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Things from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One comic that I’d like to see used in Batman: Arkham Origins

Frank Miller's Batman: Year One is one of my favourite comic books. It depicts Bruce Wayne's difficult transition from inexperienced vigilante as he begins to shape himself into a symbol of terror. Year One is a crucial part of his story, and when I heard the next Arkham game was going to explore the period just after, I got pretty damn excited. A lot of doors that were closed during the past two Arkham games are suddenly opened. Here's what I think could be carried over and why.

Becoming the Bat

"He will become the
greatest crimefighter
the world has ever known...

It won't be easy."

Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham 25 years old, inexperienced and naive. His first outing as a vigilante is a complete disaster, getting himself beaten-up, stabbed, shot and arrested, all while putting others in serious danger. Throughout Year One we see Bruce's fragility - something that is often lost in later stories.

Rocksteady did a great job showing Batman's vulnerability to guns, but I'd like to see this taken even further in Arkham Origins. During the story of the previous games, I never felt Batman was in serious threat of dying. We have faith in our Caped Crusader, and know that he'll pull through and beat the odds eventually. No matter what Bane or Killer Croc or the Joker come up with, Bats can overcome it, either physically or mentally.

I'd like to see the writing in Arkham Origins reflect a more beatable Batman, one who has to struggle to stay alive. But this can be done with gameplay, too. Many times during the past two games have I taken on crowds of a dozen - maybe more - thugs or gang members, and defeated them without receiving a single blow. In Year One, Bruce can do nothing of the sort, and in his second year he'll still be learning the ropes. Maybe combat could be tweaked to put emphasis on getting away from crowds like that and using the shadows - picking them off one by one - much like he must do against those using firearms.

In Arkham Origins, Batman has a $50 million bounty placed on his head by Black Mask, and as a result ten of the world's most deadly assassins come to claim it. The likes of Deathstroke will provide a much more difficult physical challenge than the street criminals Batman is used to. He'll face a steep learning-curve to not get his arse kicked and I'm looking forward to seeing how that's handled.

Bat Ethics

"These men -- they probably have families..."

Bruce Wayne spends much of Year One struggling to hold onto his humanity. Attempts to save an old woman, a young criminal, a cop who shot him without warning and even a cat are all made at great risk to Batman; he throws himself into potentially fatal situations to prove to himself that he won't lose his morality.

Batman's morals are his greatest weakness, but we didn't see villains play up to that much in previous games. Perhaps in Arkham Origins we could see how the public affect Batman to a greater extent. Civilians didn't have much of a part to play in either Asylum or City due to the locations, but now we could see situations where Batman is forced to enter traps and dangerous situations contrived by his foes, or perhaps forsake a mission to rescue members of the public.

It's wishful thinking, but I believe even a minor player-choice system would go a long way. Give us the option to decide between the mission or the public; give us some standing on Batman's morals and character at such an early time in his career and when he is still shaping himself. Perhaps even a bar or meter to show Batman's standing with the public and the consequence of his actions would work.

Lieutenant/Captain Gordon

"He's out to clean
up a city that
likes being dirty.

He can't do it alone."

In many ways, Year One is as much Gordon's story as it is Batman's. His struggle to work in a police force he hates and raise a family in a city he hates - culminating in his affair with Sergeant Essen - makes for a striking and human story. In a universe filled with vivid and colourful characters built on extravagant metaphors, James Gordon is one character whose humanity shines throughout.

Gordon has been woefully underused in the last two Arkham games, but now we have a good chance to see him in full. Though they are mainly kept apart in Year One, Batman and Gordon's goals and paths cross, and eventually a bond begins to grow between them.

Arkham Origins has a fantastic opportunity to show the development of this friendship. It would be great to see them working together to take down Gotham's criminals and corrupt, and through this see their trust in each other begin to grow. Batman needs Gordon to keep the GCPD off his back, and Gordon needs Batman because the GCPD is no match for the likes of Joker or Black Mask. I'm hoping we get to see the bat-signal in action.

Gordon could provide a different perspective, a more grounded view of Gotham. The narrative of the past Arkham games has been very linear, but the story could be expanded here to include Gordon's struggling family life and his rising station in a corrupt police force. I'd love to see him get a role like Catwoman had in Arkham City and even get the chance to play as him.


"He's a criminal. I'm a cop. It's that simple, but --
-- but I'm a cop in a city where the mayor and the commissioner of police use cops as hired killers..."

Unusual as it is for a Batman story, none of his regular villains make an appearance in Year One. The real enemy is the Gotham City Police Department and those who use their influence to control it. When Gordon's Commissioner, he keeps things honest. But in Year One he's only a Lieutenant, and in Arkham Origins he's only a Captain.

The vile and contemptible Commissioner Loeb is confirmed for Origins, as is the SWAT leader Branden. On pay from Gotham's aristocracy/crime lords, these guys are out to finish Batman for shaking up the hierarchy; from the mayor elections to street drug deals, Gotham is rotten and the GCPD have a hand in everything, doing much more than turning a blind eye.

Unlike in past games, Batman is going to have to deal with the police as an enemy. SWAT teams under command of the violent Branden will no doubt be sent to kill Batman, and I hope that dealing with them will provide a challenge.

Throughout Year One Gordon is at loggerheads with Loeb, Branden, and his partner, Detective Flass. He even gets beaten up by a gang of cops for not fitting in, and I want to see this inner-police struggle investigated in Arkham Origins. Perhaps Gordon could help Batman in dealing with the SWAT teams, and Batman could help Gordon root out and expose corrupt cops.

Batman and Gordon are almost alone in their desire to clean Gotham up. Almost. A pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent will hopefully appear, working alongside them as a District Attorney.

Selina Kyle

"I hear the Roman's got a fortune in old stuff. Maybe I'll give him a scratch or two before I steal it. Won't think it's Batman if I give him a scratch."

Although I thought Catwoman's part in Arkham City was a little too large, and would rather have seen the weight of her role shared with characters like Robin, Gordon and Nightwing, she's a fantastic character. She plays a bit role in Year One, staying mainly on the sidelines and only occasionally clashing with Batman. Nonetheless, Selina Kyle is greatly affected by Batman and envies his publicity.

I'd like Arkham Origins to explore the early stages of their relationship. She's a burglar; he hunts criminals. And yet, something stops them perceiving each other as an enemy. Origins could show them encountering each other both as friends and enemies, gauging one another's motives.

Bats! Gadgets!

"Extraordinary creatures, bats. Nearly blind --
-- they are sensitive to a range of sound far beyond our hearing.

Took me weeks to find an ultrasonic tone that attracts them.

All of them."

One of Year One's coolest scenes shows Batman escaping from a derelict building full of SWAT team members. He's been shot, cornered, and he's almost out of gadgets. But not quite.

With the press of a button under his heel, thousands of bats come flying out of the bat cave and into Gotham city, causing havoc on the streets. They flock to him and provide the perfect veil under which to escape. It would be fun to see this used in gameplay in order to flee an unwinnable battle, when the player finds themself cornered and fighting against the odds. It's like a last resort for Batman - if all else fails, call in the bats!

In any case, the gadgets at Batman's disposal should be different to those from previous instalments. Even if the arsenal isn't reduced, it should be modified to reflect the earliness in his career. That might mean more rudimentary versions of the advanced gadgets seen in Asylum and City.

Thom Whyte | 4th October, 2013

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