SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Batman: The Murder Machine #1 by Frank Tieri, James Tynion IV and Riccardo Federici, on sale now.
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.