Batman: Arkham Knight is gearing up to be one of the biggest hits of the year. As speculation grows for how Rocksteady plans to conclude the series, the new images of the proposed villain has left me wondering what direction the team will be taking in approaching the conclusion. Until we get our hands on Arkham Knight, we’ll never know exactly what is planned for the caped crusader, but here’s where I’m hoping it will go.
With the big reveal of the first shots of Arkham Knight last week, the internet’s curiosity was obviously piqued. Rocksteady has gone on record to say that this is their wholly original creation, but I really can’t get the image of Knightfall Batman out of my head. It doesn’t help that all signs seem to be pointing the game down that path.
Knightfall was a year-long event planned by DC Comics in which they saught to deconstruct what it really means to be Batman. To do so, they introduced the character Bane to release the villains in Arkham Asylum. The attempts by Batman to bring these characters to justice would weaken him, giving Bane the opportunity to famously snap Bruce Wayne in half.
Without a Batman to watch over the city, Bruce looks to the character Azrael to assume the mantle, much to the dismay of Robin. Azrael would prove successful in breaking Bane, reassuring Bruce that the city was in capable hands while he traveled to fix his broken back.
In his role as Batman, Azrael would unknowingly undo everything the character would stand for. His role was to come in and showcase what violence truly does to a hero as he spends a year descending further and further into madness. The violence and chaos from his tenure would fracture the Bat family and the good relations the character had built with the police. He would go on to murder a serial killer and condemn his victim to death, forcing Bruce Wayne to step up and find a way to defeat a replacement who had gone off the deep end.
The events of Azrael’s year-long occupancy as Batman was huge and is one of the biggest inspirations for Batman in other media. The Nolan film trilogy capped off on a retelling of the story, and it looks like the Arkham games might be leaning towards that path. The focus of the first two games has been on slowly building out Batman’s exploration of his villains through the places he has confined them.
The aftermath of the Joker’s chaos in Arkham Asylum forced Hugo Strange to relocate the infamous facility into Gotham’s slums. Arkham City would become the new Arkham Asylum and would show that the games would be moving further and further into an open-world scenario. Seeing as how we’re going to be getting a Batmobile this time around, it’s obvious that Arkham Knight is going to expand into the entirety of Gotham. With this much room, a prison break could very well be in the works.
In a GDC video, Brand Marketing Producer Dax Ginn of Rocksteady went on to drop some hints about what Arkham Knight will be about. Scarecrow is going to unite the rogues against Batman after the fall of the Joker in Arkham City. The villains are all aiming to “take down and destroy the Batman once and for all.”
The idea of Arkham Knight is leaning towards the exact same deconstruction that Knightfall created. What they did in Arkham Asylum leading up to the boss fight with the Scarecrow was the craziest moment I’ve experienced with Batman and seeing how he’s the supposed ringleader of the rogue’s, it makes for many fascinating scenarios. The potential of what they want to do with this villain in a large-scale situation only fuels the speculation that they are going to be working to finish this series by leaving their stamp on the franchise.
Dax Ginn would later tell IGN, ”We’ve done all we can do here. It’s…it’s kind of time for us to walk away from it.” After this game, it is assumed that Rocksteady will be handing the mantle over to another team. The likeliest candidate would be WB Montreal who did Arkham Origins. With the stakes high, all eyes are focused on how Rocksteady will leave the caped crusader. Unleashing Batman’s worst nightmares and shaking the foundation of the character would be an interesting way to send him off. Bane literally broke Batman in issue number 497 after grinding him down. The scarecrow could do the exact same psychologically in Arkham Knight. This new character, the Arkham Knight, looks to be one who could challenge the man who has failed to contain the villains of Gotham.
The idea that this is actually Jean-Paul Valley, the man who wore the mask of Azrael as a character, is not definite. Rocksteady has gone on to call this a new character, so the likelihood that it is actually Azrael isn’t too high seeing as his role has been very limited in the franchise. That’s fine as they can take some of the best aspects of the character and transform the idea into something more. Azrael was simply a new guy who was able to get results by any means necessary. He was Batman at his most extreme.
Clearly, Rocksteady has borrowed liberally from the Knightfall Batman’s costume as well, even ensuring that only the right leg would have a belt strapped to it. Bringing a character up who will control the villain population is an excellent way to further showcase the struggles and failures Batman has had in the past two games, culminating to this one ultimate challenge. Rocksteady has set up a psychological roller coaster for the character and this might very well be a showcase for his downfall and the rise of this new and more violent Batman.
WB Montreal struggled with Batman in Arkham Origins. General consensus is that it just never did live up to Rocksteady’s shadow despite trying to offer up a bigger stomping grounds. Since they are likely to assume the role of caretaker for the next installments, it might be in their best interest to start from scratch with a character all their own until Warner Bros can bring about the next big hit. Would it be so far-fetched to think that Warner Bros. would abandon this franchise or that the iteration to follow Arkham Knight wouldn’t build off of Batman’s departure.
The role of this franchise after Rocksteady is uncertain. Arkham Knight is the swan song for half of a decade’s worth of excellent Batman titles. The only riddle remaining is how exactly is Rocksteady going to hand over the cowl?