Make It So: Batman Arkham Origins II by Jerry Whitworth
When Warner Bros. decided to add an entry to Rocksteady’s wildly popular Batman: Arkham series without Rocksteady (or fan favorite writer Paul Dini), reaction was mixed at best. Expectations were already lowered when the people behind the phenomenon wouldn’t be included but when reports of multiple glitches and bugs (including severe ones that forced players to restart the game entirely) were not only present but common, both the game and developer Warner Bros. Games Montréal were heavily criticized. The game wouldn’t be considered a failure, however. While it certainly didn’t reach the heights of sales or prestige of previous installment Arkham City, it managed to secure sales in the strata of first entry Arkham Asylum (not including sale of DLC material). A prequel, Arkham Origins describes the first meeting between Batman and the Joker as assassins descend on Gotham on Christmas Eve to collect a multimillion dollar bounty for the Dark Knight’s head. In the first Arkham game, Joker was the focus with Poison Ivy a significant secondary threat. The sequel saw Hugo Strange as the main adversary with the Joker and Ra’s al Ghul as seeming equal threats (Joker stealing the show by the game’s finale). Origins had Joker as the star while Bane became almost an equal threat. The three games would prominently feature some of Batman’s greatest rogues, including Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, Two-Face, Mister Freeze, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, Black Mask, Killer Croc, Deadshot, and Firefly in addition to those named already. If Warner was to produce an Arkham Origins sequel, lets examine what that could entail.
Arkham Origins loosely adapted elements of Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One” with parts of the Joker’s first appearance. Of course, its own entity, it operated fairly loose with continuity as Bane and the Joker meet Batman on the same night (instead of some ten odd years apart), Anarky (who was considered as the Joker’s son at one point during his development) was more in line with his Beware the Batman version, and Shiva to some extant fills a role akin to Talia (in that a liaison between the hero and Ra’s al Ghul). In terms of early placed Batman tales with high notoriety, next to Year One there would be Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Batman: The Long Halloween. Chronologically following Year One and the emergence of the Joker, Long Halloween is the thirteen month journey of the serial killer(s) Holiday that included such advents as the demise of Carmine “The Roman” Falcone and the villainous transition of Harvey Dent, descending into madness inevitably becoming Two-Face. As with past Arkham entries, the game could transpire over the course of one night as various fateful encounters converge to take place within the limited time frame. In this vein, the main premise of the game could feature Carmine Falcone as the main villain and Two-Face a prominent yet secondary villain. As the Holiday killings chip away at the Roman Empire, Falcone declares war on all of Gotham’s “freaks” on Halloween night, be it syndicate criminals like Black Mask and the Penguin or individuals like the Joker, Riddler, Scarecrow, or Poison Ivy. Falcone’s plans go awry when Harvey Dent emerges as Two-Face and frees the patients at the newly opened Arkham Asylum and organizes several of them against the Roman.
In addition to gang war in Gotham, there could still be plenty of other threads to follow within the story. For example, in Long Halloween, a notable subplot is Catwoman’s vendetta against the Roman and despite being Batman’s adversary, in a turn of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, becomes a valued ally (albeit in conflict). Further, while there’s been many disparities in when Bruce Wayne took Dick Grayson as a ward, amidst the gang war Batman could be investigating the deaths of the Flying Graysons, hunting down Tony Zucco on behalf of his soon to be ally. Another murder investigation could involve uncovering the identity of Holiday, though this could be left open ended as with the Hush subplot in Arkham City. Another viable thread could describe when Batman first met Talia, perhaps the Sensei separating the League of Assassins from Ra’s al Ghul and taking a contract from Falcone to eliminate the Penguin and Black Mask. As Batman is forced to combat the likes of Bronze Tiger, Hook, Merlyn, Black Spider, Cheshire, and Professor Ojo, Talia acts as both a damsel-in-distress and the cavalry forming a give-and-take bond with the Dark Knight. There is also, of course, a subplot established in the previous game of the Suicide Squad. Set-up with Deathstroke, the team could include Deadshot, Bane, Captain Boomerang, and Count Vertigo led by Rick Flag, Jr. with a strong presence by Amanda Waller. There’s a number of issues that could have brought the group to Gotham, perhaps a WMD obtained by Penguin, some new toxic gas developed by Doctor Death for terrorists, or capture Proteus for a mission into Offalia. In terms of the Arkham series consistently delving into the history of Gotham, a subplot could involve Batman uncovering secrets of the Court of Owls.
Through three games, the Arkham series has quite a bit of mileage with Batman’s rogues gallery. And yet, there are several notable members it hasn’t even employed yet. Likely the most glaringly absent foe is Man-Bat, scientist Kirk Langstrom who, in a Jekyll and Hyde turn, transforms into a giant humanoid bat. Other notable villains include Blockbuster, Calendar Man (though having made cameos), Catman, Cavalier, Clayface (Preston Payne), Killer Moth, Professor Milo with Anthony Lupus, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and Ventriloquist (Scarface making a few appearances) with Rhino and Mugsy. Further, while introducing these characters into the Arkhamverse, there are a few villains that haven’t had the prominence in the games as others. Scarecrow and Poison Ivy are two examples, as the former was quite involved in Arkham Asylum but absent in the last two (save in Easter eggs) and the latter heavily featured in the first game but only available in Catwoman’s story in Arkham City. Another is Mr. Freeze who was likely the most memorable boss fight in Arkham City but didn’t appear in the first or last entries. Batman could also tackle some allies as the age old tradition of two heroes fighting before working together. The Creeper is notable as his alter ego Jack Ryder has in various fashions made appearances in all three games but yet as the maniacal hero. Others could be Ragman, Deadman, Manhunter (Paul Kirk), Nemesis (Tom Tresser), or Jason Blood.