Anyone who puts on a cape and cowl and spends their nights punching the crime out of criminals, has a few screws loose. Over the years, there has been a fascination with examining what exactly drives the Batman to be the dark knight that he is. The pain, the emptiness and the sorrow that pushes a man far beyond what most mortals would be capable of.
In recent years, there’s also been an attempt to heal Batman mentally. To reforge the character into in an individual who is well aware of just how damaged he is, and how he can channel that trauma towards a less destructive path. Batman as he is now, is an icon. A symbol of overcoming fear and other limitations to be a better person.
Unfortunately, that’s a lesson that the Batman of the dark multiverse didn’t learn. Spoilers below.
Two issues in, and Dark Nights: Metal has already unleashed a squad of evil Batmen from other realities who happen to also be a mirror of the Justice League. There’s the Speedforce-powered Red Death Batman, a cybernetically enhanced Batman known as the Murder Machine and Bryce Wayne, a female caped crusader who genetically altered herself to be able to deal a killing blow to her reality’s Aquawoman.
There’s a Batman who obtained a Green Lantern ring and became feared as the Dawnbreaker, a hulking monstrosity of a dark knight who has the power of Superman and most frightening of all is their ringleader. The Batman who laughs, a version of Bruce Wayne who gave in to madness. If the dark multiverse is a rotting and twisted reflection of the DC multiverse, then each of these Batmen is an aspect of Bruce Wayne that has managed to fall to the darkness.
The Red Death is a Batman who has given up on the hope of ever being anything more than Gotham’s vigilante, resulting in a 24/7 Batman whose stolen connection to the Speed Force has allowed him to manifest as instant justice…in a flash. The Murder Machine is the Batman who could not move past his grief and became bonded with an AI duplicate of the deceased Alfred Pennyworth, whereas the Dawnbreaker is a Batman who never managed to claw his way out of the dark emptiness that threatened to consume him as a child.
Then there’s The Drowned, Batman’s distrust and need to win, amplified and unleashed. Most frightening of all so far, is The Batman Who Laughs. A herald of the Barbatos entity that arrived to consume our multiverse, this is a version of Bruce Wayne who appears to have become his greatest nemesis. His origin issue doesn’t hit newstands until November 16, but writer James T. Tynion IV revealed more of this character at a recent New York Comic Con panel, via io9.
According to the writer, this Batman eventually killed the Joker and found himself exposed to the most potent version of the Joker toxin that lay within the heart of the clown prince of crime. Instead of driving Batman insane, the toxin instead altered his brain chemistry so that he had no more inhibitions. What began with this Bruce Wayne chuckling at the most inopportune of times, eventually resulted in this Batman summoning his Bat Family to tell them of his infection.
And then he promptly murders all of them. Because this Batman, doesn’t want to be stopped.
The Dark Nights: Metal saga continues through this year and next, as the rogue Batmen claim cities and heroes in the wake of their rampage. Some of the heaviest hitters of the Justice League are down, Doctor Fate appears to know of Barbatos and only the fabled Nth metal of Thanagar has any chance of even hurting the dark god of an even darker multiverse.
This is one tale, that is already shaping up to be a modern-day classic.
Last Updated: October 24, 2017