With the Magistrate calling the shots and masked heroes outlawed, it’s time for the criminally insane to fight for Gotham City.
Warning: this article contains spoilers for The Next Batman #1
It’s a new year, and DC Comics has officially launched the highly anticipated Future State event. As far as Gotham is concerned, things have gone from bad to worse. The city is under the thumb of a powerful authoritarian regime known as The Magistrate, who have outlawed all “masks” under pain of death. Batman and the other members of the Bat-Family aren’t the only ones on the oppressive regime’s hit-list. Included in the release of The Next Batman #1 is the first chapter of Future State: Arkham Knights, by writer Paul Jenkins and artist Jack Herbert.
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As the opening narration boxes illustrate, Gotham now resides “Under a cloud of tyranny and disinformation.” There’s a war raging on multiple fronts against the new authoritarian regime that has laid claim to the city. Leading the charge in the sector of the city known as the Wasteland are The Knights of Arkham; a crack team comprised of former inmates from Arkham Asylum. Supervillains being recruited into performing dangerous missions isn’t exactly a new trick for DC, but this team of dangerously enhanced criminals isn’t being strong-armed. Unlike Task Force X, aka The Suicide Squad, The Knights of Arkham aren’t under government control and choose to swear fealty to their commander and follow her strict edicts.
Led by Astrid Arkham, alias Arkham Knight, the group is highly organized, effective, and dedicated to their mission of freeing Gotham. What’s more, their actions are inspiring others to rise up against the paramilitary forces patrolling the streets. Just goes to show how much the city has degenerated when the criminally insane of Arkham has become the “good guys”. Interestingly enough, the Knights are a more holistic group than one might expect. Being a descendent of the Asylum’s founder Amadeus Arkham, Astrid hasn’t given up on her family’s calling to heal sick minds. Under her leadership, both the body and the mind are treated with equal care. Scheduled therapy sessions are mandatory for all. The irony of it all is that it appears to be working.
But who’s on the team exactly? Second in command is Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face, who’s in charge of logistics and intelligence. For muscle, they have the protean powerhouse Clayface, as well as the egg-shaped well-mannered brute Humpty Dumpty. The newest inductee is the fierce and durable Killer Croc, who is rescued by the Knights at the beginning of the story. A testament to Astrid’s leadership skills, the deranged criminal mastermind Victor Zsasz has also sworn allegiance to the cause. An outlier in this wild bunch is the macabre-looking Dr. Alexander James Sartorius, otherwise known as Dr. Phosphorous. There are other background characters that may get the spotlight in later chapters, however, the aforementioned are the stars of the show.
The Magistrate has spread across the city like a disease, and the Knights of Arkham see themselves as the cure. With still so much unknown and the fate of Gotham hanging by a thread, could the former villains of Arkham be the city’s greatest hope? It’s hard to tell so early into Future State, but the folks at DC Comics have given fans reason enough to keep reading.
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