Detective Comics #1003: One mystery solved, another begins
This article contains spoilers for Detective Comics #1003.
I’ve been hard at work these past few weeks, cataloguing evidence on the Arkham Knight. My goal: identify him. We saw evidence of learning, broadly and specifically in the domain of human psychology. We saw charisma. We saw theatricality. We saw strategy on the field of battle. We saw a lot!
But still, the identity of the Knight was not clear.
Until yesterday, of course. As we read in Detective Comics #1003, the Arkham Knight is Astrid Arkham, daughter of Jeremiah Arkham, the warden of Arkham Asylum. The gender reveal may shock some or most of you, and that would be fair: the Knight’s goons are visibly male or female, and so the large, mannish silhouette of the armored Knight naturally suggested a male occupant in that armor.
Batman wasn’t fooled, as we learn during Robin’s debrief this issue; but the evidence he used to make his determination was evidence that we readers never saw: specifically, the nature of her movement in battle. So if you’re disappointed that a crucial piece of evidence was not available to us, I can sympathize with you to some degree. But writer Pete Tomasi said some time ago that the “who” of the Arkham Knight would be far less important than the “what” and the “why.” And that’s where the mystery deepens.
Take Your Daughter to Work Day
I don’t have a great deal of experience with Jeremiah Arkham, but I can recall at least a few stories in which he objects to Batman’s methods. I might even remember a story in which he indicates a similar view of his inmates to that held by his daughter: that they are victims of their minds and the Batman—that they need help and healing, not physical coercion and punishment.
If my memory is reliable, then it seems that Astrid comes by her perception of Gotham’s criminal whackadoodles honestly. Imagine a young child hearing her father talk about the terror of the Batman, then one day happening upon Batman’s handiwork herself. The Dark Knight is, after all, the physical superior of almost all of his enemies, and once he’s got his hands on them, it would be hard for an impressionable, ill-informed mind to perceive those criminals as victims themselves.
Brothers in Arkham
We learn something else this time around—something that’s easy to miss. At least some of Astrid’s “Knights of the Sun” are current or former criminals. Have a look at this:
These two goons were on the wrong side of Robin at some point, and I’d wager that they’re not the only ones in the group with such a resume. In fact, I’m almost certain that all of them fall into this category. Astrid has said that she wants to free Gotham from the darkness of the Bat. We can be sure she means the city generally, but it’s clear that she also means individuals. We see this in her opening address from #1001, and we see it in how she talks to and about Robin in #1002 and here in #1003. For Astrid, it isn’t just about taking down Batman with an army—it’s about taking down Batman with an army freed from his shadow.
The sophisticated villain is always a hypocrite
We see another side of Astrid in #1003: her temper. She criticizes Batman’s self-delegated ownership of Gotham City, but she is every bit as guilty as he is. She, too, wants to impose her will for the sake of a greater good. She decries Batman’s use of force on the criminally insane, but she will sever their hands and punish their failures to comply with death.
Jeremiah was an Arkham
I fully expect the next issue will bring some serious conversation with Jeremiah Arkham, and with any luck, a healthy dose of backstory for Gotham’s newest villain. There are still plenty of mysteries left to solve, and Jeremiah should light the way. Until then, we can only speculate, but one thing’s for certain: I can’t wait to find out what happens next.