Batman: The Murder Machine #1
Writer: Frank Tierei and James Tynion IV.
Artist: Riccardo Federici
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Cover: Jay Fabok with Brad Anderson
Associate Editor: Jessica Chew
Editor: Eddie Beganza
The Dark Knights have arrived, a team of twisted Bruce Waynes from atop Challengers Mountain. As chaos just starts to begin, we get a spotlight to see what went wrong.
Amongst the madness in Gotham, Cyborg checks in with his dad at Star Labs in Detroit, who ignores another warning alarm as he tells his son to worry about himself. Luckily for Vic, he’s in space. Managing the Watchtower as one of his main duties on the league has led him to do, he lets his dad go as Batman requests a beam up. As the silhouette of Batman materializes in the hall, Vic is met with a brutal shot to the chest from The Murder Machine, a mechanized cyborgic Batman of his own. And unfortunately, he’s there to help. Cutting to the past of Earth -44, we see a brutal scene of Alfred’s last moments; having his back broken by Bane, beaten to death by a bevy of Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Killer Croc, and whoever else wanted to take out their frustration on Batman’s first ally. We see that this is a video recording, as Bruce watches it for the umpteenth time as the rest of the league tells him to come back to the wake; they’re there for him. As Vic is the last one to leave the room, Bruce asks him to help bring an AI version of Alfred’s brainwaves and personality back to life; The Alfred Protocol. Back on Earth 0, Cyborg and The Machine duel as a pair of fathers and sons; Vic’s call to his father still online as Bruce talks about the pain of losing his own, explaining who he really is. As a psychotic hologram of Alfred appears to offer help, The Machine explains that he bonded with the AI of his former butler to never be parted again. We see the origins of this killer Alfred back in The Machine’s past as a bevy of holograms surround a terrified Bane, pleading to lead the country before being beaten to death. Cyborg begs Batman to deactivate the protocols, as we learn that the butler had murdered every single inmate in Arkham Asylum overnight. As a hoard of butler holograms surround the cave, Bruce swears that he can make this twisted version of Alfred see the light. We see how this went back on Earth 0, and The Murder Machine proceeds to escalate the fight with Cyborg further and further. Despite putting up his best, Vic falls as the rest of the Dark Knights arrive. The Batman Who Laughs gloats as another hero falls, and Cyborg’s call with his dad is terminated as Victor is quickly torn limb from limb. As we cut to the Watchtower orbiting the earth, the familiar shape is replaced with a sinister, terrifying bat.
Reed Strong’s Strong Reed:
This event is insane, and one of the craziest combinations of things to happen in an event comic in a long time. Specifically, there are a few more similarities to Forever Evil that have been following this story since it started; a series of twisted versions of heroes taking over one by one, and now Cyborg getting mutilated by a dark version of himself. It’s all done in a surprisingly brutal manner; all the events of this book really strike a horrific tone that hasn’t been seen in the story so far, even in the Teen Titans tie-in. Seeing Alfred being broken over Bane’s bat is disturbing, seeing Bane plead his life to a series of oncoming butler-grams asking, “How may I help you?” is legitimately spine-tingling, and the image of a decapitated Cyborg in the flashback to Earth -44 is a simply spooky combination of perfectly drawn and written moments that make up an unexpected scare of a good time. In hindsight, a Batman known as The Murder Machine would probably have a pretty horrifying past, and he certainly does here. We get another glimpse of a history that easily could have been if things went wrong, and I really can’t wait for what terrors the rest of the Dark Knights have to bring.
Favorite Line, “You can let go of Alfred and be yourself again. And don’t have to let yourself become some kind of horrible Murder Machine!”