Batman: The Murder Machine #1 Review
By John Saavedra
Batman: The Murder Machine #1 is a cruel book, perhaps the darkest issue of the Dark Night: Metal event so far, as the evil Batmen that came over from the Dark Multiverse take the fight to Cyborg. The issue tells the origin story of yet another nightmare Batman, this time one that’s more machine than man. It’s another tragic take on a Batman broken by the loss of a loved one, but where The Red Death showed a slightly sympathetic evil Dark Knight, The Murder Machine is disturbing and never really lets up on the brutality.
The story opens in the Justice League Watchtower, floating above Earth, as Cyborg monitors the devastation below. He’s outnumbered and outgunned by Barbatos’ forces, with no others Leaguers to call upon since they’ve all been incapacitated by the villains. Instead, the hero has to depend on his father, who has decided to stay at S.T.A.R. Labs in Detroit in order to figure out how to stop the monstrosities from taking over the planet.
Writers Frank Tieri and James Tynion IV tell a tragic story about fatherhood, another gripping look at a Batman in despair and desperate to bring back those he loves. While The Red Death saw Batman fuse with the Flash (both from another Earth) in order to gain his time traveling abilities and save his family from death, The Murder Machine is all about how far Bruce would go to get Alfred back.
On Earth-44, Batman needs Cyborg to help him finish the Alfred Protocol, a program meant to preserve Alfred’s brain through artificial intelligence. The result of the experiment is much more horrifying than a hologram of the butler, though. I won’t spoil what exactly happens to the Earth-44 Alfred AI, but it’s an interesting sci-fi concept that I would love for someone to explore down the line.
An interesting thing about these “Dark Knights” one-shots is the way they’re teasing a whole new multiverse of stories. The origin stories of both The Red Death and The Murder Machine have been told quickly and efficiently, but you get a sense of lives lived with each story. DC could easily spin off adventures starring both of the Batmen in these books, showing them before the haunting transformations that would bring them under the employ of Barbatos. Perhaps the upcoming Dark Matter line will take an interest in some of these Batmen and explore their backstories a little bit more thoroughly? As companion pieces, both books have been successful, though.
A big highlight of the issue is Riccardo Federici’s art. He brings a beautiful realism to the book that makes the story’s subject matter all the more poignant. You feel every punch with Federici’s drawings, every drop of blood. Federici really enjoys drawing close ups of Earth-44 Batman’s face, showing the crease in the metal where a mouth would be and the angry red eyes, adding a distinct horror element to the book. Besides Capullo’s excellent work, Federici’s art is the best we’ve seen in Dark Nights: Metal so far.
Batman: The Murder Machine #1
Writer: Frank Tieri & James Tynion IV
Artist: Riccardo Federici
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Cover: Jason Fabok with Brad Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics