Who is the Arkham Knight?
When Rocksteady studios, a British video game developer, announced a new sequel in the Batman: Arkham franchise in March 2014, the fans were swept off their feet. One of the major reasons for excitement was that the sequel was planned to be an ending to a saga which already had three games, numerous comics, and countless DLCs. The second reason was a new, never-before seen villain, fully capable of rivaling Batman in every possible way. This villain, who was named The Arkham Knight, sparked hundreds of fan theories about his identity. Many fans were wondering whether Rocksteady invented a completely new character, in collaboration with DC comics, or if it was someone else from the Batman canon who acquired a new identity. As the game was released a year and a half later, the Internet spent that time asking the important question: Who is the Arkham knight?
For a while, theories were brewing with new trailers and scarce information showing up, increasing the hype for the newest chapter in the Arkham saga, and finally, fans were allowed to find out who The Arkham Knight really was, or at least find out his identity. As many would have guessed, The Arkham Knight was none other than Jason Todd, more famous as the second Robin, or the Red Hood in the newer instances of the comic. But this is a half answer to the question, Who is the Arkham Knight? We know who he used to be, But who is he now?
Everyone who has ever read a single Batman story arc in the nineties or the two thousands knows the story of Jason Todd being killed at the hands of the Joker, how he returned from the grave with the help of Superboy-Prime and Talia Al Ghul, and wanted revenge on the Batman for not avenging his untimely death. But what if Jason Todd had never actually died? This is one of the main plot points in The Arkham Knight video game, and the newest comic series by DC comics, The Arkham Knight: Genesis.
The Arkham Knight Genesis comics thoroughly deals with Jason Todd’s past, from his own point of view. We have seen in the game how in this Arkham universe, he was trapped in a destroyed wing of the Arkham Asylum instead of dying and was endlessly tortured by the Joker for over a year. This severe torture, which included beating him up with the infamous crowbar, shooting him, and branding his face with the letter “J”, ultimately led to Jason’s utter mental breakdown, and a change of perception regarding Batman. This new Jason no longer thinks the Dark Knight is a savior, but a punisher, saying that “[Batman] is not about saving the innocent, he’s about punishing the guilty”.
But who is the Arkham Knight really? We might know his identity, and his history, and his future plans, but can we fully understand what this new Jason Todd is really about? For someone who hates Batman and wants his demise, plotting with all of the major villains in Gotham City, he ends up saving him in the end. Another instance of showing a conflicting personality is in his relationship with Dick Grayson, the first Robin. Although the Arkham Knight tells us in Genesis that his relationship with Grayson was brotherly, he still asks of Deathstroke (whom they fought together) to kill him, pointing out that Jason was, and will always be, the better Robin. Tim Drake, the current Robin, also presents a thorn in Jason’s eye. Thinking himself to be irreplaceable, he believes that the Robins are nothing else but Batman’s expendable army of children, all because the Joker implanted the idea that Bruce has easily changed his “assistant”, and will do that again, should something happen to Tim.
However, not all members of the Bat family are thought to be enemies by the Arkham Knight. Many theories arose about Barbara Gordon, the Oracle, still having a special place in Jason’s heart, quite possibly due to her being the only person who can truly understand him, having been left paralyzed by the Joker in “the Killing Joke” storyline.
As we delve deeper into his character, we see that he is ultimately fueled by hatred, developed from fear, due to the fact that he feels as if Bruce had abandoned him when Jason needed him most. Everything he does is meant solely for the purpose of destroying Batman as a person and a symbol, starting with a similar costume, intended to mock the Bat, continuing with the name, mocking The Dark Knight with the name The Arkham Knight, possibly stemming from the Arkham Asylum where he was tortured, and was thus “knighted” in a sick and perverse manner, but also by instructing Batman’s greatest enemies on how to defeat and humiliate the Bat. In the end, The Arkham Knight finally accepts the fact that Batman is not a murderer, and that he will never avenge anyone by killing others, and chooses to help Bruce defeat his foes.
What makes The Arkham Knight a great character is the complexity of his situation in which he is torn between what is morally right, and what is an immoral permanent solution to a problem. As Genesis shows, his vengefulness knows no limits, but even all the hatred is still not enough for him to publicly announce that Batman is actually Bruce Wayne. Ultimately, we are left with multiple versions of the Arkham Knight, all based on how we choose to accept him. So we ask again, who is the Arkham Knight? Some would call him a hateful persona whose moralcompass has been twisted, and now only seeks to kill the one person he admired most. Others still see him as a hooligan teen, wanting to be accepted as an equal by his role model, the Batman. Some would say that he is a completely broken person with nothing to lose while other would say he is a criminal mastermind, intent on eradicating the Bat in his own complex manner.
All of the aforementioned is why the question, Who is the Arkham Knight? can never be fully answered. He can be anyone from the DC universe as his identity is irrelevant, what matters is what he stands for, and that is sticking to your family, your friends, your loved ones, even when it is the hardest thing to do. Oh, and the destruction of Batman.