**WARNING – This post contains full spoilers for Batman: Arkham Knight.**
We know Arkham Knight will be Rocksteady’s last Batman game. They’ve told us numerous times. But I don’t believe for one second it’s the last Batman game, made in this style, we will ever see. For one thing, it’s proven to be a cash cow for Warner Brothers. The sales of all the Arkham games have gone through the roof, and that’s including the oft-unappreciated Origins and Blackgate. For another, the mechanics and style just fit this franchise like a glove. And, well, the ending leaves things far too open.
The question is what’s next? WB has many studios under its belt, and we have heard rumblings and rumours that another Batman game may already be in development that makes use of the Nemesis system introduced in Shadow of Mordor. We hope that’s true!
From a storyline perspective, Rocksteady have done an absolutely wonderful job tieing up the narrative arc they set in motion back with Arkham Asylum. After finishing Arkham Knight, I was impressed by how much they’d managed to cram in and how many loose ends they’d actually tied up. It honestly feels like a satisfactory conclusion to their story. However, in this DC Universe, there are plenty more stories that could be told.
*** From this point forward, there will be heavy, detailed spoilers for Arkham Knight, including images. So, for the last time, if you’ve not finished the game, click away now… ***
The biggest question coming away from Arkham Knight has to be who takes the cowl? If you get the game’s true ending after activating the Knightfall protocol, you’ll see camera crews and press flock outside of Waynor Manor all waiting to interview Bruce Wayne about being Batman. They see Bruce enter his manor, then BOOM. Bruce Wayne and Alfred are presumed dead or missing in the explosion and that’s the last we hear from them.
With that statement, Rocksteady have made it perfectly clear that, whatever happens, Bruce Wayne can no longer be Batman unless another development studio comes in and reboots everything.
So, who will it be? Let’s take a look at some obvious candidates.
Dick shows up in Arkham Knight as the enigmatic Nightwing. He’s happily crafted his own identity and helps Bruce take down the Penguin and his munition setups in Gotham. Becoming Batman wouldn’t be a surprise as we’ve seen Dick inherit the Batman cowl in the comics during several different storylines, including the famous Knightfall arc.
In the comics, Dick’s history as Batman is well-documented. He’s considered the Prodigal Son and inherits Bruce’s riches, wealth and manor as part of Wayne’s will when Bruce is considered dead. He was always a natural choice being Bruce’s oldest and closest ally aside from Alfred. And when the missions are complete in AK, Bruce says to Dick before they part ‘I’m proud of you.’ – Could that pride be enough for Bruce to give up his greatest possession?
But let’s not also forget that there is documented dissension between Bruce and Dick, which owes to some of the banter between the two in Arkham Knight (Dick saying ‘You need me around’ etc…). Nightwing still has a part to play in the future of the Batman games, working to protect his city while still crossing over with the events in Gotham. And if you listen to the thugs chattering amongst themselves, you’ll hear them say they fear Nightwing as much as Batman.
I think Dick has really found his niche doing his own thing. Being the Batman is probably not in his best interests right now, though it’s not outside the realms of possibility. Either way, he will almost certainly play a big part in any future Batman game.
Chances of Dick becoming Batman – 65%
AZRAEL (MICHAEL LANE)
Arguably the stand-out, clear favourite to assume the cowl has to be Azrael as the clues are scattered through the game early on. To begin with, Alfred tells Bruce that a burning Batman symbol is ablaze on top of rooftops in Gotham. Bruce then finds Azrael kneeling next to them.
From the beginning, Azrael’s goal is to become the Batman. He makes that clear to Bruce and it is a task ingrained into him by The Sacred Order of St Dumas. While even Azrael isn’t entirely sure of the full purpose of that mission, Bruce discovers early on that The Order have ulterior motives for wanting Michael to assume the cowl.
Then there’s the hint in the logo. Since promotion began for Arkham Knight, the Batman logo has been ablaze, which, again, is a nod towards Azrael and his missions in the game. Further evidence comes right at the end of the game when a shadowy Bat figure attacks two thugs in an abandoned alleyway and there is fire shown within that figure, eventually morphing into the Arkham Knight logo again.
The big curveball, of course, is the decision made at the end of the AK mission (I:E does Azrael swing the sword to try and kill Bruce, or does he shatter the sword, pursue the Order and shake Bruce’s hand) One would assume that the developers would prefer you to shatter the sword, but the choice is, of course, entirely up to the player. And it does mean that any possibility of him taking the cowl in future games is up in the air.
We all know Azrael assumes the Batman cowl during the Knightfall storyline, and famously takes the Batman legacy down a much darker road, allowing criminals to die where Bruce would have let them live. However, one has to remember that this was Jean-Paul Valley, an earlier incarnation of Azrael, and not the Michael Lane interpretation. In the comics, Azrael also has a big breakup with Tim Drake, proving a partnership between them would not work, but as we’ve already seen, the games only loosely follows comic canon.
