The recent Detective Comics #1000 didn’t just mark the 80th anniversary of Batman’s debut, it also introduced a brand new villain to DC’s comic book universe. The Arkham Knight has made the jump from video games to comics, and he’s ready to free Gotham City from Batman’s tyrannical reign.
While this new take on the Arkham Knight is very different from the one seen in the 2015 video game, it does seem that someone with a very personal grudge against Batman has taken up this identity. Assuming there’s a familiar face under the armor, here are a few theories as to the identity of the new Arkham Knight.
The Arkham Knight’s first appearance in Detective Comics didn’t reveal much about this version of the villain, but that story did make one thing clear. This Arkham Knight seems to view their vendetta with Batman as a holy crusade. As far as the Arkham Knight is concerned, ridding Gotham City of Batman’s evil is his or her divine purpose.
Given that religious angle, we can’t help but think of another member of Batman’s massive supporting cast, Azrael. Azrael is the primary enforcer of The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas, a fanatical secret society that had it origins in the Knights Templar. Between his armored costume, tendency to carry a flaming sword and his religious fanaticism, Azrael’s similarities to the Arkham Knight are hard to ignore.
Jean-Paul Valley is the most famous person to wear the Azrael costume. Jean-Paul actually took up the mantle of Batman during the Knightfall crossover after Bane broke Bruce Wayne’s back, and it wasn’t long before the pressure of the job and the psychological conditioning he was subjected to as a boy drove the new Batman insane. Even though Jean-Paul has generally been depicted as an ally to the Batman family following his return to the Azrael role, there’s no telling when he might snap again.
There’s also Michael Washington Lane, a character with a history of masquerading as both Azrael and Batman. Michael participated in a sinister experiment designed to see if it was possible to create a new Batman by subjecting a person to enough psychological torment. Michael became one of the “Three Ghosts of Batman” before later taking up the mantle of Azarel.
It’s also possible that the Arkham Knight is an entirely new character with ties to the Sacred Order of Saint Dumas. Either way, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn this villain has ties to that ancient organization.
Apart from his apparent religious fanaticism, the main quality of the Arkham Knight that stands out so far is his or her obsession with justice. To the Arkham Knight, Batman doesn’t represent true justice at all, but only selfish evil. And if there’s one Batman villain obsessed with the concept of Justice, it’s Two-Face.
As a former District Attorney, Harvey Dent remains obsessed with justice even after becoming a disfigured supervillain. It’s just that his vision of justice is random, unbiased chance. A flip of the coin determines whether someone lives or dies.
That’s not to say Harvey hasn’t evolved over his many decades as a Bat-villain. He even went through a brief face where his scars were healed and he trained under Batman to become Gotham’s newest hero. That heroic transformation didn’t last, but who’s to say Harvey won’t have taken up a new costumed identity? He may have grown beyond his fascination with chance and rededicated himself to bringing justice to Gotham City. Donning the mantle of the Arkham Knight could be one way of marking that evolution while also burying the literal and metaphorical scars of his past.
Kathy Kane was the first character to take up the mantle of Batwoman. She was introduced in 1956 as a love interest and occasional partner for Batman, before falling out of favor in the ’60s and effectively disappearing from the DCU.
Kathy has more recently returned to prominence thanks to books like Batman Incorporated and Grayson. Her backstory has been rewritten to portray her as an agent of the super-spy organization called Spyral. Her short-lived career as Batwoman was revealed to be an act designed to help her get close to the Dark Knight and uncover his secret identity for her masters at Spyral. But because she and Bruce Wayne fell in love, she kept that information to herself and eventually faked her death.
Needless to say, Kathy’s relationship with Bruce these days is strained, at best. Between her long tenure at Spyral and the fact that she grew up with a Nazi super-scientist for a father, t’s not difficult to imagine her having a mental breakdown and taking up a new costumed identity. Transforming into the Arkham Knight could be her twisted way of trying to punish Bruce for their failed relationship or even make him a better hero.
In the Arkham Knight video game, Batman discovers his new nemesis is actually his former sidekick Jason Todd. We don’t expect this to hold true for the comic book version, as this Jason has already gone through the process of dying, returning to life, swearing vengeance on Batman and then regaining some semblance of his old life.
However, that doesn’t mean the Arkham Knight couldn’t be a deranged former sidekick. It’s possible the Arkham Knight could instead be the original Robin, Dick Grayson.
Dick has already fallen on hard times lately. He was recently shot in the head by KGBeast, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and memory loss. Dick doesn’t remember his past with Batman. Instead, he’s taken up a new identity as “Ric Grayson” and has been trying to find his new purpose in life. Could becoming the Arkham Knight be that purpose.
It’s possible the Arkham Knight was born out of this accident. Though Ric doesn’t remember his old life, becoming an anti-Batman crusader could be his way of subconsciously dealing with feelings of anger and betrayal. His entire world was destroyed because he happened to be close to Batman. Now the bill has come due.
Batman: The Animated Series added several key new characters to the franchise. But while Harley Quinn has taken on a new life in comics and movies, we’ve never seen the Phantasm/Andrea Beaumont make the jump to DC’s comic book universe. This character has been relegated almost exclusively to the DC Animated Universe.
Could that finally change? Could this Arkham Knight be a way of introducing two major Batman villains to the comics in one fell swoop? We could see the Arkham Knight serving as a new costumed identity for Andrea Beaumont, one that allows DC to explore her tragic history with Bruce Wayne without simply rehashing the events of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. The basics would remain the same. Andrea can be introduced as a figure from Bruce’s past who returns in the present as one of his greatest villains. Whereas the Phantasm craved vengeance for the murder of her father, the Arkham Knight specifically hates Batman himself.
Lincoln March is a relatively new addition to Batman’s rogues gallery, but he’s quickly proven to be one of the biggest thorns in the Dark Knight’s side. It doesn’t help that Lincoln claims to be Bruce Wayne’s long-lost older brother.
If Lincoln is to be believed, he was born prematurely after a near-fatal car accident and sent to live in a special hospital. When the Waynes were murdered and the hospital fell into disrepair, he was taken in by the Court of Owls and raised to become one of their greatest assassins. Regardless of how much truth is in this story, the fact remains that Lincoln has come closer than most to destroying Batman and claiming Gotham as his own.
Lincoln also has an established pattern of cheating death and returning to strike at the Bat-family where they least expect. And with Lincoln having turned against the Court of Owls, he is in need of a new costumed identity. The Arkham Knight could be just become the latest face of Batman’s older, more sadistic brother.