tale. Recommended.