Despite all that, the odds certainly point towards Michael Lane becoming Batman in a future Batman game, and it certainly sets up some fascinating, exciting story-line possibilities. That said, the last we see of Azrael in Arkham Knight is either him locked away in GCPD or him going off to fight the Order. Whichever way you look at it, becoming Batman does not seem to be an immediate priority for him..
Chances of Azrael becoming Batman – 85%
If Azrael has the best odds of assuming the cowl, then Tim has got to be a close second. One would assume that any current Robin is being groomed and is best placed to be the next Caped Crusader. One would assume.
However, Bruce spends most of the game trying to keep Tim out of harm’s way. Even to the point of Bruce locking Tim away in a cell so that he can’t get out and help. Bruce knows about the relationship between Tim and Barbara, and he doesn’t want them to get hurt on account of being or helping the Batman. When Bruce thinks he’s lost Oracle, he becomes even more defensive and wants to wrap Tim up in cotton wool, which partly suggests he doesn’t think Tim is ready, and also partly suggests that he cares too much for him to go down that path.
Like everyone else mentioned here, there has already been some suggestion of Tim being Batman in the comics. There are even talks linking Tim Drake to Batman Beyond.
Tim and Barbara keep their relationship going in the game after Bruce’s disappearance. They even get married. But what happens to him now? It seems as if Tim is moving on with life and there’s no real indication from him that he’ll do anything but live with the love of his life.
But if Gotham needs a hero and Bruce Wayne is out of the picture, surely someone else will have to step up to bat. Surely the current Robin is the most logical choice to be the hero Gotham needs and deserves?
Chances of Tim becoming Batman – 75%
Perhaps the biggest clue as to who will be the next Batman is the Robin factor. Arkham Knight represents the three most well-known Robins in the Batman-verse. Dick, as we’ve already established, is doing his part as Nightwing very well, and he was the original Robin. Tim, the current Robin, is a natural successor to the cowl.
Then there’s Jason Todd, the man Bruce assumed dead at the hands of the Joker. What’s most interesting about the identity of the Arkham Knight being revealed as Todd is that it’s one of the first clear times in the Arkham Series that a comic book arc has directly influenced and impacted the game’s world in a significant way. And that, to me, speaks volumes.
Of course we’ve had snippets and nods and winks plenty of times before, but the games have, for the most part, been quite self-contained. Now the forth wall has been knocked down, it’s opened up all sorts of possibilities. Todd spends most of Arkham Knight hating Bruce, hating the Batman, doing everything he can to kill him, even to the point of going against orders and depriving Scarecrow of playing his game. But the last time we see him on screen, he’s helping Bruce to defeat Scarecrow at a crucial moment. Todd has clearly chosen to put aside his grudge and has perhaps realigned his perspective.
It’s an outside bet, certainly, but what if the Arkham Knight actually does go on to become the Dark Knight? His tactics would probably be unfavourable to Bruce and he clearly has his own idea of justice, but he may feel that he needs to make up for the part he has played in destroying Gotham. Todd has become a famous villain in the Batman verse and there are even suggestions he could be the central villian in the standalone Ben Affleck Batman movie, but we’ve already seen him play the bad-guy. We know he’s got some good in him as well. His internal conflict would make for some very interesting in-game moments.
The game is called Arkham Knight for a reason, and there’s a reason that Jason Todd survives through the game to reach that final moment of redemption. Arkham Knight was created especially for the Arkham series of games, but the reasoning for his character perhaps wasn’t clear to us from the outset. He’s back to serve as a logical successor to Bruce Wayne. Or is he?
Chances of Jason becoming Batman – 60%
There are plenty of clues scattered in Arkham Knight and many of them hint at the future. Now Bruce has been identified as Batman, everyone he has ever known is at risk. Criminals may want to draw him out of hiding in the hopes of a big payout or just to simply extract vengeance. Lex Luthor has a huge presence even though he is never seen. This opens up the possibility for some crossover with Superman and other DC characters, maybe even getting the Justice League together. Then there’s the race for the cowl, and that creates very exciting storyline possibilities. Gordon seems in the running for Mayor, so how will that impact any future crime in Gotham? There are plenty of villains we didn’t actually see in the game that could make an appearance and others who could make a comeback and play a more central role.
One thing is for sure, this is not the end of Batman games from WB. It might be the end of the Arkham tag (I actually think it would be ridiculous if they tried to drag that title into future games) but with Batman set to make a massive comeback to our cinema screens over the next few years, and the game receiving series high ratings, I’d bet my last penny we’ll be seeing him again. Sooner rather than later.