This year, Batman celebrates his 75th birthday and the occasion is being celebrated across a variety of mediums. Among them, of course, is video games, where Batman returns for his final go-around with Rocksteady in the upcoming Batman: Arkham Knight.
With San Diego Comic-Con upon us and relatively fresh off his apperance at E3, now feels like a good time to explore the game's main antagonist and title character: the Arkham Knight himself. Warner Bros. and Rocksteady have been on-record noting that it would be an original character. However, there's clearly somebody hiding underneath this mask and it's somebody that claims to know who the Batman really is.
Based on my closed-door E3 presentation, it's clear that the identity of the Arkham Knight will be a central mystery that hovers over the whole game. So here are some prime suspects as to who may be masquerading as Gotham's newest villain.
Warning: Spoilers for Batman: Arkham City ahead!
Long-time followers of the classic Batman: The Animated Series will not find this idea so far-fetched. One of the show's final episodes saw Harvey Dent adopt a third personality, one devoted to dishing out cold-blooded vengeance under the facade of justice. With that in mind, it isn't unheard of that Dent would adopt another persona to make Batman's life miserable and it would partially explain how the Arkham Knight knows his nemesis so well.
This is very unlikely, however. Two-Face has already been seen as a central character in the game and was one of the first faces seen in the trailer. Also, it's made clear during the E3 demo that the Arkham Knight has trained in a secret Venezuelan military facility, going so far as to bring his militias to Gotham. This doesn't fit Two-Face's modus operandi at all, so all this would seemingly rule him out. Never say never, but don't hold your breath.
This wouldn't be the first time that Clayface has performed an elaborate ruse, having made a living off of such acting jobs prior to his turn as a villain. Masquerading as a costumed vigilante would be Basil Karlo's greatest performance to date, even greater than the one he pulled on Bats at the end of Arkham City.
However, while Clayface has the capability to replicate a darker half of the Dark Knight, he comes off as another unlikely candidate. Once again, the reasoning is because of resources. How would Clayface assemble a Venezuelan army? Would he really go to all the trouble to bring in South American radicals just to get another shot at Batman? While the power set adds up, the motivation does not.
Ra's Al Ghul
Now we get into the more likely suspects. If anyone knows about assembling an army and doing it quickly, it's Ra's. He's already proven to be a criminal mastermind, a charismatic leader capable of leading armies of men, and is very familiar with Batman's history. Add his fighting prowess to that list and his constant ability to cheat death through his Lazarus Pits and you have one of the primary candidates for the man under the Arkham Knight mask.
There is something that rules him out, however, and that's the Arkham Knight's manner of speech. The Knight's dialogue came across as a bit less-than-dramatic and that's not Ra's' style at all. Ra's delivery is well-spoken and borderline-Shakesperean, putting him at sharp odds with the Arkham Knight that I saw on display at E3. At the end of the day, this might be what ends up scratching Ra's from this list.
The dark horse candidate, for sure, but one that absolutely makes sense. This choice stems partially from Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's classic late 90s Batman story of the same name. Hush is the alias of Dr. Thomas Elliot, spoiled childhood friend of Bruce Wayne's, who tried to murder his own parents in order to gain their vast wealth. His mother was saved by Bruce's parents, causing Elliot to carry a grudge against Bruce ever since. Elliot's vengeance would spread beyond Loeb's story, as he would pop up in later years and go so far as to use his plastic surgery skills to give himself Bruce's face in an effort to smear his reputation.
Elliot is one of the few characters that knows Bruce Wayne more than anybody and even knows his secret identity as Batman. Another reason he pops up on this list is because of an Arkham City side-mission that officially inducted Elliot into the Arkham-verse. Elliot, post-facial reconstruction surgery, hinted at events to come before mysteriously slipping off into the night with Bruce Wayne's face, never to be seen for the rest of the game.
With Elliot still at large and with a backstory that ties him to Bruce Wayne, he's definitely a character to keep an eye on. His name may not be as widely-recognized as other Bat-villains, but Hush is an early favorite to don the Arkham Knight mask.
There seems to be something off about this idea. Namely, the fact that Joker was pretty definitively dead at the end of Batman: Arkham City. Of course, this is the world of comic books, where death means nothing.
In fact, Joker turning out to be alive would be perhaps the greatest prank he's ever pulled on his nemesis. There are a number of circumstances by which Joker could still be around and kicking, whether it's through Ra's' Lazarus Pits, a clone, a controlled breathing method, or any number of other strange comic book reasoning. It would definitely open an opportunity for Joker to head over to Venezuela and recruit an army.
So why take on a disguise as a Bat-doppleganger? It could simply be another of the Clown Prince of Crime's misdirects, fooling Batman into thinking he was a revenge-driven maniac, when really all he wants is to send Gotham into a new form of chaos. It certainly wouldn't be the first time that Joker tricked Batman with a cunning disguise that nobody saw coming.
One thing is for sure, though. A Batman game just doesn't feel right without The Joker, which is why he may be the heavy favorite to adopt the Arkham Knight mantle.
Of course, there's also the possibly that the Arkham Knight is...
An entirely new character
There's always a chance that Warner Bros. and Rocksteady do indeed mean that the Arkham Knight is an entirely new character. If this is the case, it'd be an interesting addition to the Arkham cast and one that adds an interesting twist to Batman's rogues gallery.
Batman has faced off against certified lunatics, gangsters, assassins, and even supervillains. This would be one of the first times that Gotham's protector has faced off against a terrorist from outside our borders. Taking down a fanatic with a near-fearless army of mercenaries would be one of Batman's greatest challenges, which would provide enough story in itself. It would also raise the question of how he's so familiar with Batman's history, but it'd be a mystery worth unraveling.
While many signs point to the Arkham Knight being a familiar face, let's not entirely rule out that he may indeed be an original creation worthy of adding to Batman's legendary roster of villains. We'll find out for sure when Batman: Arkham Knight releases in Spring 2015.