WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Old Lady Harley #2 by Frank Tieri and Inaki Miranda, on sale now.
Old Lady Harley has introduced readers to a post-apocalyptic version of the DC Universe that is more defined by its defeated acceptance of a broken future than anything else. That silent sadness permeates the entire world and the various characters Harley meets, from the former villains winding down their lives at the Arkham Home for the Criminally Insane Retirees to the apparent "suicide-by-cop" the Joker eventually pulled against the Justice League.
But one of the characters most changed by this bleak future might hint at an even darker potential for his role in the DC multiverse. The Batman of Old Lady Harley might be the second coming of the Murder Machine, one of the Dark Knights from Dark Nights: Metal.
The Ghost In The Machine
Arriving in Gotham City, Harley is shocked by the current state of Bruce Wayne. She finds him hooked into the Batcomputer deep in the Batcave, his immobile and aged body using machines to tap into an army of drones and androids, which he uses to maintain order.
It's a simultaneously impressive and horrifying sight: an army of robotic Batmen waiting to go into battle with a single thought.
The decision to make such an extreme commitment to cold, logical justice is revealed to come from a place of real, honest heartbreak. Namely, it is a result of the death of Dick Grayson. That loss caused Bruce to work with Cyborg to build an army of robotic protectors so his loved ones could face less of a risk. Batman lost himself to this idea, and ended up fused with the computer.
Harley is horrified by the transformation, shocked that he could become any harsher of a protector for Gotham than the one Harley knew in her heyday. She even compares him forgoing his humanity to becoming a “murder machine.” What Harley doesn’t realize is that she may have foreshadowed the eventual fate of this Batman.
The Dark Knights
The Dark Knights were the primary villains of DC: Metal, champions of the Dark Multiverse and its god, Barbatos. The group was composed of villainous versions of Batman, all of whom had embraced some other element of the Justice League when they went off the deep end. Murder Machine was a member of the group, a fusion of Batman with the mechanical aspects of Cyborg.
Like his Old Lady Harley counterpart, Murder Machine embraced the machinery after losing one of his greatest allies. The difference is that Murder Machine lost Alfred instead of Nightwing, and quickly tried to use the Cyborg technology to bring back a part of Alfred with an advanced AI.
Doing so opened him up to corruption by the machines, converting Bruce into the Murder Machine. He ended up killing the entire Justice League of his world and quickly became one of the most devastating members of the Dark Knights.
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