Detective Comics: Who is the Arkham Knight? (updated 5/8)
THE IDENTITY HAS BEEN REVEALED! SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM IF YOU DARE!
Detective Comics #1001 came out this week, and the Arkham Knight revealed himself to Batman, who pretty much took it lying down. But in his defense, he had a boot on his face, so…
Anyway, the identity of the Knight is a mystery, but there are several interesting clues already, so join me, fellow detectives, as we work, issue-by-issue, to uncover the identity of this mysterious new foe! Warning: we’ll be spoiling any and everything that the Arkham Knight has appeared in, including whichever issue of Detective Comics is in stores at the time you’re reading this. Proceed at your own risk.
The Arkham Knight—at least in name and general aesthetics—was created by game developer Rocksteady, for the final installment in their Batman trilogy, Batman: Arkham Knight. It didn’t take much time with the game for longtime Batfans to figure out that the game’s title character was Jason Todd, the second Robin. In the Arkham-verse, he was merely thought to have been killed by the Joker, when in fact the Clown Prince had only psychologically and physically tortured him over a prolonged period of time.
In true Red Hood fashion, the Arkham Knight showed up out of nowhere, made Batman’s life very difficult, let Bruce know that he knew his identity, and whined ceaselessly in their final confrontation. At that point, he was in full Todd-mode, criticizing Bruce for stopping short of dispensing terminal justice to the violent criminals in Gotham.
Is the Arkham Knight in Detective Comics Jason Todd?
No. DC—maybe even Tomasi himself—has said as much; but, even if you’ve been rendered cynical my some of the publisher’s misdirection in the past year, there’s enough evidence to prove that it’s not Todd.
For starters, Jason has his own book, Red Hood: Outlaw (née and the Outlaws), and he’s just returned to Gotham to do his own thing. He’s also given Batman’s restrained methods a fresh sneer, repudiating the no-kill policy and Bruce’s worldview in general.
But even setting that aside, the Arkham Knight’s critique of Batman is the opposite of Jason’s. In Detective Comics #1000, the Knight specifically condemns Batman’s use of force as excessive. In Detective #1001, he positions himself as leading Gotham into the light, “into the blinding sun…where the truth is.” His viewpoint is clear: Batman is too dark, too violent, and the antidote to Batman is light. Not sure how he gets around his own use of violence, but that’s a topic for another day.
The Arkham Knight can’t be Jason Todd, because he is nowhere close to Jason philosophically. It simply wouldn’t make sense.
So who is the Arkham Knight?
Thats the question we’re trying to answer! I’m hoping that Pete Tomasi, Brad Walker and crew will give us the clues we need to, at a minimum, make some educated guesses, so I’m going to start cataloguing the evidence here. If you notice something that we don’t have listed here, leave a comment or send us an email, and we’ll get it added.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight has seen Batman work up close
Back in #1000, the Knight’s narration begins:
Yes, you might simply take this as some lofty speech, but there’s another clue on the page that suggests the opposite.
[DEBUNKED IN DETECTIVE COMICS #1003]Evidence: the Arkham Knight has green eyes…maybe?
On the first page of Tomasi and Mahnke’s story in #1000, there is a frightened eye watching Batman as he beats the blood out of some unidentified criminal’s face. That eye is green. Now, the narration above and to the left of the eye says “through the eyes of others,” so there’s a pretty good chance that the Knight’s perspective in this scene is opposite the eye, from some distance away.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight may have once feared Batman
That green eye is, as I said, clearly wide with fear. This does not necessarily mean that the Knight was a criminal at the time. It could simply mean that seeing the brutality of Batman up close was disturbing. And one of the few places a normal person might do that is Arkham.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight is educated, or at least well-read
The Knight’s long speech in #1000, and his opening speech in #1001, are not characteristic of a street-level criminal. He speaks poetically—“stories told in whispers,” and “swallowed by shadows,” for example. His discussion of symbolism in #1001, and the line he draws between light and truth—these things suggest a learned mind.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight is a student of psychology
In #1000, the Knight—on several occasions—describes the antics of Batman’s enemies as cries for help. He points out—as he sees it—Batman’s lack of empathy. He says that Batman “seems to thrive on being the center of attention,” and implies that it is some psychosis—and not logical intent—that makes Batman so. He calls Batman delusional for failing to discern the Court of Owls. And then, on the third page from the end and the last page itself, the Knight plays word games—word association at first, followed by aural association, implying perhaps that Batman’s subconscious condemns him by taking on such a name, and such a mantle.
And in #1001, the Knight says that the light is where the truth is. By implication, Batman is in the dark.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight is charismatic
The Knight has a loyal band of followers, all of whom are willing to take the fight to Batman, whose reputation precedes him. Such devotion could only be cultivated by a charismatic individual or some sort of mind control. Given his speaking ability, I’m leaning toward charisma.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight is a man of means
The Knight and his knights have a device that can generate an artificial sun. They have armor sophisticated enough to foil Batman’s attacks, weapons strong enough to penetrate his suit and cut his lines, and some as-yet unclear method of taking out thousands of bats in Gotham simultaneously. Clearly, the Knight has access to funding, either through his own personal wealth or through a benefactor.
