Authors: Marv Wolfman
BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT – THE OFFICIAL NOVELIZATION
Print edition ISBN: 9781783292523
E-book edition ISBN: 9781783292530
Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP
First edition: July 2015
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BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT – THE OFFICIAL NOVELIZATION is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2015 DC Comics.
BATMAN and all related characters and elements
are trademarks of and © DC Comics.
WB SHIELD: TM & © DC Comics. (s15)
Batman created by Bob Kane.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
To Noel and Jessica. Just because.
This is not the story that was leaked to the press.
This is how it happened.
This is how the Batman died.
Nine months earlier…
He watched the attendants hoist the body onto the metal mesh and it landed with what would have been a painful thump had the bastard been alive, but, unfortunately, he wasn’t. Still, that carcass of meat and madness deserved any shame they could give it. They looked up to James Gordon, Gotham City’s police commissioner, watching from the second-level balcony. He shook his head ruefully as if to say,
We’re not him. Let’s get it over with.
With a grimace, they shoved the corpse’s arms to its side and straightened its legs then stepped back, checking with Gordon again.
“We’re done,” a cop said. “
done. Any time you’re ready, sir.”
Gordon nodded and pressed the small red button. He had expected to feel more, perhaps anger, definitely the urge for revenge. But he didn’t. Burning up what once had been a human being, if only in the loosest terms possible, was as simple as “press and wait.” The end of a life—good or bad—should be more dramatic or at least sad. But not in this case.
Hundreds of blue gas flames suddenly burst into life around the remains. Steadily the gauge recorded their heat rising to a scorching 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal cremation rules demanded that the body be placed in a container or casket, but the governor had waived the rules for this… removal. Everyone wanted to watch this body burn, right down to its ashes. Everyone wanted to make certain there was no chance he would rise again.
Even dead, he scared the shit out of them.
* * *
Gordon stood by the red button for nearly two hours as the body was slowly, excruciatingly reduced to its component parts by heat and vaporization. He would wait there until he was certain it was done, and that Gotham City’s seemingly endless nightmare would end once and for all.
Finally all that remained of the body was dust, and that was humiliatingly flushed down a dozen different toilets to further make certain his various parts would never be able to reconstitute.
Was it outside of the prescribed law?
, Gordon mused.
Primitive? To be certain. Vindictive? You bet.
But this corpse deserved nothing better. He waited until the final flush swirled the last of the ashes on their journey into the ocean, then gave a faint smile to the other observers. They responded in kind, although there was no joy—this was pure relief. He left knowing that at long last the Joker, that self-proclaimed Clown Prince of Crime, was well and truly gone.
* * *
Gordon watched as the attendants slapped each other’s backs while grinning and laughing. The Joker was gone and would never return, and if that long pent-up relief wasn’t reason enough to raise a glass, nothing would ever be.
They asked him to join their celebratory dinner, but Gordon turned them down, preferring to be alone. It was true that Gotham City would never have to deal with that grinning madman again, but Gordon never wanted anyone—especially his fellow cops—to celebrate death, not even the Joker’s.
The end of any life
, he thought,
should be a solemn event, not an excuse for a party.
But as he watched his fellow officers treat the moment as if it was New Year’s Eve, it appeared to him that civilization hadn’t progressed all that much in the last ten thousand years.
Here, in Gotham City, it had probably regressed.
* * *
The commissioner’s office at the Gotham City Police Department was as sparsely decorated as Gordon could manage. On his desk were three framed pictures of his daughter, Barbara—two of her alone and one she had taken with him and one with his son, James Jr., taken long ago and in better days.
On the wall hung the mandatory professional certificates, and a few photos of him receiving awards of some sort from one mayor after the other. But little else.
Generic Gotham City lithographs, circa the 1930s era, had been hung on the walls by his predecessor. He’d have taken them down, but that would have left blatantly discolored gaps where they had been hanging, so he didn’t bother. The rug—threadbare for several decades—had been laid down by his predecessor’s predecessor’s predecessor.
When Gordon took the job, he believed that making the office his own would lead to him spending his entire life, twenty-four–seven, in this twenty- by twenty-six-foot prison. On the other hand, if it was spartan to the point of discomfort, he thought he’d have more reason to go home at night to his wife and family, and try to maintain the illusion of a life.
Good plan. Lousy results. Except for his daughter, his family had long ago scattered to the winds.
So much for a “life.”
He collapsed into his chair, a new and extremely comfortable ergonomic model and his only extravagance, which he paid for himself to help support his bad back. He swung around to stare out a grime-smeared window looking over the Gotham City skyline.
Staring at its beauty from so high up and through the nearly opaque glass, he could fool himself into thinking there might have been a time when Gotham City had offered hope, and not despair. If it ever existed, those days ended with the murders of the city’s greatest benefactors, Thomas and Martha Wayne. The bandage had been pulled loose, revealing the festering wound that lay beneath.
Even Bruce, their son, had proved unable to heal it.
Reluctantly, Gordon accepted that the Joker was dead, and that his particular brand of homicidal mania had ended. But he knew there were dozens of other psychopathic wannabes, salivating to claim his throne. Even before the body had been officially identified, the Riddler began shouting from the rooftops that Gotham City was his.
“Riddle me this,” he’d bellowed into his amplifier. “Who’s as insane as the Joker, but still breathing?” Someone had been stupid enough to reply, “You are,” and he’d put a bullet through the poor sap’s head.
“No, you idiots,” he shouted to the heavens, “it’s the Bat. But he won’t be breathing for long.”
The Riddler may have been a showman, but Oswald Cobblepot—better known as the Penguin—preferred a more surreptitious approach to accumulating power. He quietly organized Gotham City’s criminal gangs, choosing to stay under the radar and rule the streets one crumbling corner at a time.
If Gotham City’s shadowed alleyways belonged to the Penguin, however, its underground was the domain of Killer Croc, an atavistic freak of nature who more resembled a thickly scaled reptile than a man. Gotham City’s sewers extended in all directions, undermining nearly every square foot of the city, providing unrestricted access to any place Croc wanted to go. As long as he had that sort of access, no one was safe.
The list went on and on. There was going to be a gang war—Gordon knew it with a certainty. With the Joker dead and a vacuum to be filled, there was no way to avoid it.
Any day now mob leader Carmine Falcone would decide it was time to take on Harvey Dent, the former district attorney now known as Two-Face. Or gang boss Sal Maroni might decide that if he waited any longer, Rupert Thorne would try to move into his territory. So Maroni would strike first and hard, and there’d be blood.
Hush, Bane, Poison Ivy, and Scarecrow. The Ventriloquist. Mr. Freeze, Hugo Strange, and of course Catwoman—depending on which side of the law she favored on any given day. They all saw Gotham City as a promised land where crime reigned eternal, and its advocates ruled supreme.
The war was coming. Somewhere one of the loose cannons was going to fire the first round. And the police, already woefully undermanned, would crumple in the onslaught. Months. Weeks. Days. Hours.
It was only a matter of time.
* * *
The war never came.
There were skirmishes, some more significant than others, yet for nine months the city experienced relative peace.
Nevertheless, Gordon never allowed himself to exhale. This was, after all, Gotham City. And as far as he was concerned, she was genetically incapable of sustaining hope.
Maggie placed Tuesday’s meatloaf special on the counter in front of Scott Owens, six months a proud officer in the Gotham City Police Department, then poured his second cup of coffee. Because she knew he was on a diet, she’d already replaced his potatoes with mixed vegetables and the cornbread with a side salad, light ranch dressing in a small cup to the side.
He’d lost fifty pounds, and she was determined to help him lose his last ten any way she could.