Over the years, we have seen countless iterations of Batman. Through various comic books, films, TV shows and video games, the Caped Crusader has undergone immense transformations to suit the medium or time period in which he headlines. From an advice-giving, compassionate incorruptible citizen of Gotham in the 1966 TV series to the revenge-ridden monster in last year's Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice; it's safe to say that we've seen it all from the Dark Knight.
Yet, despite all this, DC Comics somehow manage to continually surprise us with their latest series, Dark Nights: Metal. The series explores the dark corners of the DC Multiverse and looks at what happens when seven deadly iterations of Batman turn up on Earth-0 (the Earth in which the main DC comics continuity takes place). However, before that, we are being treated to a series of one-shots, in which each Dark Knight will headline their own comic book, as we get to explore what turned them so, well, dark.
So far we've seen The Batman Who Laughs (a spine-chilling amalgamation of Batman and the Joker), and The Red Death (in which the Caped Crusader goes rogue and steals The Flash's speed). However, prepare yourselves to be introduced to the most terrifying Dark Knight of them all: The Murder Machine.
Meet The Murder Machine
The brand new one-shot, Batman: The Murder Machine, introduces us to the dark world of Earth-44, in which Alfred is brutally killed by Bane. Thus, it's clear to see that, much like The Red Death, the Murder Machine Batman is born out of grief over the loss of a loved one. And this version of Bruce Wayne loved Alfred so much that he had created an Artificial Intelligence copy of his mind before his death. But after seeking Cyborg's help to bring A.I. Alfred to life, things go horribly wrong.
Somehow, the artificial butler replicates itself and takes it upon himself to kill Batman's villains in order to protect Bruce. While Cyborg tries to help Bruce fight it, the Caped Crusader attempts to confront the problem head-on, by "letting Alfred in." But Alfred destroys Bruce and redesigns his consciousness as an emotionless extension of Batman in a cyborg body that the Terminator would be proud of. Thus, the Murder Machine may look like Cyborg, but it's actually a terrifying mash-up of Batman and Alfred.
Cyborg enlists the Justice League to take down the robotic version of his former friend, but the unstoppable A.I. mash-up defeats every single one of them in battle. And this puts Murder Machine Batman at the top of the list of evil Batmen, simply because he didn't just overcome one of his fellow #superheroes, or take down one of his revered villains; he managed to take down the entire Justice League. Not even the formidable team of Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern and Cyborg were able to stop this monstrosity.
Breaking That One Rule
If you weren't convinced that Murder Machine Batman was the deadliest of them all, this might help you see things clearer. Throughout the vast majority of his entire comic book legacy, the Dark Knight has walked that morally ambiguous line between good and evil, but it's a line that he has refused to cross. As Christian Bale's iteration of Batman told the Joker in the 2008 masterpiece #TheDarkKnight, he has "one rule" — he doesn't kill.
While incredibly early and fairly recent interpretations have seen Batman cross the line with criminals, it seems unfathomable to even think about him taking the life of a fellow superhero. But that's exactly what happens when the Murder Machine slays his own co-creator, Cyborg, in brutal fashion.
The sheer brutality of Cyborg's death highlights just how far from grace this version of Batman has fallen. Driven by loss, he resurrected his mentor and father-figure in A.I. form. But he was unable to stop Alfred from overtaking him, corrupting his morals and crossing that line. And now the heroes of Earth-0 are in deep trouble, because this emotionless, cold-blooded mash-up is intent on killing any "weaknesses" that stand in their way.
Having now seen three of the seven deadly Batmen up close and personal, it's clear that DC have no issue in coming up creative ways to corrupt their most incorruptible character. And it's definitely paying off. In fact, Batman: The Murder Machine is so popular that it has already sold out from Diamond Comic Distributors and DC have already had to send it for a second printing.
Thus, it's clear that fans are loving these completely off-the-wall versions of the World's Greatest Detective. And it's clear to see why DC chose to explore the darker versions of Batman. Given that the already dark character is overwhelmingly popular, it's understandable that fans would be drawn to even creepier iterations, just to see what a corrupted Batman looks like.
Now that Murder Machine Batman has destroyed Earth-44's Justice League, it's easy to see why we're concerned about Earth-0 Justice League's chances. However, we must remember that Earth-0 has one thing that Earth-44 doesn't have anymore: the real Batman. And as we've seen so many times before, Batman knows the weaknesses of each and every member of the Justice League. So Batborg may be in deep trouble when he comes face to face with the real Caped Crusader.