SPOILER ALERT: The below article contains spoilers from the Batman: Arkham Knight video game.
We’re still celebrating Batman’s 80th birthday, and every good celebration has a party-crasher. At the tail end of its 1000th issue, Detective Comics writer Peter J. Tomasi followed all of the celebratory tales about the Dark Knight’s career with a brief, but intriguing, introduction of an armored foe known as the Arkham Knight.
Batman has a reputation of being prepared for everything, but the Arkham Knight seems to be one step ahead of the game. Batman has his Batsuit, but the Arkham Knight has a full-body suit of armor. Batman has his Batarangs, while the Arkham Knight has an array of advanced weaponry, including a lightbomb that bathes Gotham’s sky in sunlight. Batman has Robin, but the Arkham Knight has his own armed militia.
If you’ve read Detective Comics #1001 and #1002, you know what I’m talking about here. The first confrontation between these two Knights didn’t go well for Batman. As Bruce spouted his usual “my city” mantra, the Arkham Knight disdainfully replied, “Your city? So incredibly arrogant. I don’t recall anyone ever having given it to you.”
Harsh! So, who is this new foe and why does he hate Batman so much? Well, the Arkham Knight is a new addition to DC’s comic book universe, but he’s not a new character. Batman’s latest enemy was inspired by a character of the same name who’s found in the popular Arkham video game series.
There are other popular DC characters who originated outside of the comics, but the Arkham Knight may be the first time one of them has come from the world of video games. Honestly, it’s a testament to just how good the Arkham game series is. The first entry, Batman: Arkham Asylum, was released in 2009, and it allowed gamers to explore the grounds of Arkham while utilizing the Dark Knight’s stealth movements, extreme combat moves and cunning detective skills. Plus, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprised their Batman: The Animated Series roles as Batman and the Joker, so that’s nearly worth the price of purchase right there.
In 2015, Batman: Arkham Knight was released as the fourth game in the franchise. The game allowed players to explore an open world version of Gotham City, drive the Batmobile and work your way up to facing the game’s sinister puppet master…the Arkham Knight. Armored similarly to how he is in the comics, the calculating and highly skilled fighter gave Batman a run for his money as he teamed up with the Scarecrow.
While much mystery surrounded the identity of the Arkham Knight around the time of the game’s release, as the player progresses in the game, they learn that the Arkham Knight is Batman’s former partner Jason Todd. In the Arkham universe, the circumstances of Jason’s death are different than they are in the comics. The Joker had faked the second Boy Wonder’s demise, and then kept Jason hidden in Arkham for years. As time went on, Jason’s sanity decayed and his resentment towards Batman grew. After all, how could the World’s Greatest Detective not see that he was alive? Why couldn’t Batman solve the mystery and rescue him? He was eventually freed and began his mission of revenge.
Like his comic book counterpart, Jason was surprised to find he still had a soft spot for his former partner and wound up saving Batman from the Scarecrow. It’s a plotline similar to the classic Batman story, Under the Hood, but the Arkham Knight’s MO is different from that of Red Hood’s. Jason’s years locked up in Arkham tested and tortured his mind, and he chose the moniker of Arkham Knight as a tribute to the facility where he was reborn.
So, how did the Arkham Knight—well, a version of the Arkham Knight, at any rate—make their way to Detective Comics? The answer to that question seems to lie with Tomasi. In 2015, the writer authored the official prequel comic to Batman: Arkham Knight and penned a six-issue miniseries titled Batman: Arkham Knight Genesis that elaborated on Jason Todd’s early days in the armor. Looks like the character made an impression on him since Tomasi is now bringing the Arkham Knight to the DC Universe. But is it the same Arkham Knight?
Doubtful. If you’re following Red Hood: Outlaw, then you’d know that Jason Todd is currently running the Iceberg Lounge, Penguin’s former nightclub. While he and Batman have their differences, strapping on a new set of armor for the sole purpose of reclaiming Gotham from his former mentor seems like a bit of a stretch and an odd choice at this point in his life. (However, taking out A.R.G.U.S., the D.E.O. and many of the DCU’s other clandestine organizations, maybe not so much.)
No, it appears that the Detective Comics version of the Arkham Knight is someone else. Is the person under the armor someone new, or an established character whose hatred for the Dark Knight has driven him or her to this crusade?
Detective Comics #1002 ends with the Knight unmasking in front of Damian. With today’s release of Detective Comics #1003, we’ll learn the Knight’s identity, but will that bring more questions than it will answers? Will seeing the Arkham Knight’s true face solve our puzzle or create a bigger one?
Either way, it’s clear that the Arkham Knight is a villain to watch. After all, how many villains can claim to have gotten the better of Batman their first time out the gate?
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com, and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.