The next Batman Arkham game should adopt the Battle for the Cowl storyline
It has been a little over two years since the last mainline entry in Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series, Batman: Arkham Knight, was released, and ever since then the series has lain in a sort of indefinite dormancy.
Rocksteady made it clear that Arkham Knight would be the last game it produced, which was odd since the game’s ending actually threw some pretty crazy cliffhangers at the player and never really bothered to resolve them (hinting that the series would indeed continue even if Rocksteady wasn’t at the helm).
It’s still not clear whether publisher Warner Bros has any plans to revive the series, but if it does, there’s one recent Batman storyline that could work surprisingly well as an adaptation for the Arkham series:
Batman: Battle for the Cowl.
Spoilers for Arkham Knight and Battle for the Cowl follow.
As those who beat Arkham Knight and earned the “true” ending remember, said ending provided nearly as many questions as it did answers. Bruce Wayne, having been ousted to the entirety of Gotham City as being the one who wore Batman’s cowl, seemingly killed himself by triggering what he called the ‘Knightfall Protocol’ and blowing up Wayne Manor while he and Alfred were inside (as obvious a fake-out as they come, even though it was technically never confirmed that Bruce and Alfred survived the explosion).
Meanwhile, during a special true ending-only sequence in which Commissioner Gordon is seen en-route to the wedding of his daughter Barbara (former Batgirl turned Oracle) and Tim Drake (a.k.a the current Robin), a nearby mugging is thwarted by a masked vigilante who appears to be taking on a darker version of the Batman persona, one who isn’t afraid to utilize tools like Scarecrow’s fear gas.
The player never learns who this new Batman is, but theories suggest it is none other than Jason Todd, the former Arkham Knight/Red Hood who found redemption during the closing act of Arkham Knight proper when he finally managed to forgive his former mentor, Batman.
If a new Arkham game were ever to be released, it would have quite a stage already set for it assuming it took place after the events of Arkham Knight. Batman is apparently dead, both his allies and the entirety of Gotham city are struggling to cope with his absence, and now there’s apparently a new Batman who is taking a much more ruthless stance against crime.
If all this sounds somewhat familiar to avid Batman comic readers, that’s because several of the above plot points I mentioned have actually already been explored in a comic called Batman: Battle for the Cowl.
Who will wear the mask?
Initially released back in 2009, Battle for the Cowl ties into the overarching Final Crisis arc of DC Comics, following events from previous comics such as Batman and Son and Batman R.I.P. While there is naturally a bunch of extracurricular material that ties into Battle for the Cowl, it also works surprisingly well as a standalone story, though newcomers to the Batman comic universe might be a bit overwhelmed at just how many different characters grace its pages.
Right off the bat (no pun intended), Battle for the Cowl shares a similar premise as the end of Arkham Knight: Batman has seemingly been killed (though the person who actually died was actually just a clone while the real Batman is stuck in the past because comics) and his death has caused Gotham City to erupt into chaos.
Supervillains are terrorizing the city’s citizens with near impunity and heroes like Nightwing, Catwoman, Robin, Huntress, and others are struggling to retain order without the support of the Dark Knight himself. Meanwhile, a brutal new “Dark Batman” has also showed up, hunting down criminals at will and dispatching them with lethal force using a pair of modified handguns.
You can probably already guess who the new Dark Batman is: Jason Todd, the crazed former Robin who believes he is destined to take up the mantle of his dead mentor. Nightwing eventually manages to defeat Jason and eventually takes up the mantle of Batman himself, starting a new era in which Gotham has a younger, more agile Batman as its protector in Bruce Wayne’s absence (Bruce eventually returns and re-dons the mantle of Batman in a later comic, but that doesn’t happen for quite a while).
Back to Arkham
With a little tweaking, Battle for the Cowl could easily be adopted into the plot for a post-Arkham Knight Arkham game since Arkham Knight’s finale already laid a lot of the groundwork.
Nightwing, Robin, Oracle, and Catwoman struggle to retain order now that Batman has been both revealed to be Bruce Wayne (someone who none of the city’s supervillains fear) and seemingly killed, a new darker Batman is apparently waging their one one-person war on crime (this could eventually turn out to be Jason Todd, but it would also be cool if the game’s developer threw players a curveball), and the city itself is still likely recuperating from Scarecrow’s terrorist attack.
Such a game could provide an interesting sort of hook in that it didn’t actually star Batman but instead used his memory as a sort of symbol to drive the player forward as they controlled various side characters (something which they’ve already gotten to do in previous Arkham games).
This supposed Battle for the Cowl game could also bring in characters who had yet to make an Arkham universe appearance, characters like Black Canary, Wildcat, Huntress, Batwoman, and maybe even more widely known personalities like Green Arrow (all of whom would make solid playable characters, by the way).
It’s tough to consider when/if Bruce Wayne would make a return and for what reason, but since the Arkham universe tends to play by its own rules, I’m sure the developer behind this theoretical game could come up with something compelling.
If anything, my desire to see a Battle for the Cowl Arkham game really stems from the fact that I don’t want to see the Arkham series end on the mostly solid yet still somewhat troubled delivery of Arkham Knight’s final few beats. There’s still a lot more the Arkham series could offer to Batman fans, whether it adopts the Battle for the Cowl storyline or not.