Batman is rightfully one of the most popular heroes in our culture today, with a long line of rich stories behind him. Batman comics guide us through the face of DC and the franchise indulged by fans. He’s had many storytellers over time, so we’re focusing on the ones that changed the character for the better. Let’s look through some essential comics that convey the best of The Dark Knight.
Batman: Year One
The early days of Batman and one of my favourite comic tails. Year One reimagined its premise and left a stamp with its different perspectives and character-driven portrayals. It’s a well-deserving fan favourite comic that would start more stories after it. It’s even getting live-action praise from director Matt Reeves who confirmed ‘The Batman’ is inspired by it, in theatres next year.
The different perspectives show a run-down Gotham city through the eyes of James Gordon, who is as much a focus as Bruce is if not more. Gordon is new in town with plans of shaping a better city, no matter how many crime-lords or crooked cops get in his way. As for Bruce, the title says it all. It’s his first year as the caped crusader trying to achieve the same goals. If you don’t know what to read first, make it this one.
Batman: The Man Who Laughs
If you’re a chronological fan, this is a nice entry to read after the events of Year One. A textbook way of portraying how dangerous Batman’s arch-nemesis is.
It follows The Joker’s early days planning to leave his mark, one punchline at a time. Joker broadcasts the person he’s gonna kill next, leaving Gordon and Batman with very little time to stop him. From politicians to crime lords, nobody is safe. This is also the first meeting between Batman and The Joker, setting the stage for one of the best rivals in history.
Batman: The Long Halloween
The bread and butter of Batman stories, a murder mystery giving the world’s greatest detective a challenging case to solve. Featuring an ensemble of his best rogues, this has everything you’d want from the franchise.
The investigation begins on Halloween, the GCPD reporting a murder with an interesting trail left behind. As the murders progress, they discover a pattern. The same trail left behind with the murders happening on a special date, giving the killer the nickname “Holiday”. Only killing their target on a holiday, Batman gets to work on all the possible connections but finds next to nothing. Everyone is a possible suspect, which makes it even better.
You don’t need to read anything before this if you don’t want to, a murder mystery that’s fun to read no matter how you do so.
Batman Comics: Hush
If you like mysteries, this one is an essential read. Hush finds our hero trying to uncover the mystery of this title assassin. This highly skilled foe puts Batman to a memorable test. Who is this mysterious killer? Want more? well, pretty much every main villain has an important piece to the puzzle. We also see an appearance from Superman, who has a much more important role than just a guest.
Along with a few other stories, this was adapted into an animated movie. A different yet effective story that many hold on a pedestal.
Batman Comics: The Killing Joke
One of the darkest comics and most definitive origin for The Joker, this is a must-read (or watch) if you want to get into Batman. Notable for its clever writing and crazy violence, The Killing Joke seems to be the final straw for Batman and Joker’s relationship.
The premise features Joker escaping Arkham as usual. But this time, he’s after commissioner Gordon, in hopes of proving another point to the caped crusader. It sheds light on the darkest things the clown prince is not afraid of doing, adding an even bigger notch of abuse and sexual assault on his victims. After this, Batman is brought to a decision that might break his one rule. Even if he does, The Joker would still prove his point.
If that wasn’t enough to sell, it ends on one of the most controversial cliffhangers in comic history. Everyone has their take on what they think happens in this story and that’s part of the fun.
Batman Comics: R.I.P.
An underrated yet worthy entry to this list. Lots know that Batman can defeat anyone with time, this explains just that. A different, slower-paced, character-driven plot that rewards you for understanding not only its plot but the messages it holds.
Targeted by an old criminal organization, Batman finds himself as the hunted. They plan on putting him through the unimaginable, forgetting one thing though, he’s Batman. Proving he always has a plan for any situation possible.
The message consists of never giving up, on anything. Although this isn’t always on people’s countdowns, I thought it was one of those stories that could inspire many.
Batman Comics: The Dark Knight Returns
Even if you don’t know it well, you’ve probably heard of this one. It’s the best of the best. Plot, writing, quotes, characters, you know name it. Written by Frank Miller comes a futuristic and entirely new Gotham City. Most rogues are inactive, some have probably passed, but that doesn’t stop the new generation from leaving their own stamp on crime.
After the emergence of a gang named The Mutants, Bruce comes out of retirement. His reappearance stirs problems for Superman, given that he now works for the government. If you’ve seen “Batman vs Superman”, you’ll know where this leads.
Not many can compete with this one right here. There’s been an animated feature with two parts that I recommend you watch as well. However you decide to view it, stories like these don’t come often, enjoy it.
Honourable Mention: Batman: A Death In The Family
The darkest and most tragic story of them all, the brutal murder of Jason Todd. The second Robin who didn’t live up to his predecessor Dick Greyson. Out of them all, Jason was always the rebel, his methods were always a bit too much and his patients was minimal. Because of this, DC actually made fans decide his fate, leading The Joker to murder him. This event was known as Batman’s greatest failure.
Although this article is about Batman’s greatest stories, it would be weird not to add it to the list. This is an honorable mention solely because it’s an ongoing comic series. When you get to know the characters more, then you can venture out here.
Rather you’re a fan who wants to get into the comics or expand your love for the character, these are all great selections. Timeless pieces have become the jumping-off point for most filmmakers today. Thank you for reading.