Additional evidence from #1002: the Knight and his minions have underwater gear, including a submarine.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight observes first
In #1001, rather than confront Batman himself, the Knight sends his minions in first, to corral the Bat and push him towards the Knight’s location. Only then does he emerge from the shadows and reveal himself.
In #1002, once again, the Knight’s minions are the first to engage Robin underwater. Only after he has repelled them and resumed his mission does the Knight sneak in behind him and zap him unconscious.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight is local (maybe)
In #1002, with the Knight’s boot on his face, Batman asks “what did you unleash…on my city?” The Knight responds with indignation:
How can the Knight say this with any credibility if he isn’t a denizen of Gotham?
Evidence: the Arkham Knight values human life (or wants people to think that he does)
In #1002, the police intervene before the Knight can (apparently) bring his sword down on the subdued Batman at this feet. This prompts the Knight’s minions to fight back, with one of them yelling “they drew first blood!” An officer takes an arrow, a minion is immobilized by a Bat-bola, and then something strange happens: the Knight shouts “enough!” and charges to the defense of the police, even taking a few bullets on his own armor along the way.
One conclusion we can draw from this is that the Knight values (what he sees as) innocent life. But a more nuanced reading of the evidence might be that the Knight wants public opinion on his side. If he protects the lives of police and bystanders, then the people of Gotham will be forced to evaluate this conflict based on the merits of his case against Batman. Yes, the Knight probably killed all of those bats, and he gave people a scare with his “day bomb;” but those things are immeasurably less polarizing than causing the deaths of police officers and other innocents.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight has some knowledge of Batman’s technology
In #1001, Batman’s inner monologue tells us that the weapons wielded by the Knight’s minions are capable of penetrating his armor, and that his own Batarangs don’t have any luck against their armor. In #1002, Bruce elaborates:
The most obvious answer to that last question is that the Knight is somebody who knows Batman personally, but this is not the only possibility. He could have obtained Batsuit material through some other means (perhaps the site of a battle between Batman and one of his heavy-hitters), and there are probably stray Batarangs in ever nook and cranny of Gotham.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight is theatrical, or insane, or both
The Knight’s charismatic speech from the opening of #1001 could suggest that he is as mentally unhinged as the inmates of Arkham, but we can just as easily read it as an attempt to inspire his minions. But in #1002, things get a little bit stranger when he attempts to recruit Robin to his cause:
There are a few things to unpack here. First of all, anyone who calls Damian Wayne a songbird or a creature of the day clearly does not know him very well. The Knight latches on to Robin’s persona and makes assumptions about him. These aren’t ridiculous assumptions—after all, consider the original Robin, Dick Grayson, and these descriptors of the actual bird are much more fitting. But it is still a bit dramatic and a bit of a leap for the Knight to think he’s got Robin all figured out.
Now look at how he closes: profess your fealty. Join my crusade. You can make the case that the speech in #1001 simply uses medieval imagery and concepts to put a loftier spin on the cause. But the language the Knight uses in #1002 suggests that something is loose in his head, or that he wants Robin to think so. “Profess your fealty” is unmistakably dated language. The Knight is either mentally disturbed or he has some motivation for leaning so hard into his schtick.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight has taken over Arkham Asylum
The final two scenes of #1002 take place in Arkham Asylum, and the last of them takes place specifically in the hallway of a cell block where several of Batman’s rogues reside. It seems improbably that the Knight would have this sort of access to Arkham without being in charge.
Evidence: the Arkham Knight is someone that Robin would recognize (maybe)
On the final page of #1002, the Knight tells Robin that he—the Knight—will “need to try harder to convince [Robin] to join [him]” before taking off his helmet and revealing his face. We only see the back of his head and Robin’s expression, but it’s difficult to draw any firm conclusions from either. Robin’s expression does not necessarily suggest recognition, and the Knight’s hair isn’t enough to go on.
So what do we know for sure? The Knight feels that removing his helmet will make it easier to convince Robin to join him. Whether this is because Robin knows his face, or because a conversation with a face is easier than a conversation with a helmet, we do not yet know.
Well, that didn’t go according to plan
Detective Comics #1003 is out, and the guessing game is over! The Arkham Knight is Astrid Arkham, daughter of Arkham Asylum warden Jeremiah Arkham. I’m sure we’ll learn more about her motivation in the future, but the identity portion of the mystery is over. Let us know what you think about this reveal in the comments!
Have any other clues that you think we should add? Feel like we’re misinterpreting something? Leave a comment below, or email us to let us know.