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Arkham Knight Is the Perfect Foe for Batman - in Comics

Batman-Arkham-Knight

This year saw DC celebrating the birth of Superman with Action Comics #1000, and the company will do the same for its namesake title, Detective Comics, when it reaches its 1000th issue next year.

March's Detective #1000 will be an anthology issue, the contents of which have been partially revealed: Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke's story will introduce readers to a "new" comic book character, the in-continuity version of the Arkham Knight from the 2015 Batman game of the same name. With this, Tomasi, Mahnke and DC are presented with an opportunity only Star Wars is really afforded, which is to make the person behind a cool-looking costume mean something.

The Knight was a character created specifically by Rocksteady for the game, billed as a wholly new character. He showed up in all the marketing as the more physical foe of the duo that consisted of him and Scarecrow, putting a gun to Batman's head and promising a showdown between the two. He even got a comic prequel showing how his militia wound up in control of Gotham City.

Except... yeah, no, at the end of the day it just turned out to be Jason Todd, former Robin and Joker victim who was just believed to be dead instead of being actually dead. That wouldn't be a big deal on its own, but Rocksteady insisted that he was an original character for months, and didn't exactly do anything to dissuade the suspicion that the Knight was a personified prequel to the Red Hood. He really isn't that much different from who Jason ends up being, and the game doesn't even do a good job of hiding the reveal once flashbacks come into play in the second half of the game. Even his costume, a twisted militaristic version of Batman's, just becomes the Red Hood costume.

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It's a shame that the Knight is a glorified character skin, because there is the gem of a good idea in there. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Batman history knows that Arkham Asylum is an incredibly skeezy place, just generally speaking. Even when it doesn't have malicious villains such as Hugo Strange or the Scarecrow as employees, it's a poorly run facility housing supervillains that break out on a frequent basis. The hospital has even created some of its own evils, all the while indulging in some gnarly mental health tropes.

The idea of someone donning the look and title of a place that drove them to the brink is a compelling one, and something can definitely be done with that in the trauma-heavy space that is superhero comics. This is coming during everything that's going on with the superhero Sanctuary business in Heroes in Crisis, so this hits harder, especially for Batman. Detective Comics in the Rebirth era has become the Bat book about dealing with the specters of the past, be they Batman's, Cassandra Cain's or Clayface's. Arkham is one of the biggest specters hovering over Gotham, and even though the asylum's story can't end happily, there can be growth and change for whoever's taken the Knight mantle.

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Honestly, one of the more subversive things to do would be to try and make the Arkham Knight a force for good instead of a dark mirror for Batman. It's taken time, but the place has, in its own way, led to villains becoming, if not good, then at least better than they were originally. Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Two-Face; all of them have worked with Batman in recent years to slowly move away from the villain label originally forced upon them.

The Arkham Knight was a waste of an interesting idea back in 2015, but they don't have to be in 2019. It would be a waste to just have them show up and be an out-and-out antagonist again. The last thing Batman needs is to face someone who is just another armored dude with a gun, especially in light of such a momentous occasion.

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