In Batman’s 80-Year History, These Are His Best Comic Book Adventures To Read Right Now
Batman, along with Spider-Man and Superman, is one of the most iconic comic book characters of all time. Gotham’s Dark Knight is among the most beloved characters in fiction with his balance of optimism and darkness. Not to mention, he has some of the most recognizable villains in the history of comics!
Here are Batman’s 10 best, and most essential graphic novels for those wanting to dive into his 80-year history before the release of The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson.
10. Ten Nights of the Beast
Jim Starlin, an artist and writer known for creating Thanos for Marvel, worked on this title into the late 80s. In Ten Nights of the Beast, Starlin teams up with legendary artist Jim Amparo to pen one of the best Batman stories of the decade.
The KGBeast, an assassin from the Soviet Union, is killing multiple American politicians in Gotham and Batman must stop him. What he doesn’t realize is this Soviet warrior is one of the most formidable challengers he would ever have to face!
The KGBeast is superior to Batman on a strategic, intellectual and physical scale. Batman must find a way to overcome this obstacle and take him down by any means.
This portrayal of Batman is very different compared to how we’re used to seeing the hero these days. This gives readers a refreshingly different perspective on everybody’s favorite billionaire.
Jeph Loeb has written some of the finest Batman stories available, and when he teamed up with superstar artist Jim Lee, magic was bound to happen. That magic came in the form of Batman: Hush.
Gotham’s iconic villains are going after Batman with different plans and strategies as he deals with a critical injury. Unbeknownst to him, a new enemy is controlling everything to get under his skin.
Hush could be viewed as a mix of an action blockbuster and a mystery. Loeb writes the story in a way that is fairly accessible to the reader. It serves as a nice introduction to new readers as Loeb presents almost all the main characters and villains in Gotham. Jim Lee’s world class art compliments the story and is some of the best of his entire career.
8. Court of Owls
I’m going to be upfront and say I’m not a fan of Scott Snyder’s work. I usually find it very anemic and repetitive. However, one of his first Batman stories, Court of Owls, is certainly worth your time.
Court of Owls kickstarts the Batman continuity with DC’s New 52 reboot of 2011. Batman is dealing with a mysterious organization called the Court of Owls — a group that was thought to be an old myth in Gotham’s history. Batman quickly realizes it’s more than a legend when he comes face-to-face with the Talon, the Court’s ultimate warrior.
This story is quite straightforward, but very well done. Court of Owls came before Snyder started to believe his own hype and actually put effort into his work. There’s great characterization, awesome action and a new, exciting threat to Batman’s rogues gallery.
The great Greg Capullo lends his artistic talent and gives this Batman story a distinctive look. His art style is dark, creepy and really brings this tale to life.
There are even rumors the upcoming film, The Batman, will bring some elements from Court of Owls to the big screen in 2022!
The 1990s were a period of upheaval for many comic book characters and Batman was no different. Knightfall saw the Caped Crusader being pushed to his limits like never before. Bane, at the time a new villain created by legendary writer Chuck Dixon, is the antagonist in this story.
The masked brute unleashes Gotham’s various villains to terrorize the city. The Dark Knight must fight them all in a couple of hellish nights, losing more than he ever thought possible in the process.
The storyline lasted almost two years and really showed what Batman stood for in the 90s. It was during this era where cynical antiheroes were extremely popular. Knightfall was also the inspiration behind Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises!
6. Under the Hood
Jason Todd was the second character to wear the mantle of Robin before suffering a tragic death at the hands of the Joker in Jim Starlin’s A Death in the Family. When writer Judd Winick took over the title in the mid-2000s, he decided to bring the character for Under the Hood.
Someone is mercilessly killing criminals in Gotham and taking control of the many drug-dealing organizations. This mysterious entity calls himself the Red Hood, which happens to be the Joker’s old alter ego. As Batman starts investigating, he realizes Red Hood isn’t easily fooled by his usual tactics. In fact, this new character seems to see through his tricks more than the usual villains. Things gets heated as mob boss Black Mask gets in the way of this action packed mystery.
Well-written, well-drawn and extremely relevant to the character’s continuity, it’s one of the best Batman stories out there. Under the Hood delves deep into Bruce Wayne’s moral code, his past and hits the hero closer to home than ever before. This is truly one of Batman’s most powerful and emotional storylines.
5. The Killing Joke
Whether you love him or hate him, writer Alan Moore is one of the most important comic book writers of all time. Whenever he takes an established character, there’s bound to be a lot of interest. This was the case in the late 80s when he took on a Batman title and set out to write a standalone story. The Killing Joke ended up being so good, DC eventually added it to the main continuity!
The Killing Joke gives readers a glimpse of the Joker’s origin and his attempts to make Commissioner Jim Gordon go insane. It’s all part of his sick way to prove that everybody is one bad day away from becoming just like him. Batman ends up in the middle of the conflict, trying to stop the Joker as well as finding a way to cure his madness. Since Batman doesn’t kill, his only solution is to get Joker the help he needs.
Moore has always enjoyed exploring what makes a character tick and doesn’t shy away from that with The Killing Joke. He has fun showing how serious Batman can be with his no-killing rule as well as giving possible explanations as to why the Joker is the way he is. However, Moore’s brilliant writing leaves Joker’s real origin up to interpretation.
2019’s Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix, lifted some elements from this iconic story for the brilliant film
4. Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
Neil Gaiman is an absolute legend of the comic book industry. However, his 2009 Batman story, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, doesn’t get the credit it deserves!
This story takes place outside of the main Batman continuity. The Caped Crusader has died and his spirit is looking at the different people he’s encountered throughout his life at his funeral. Both villains and allies come with different statements on how he died, confusing the ghost of Bruce Wayne. I won’t spoil it for you because this mysterious story is definitely worth your time and is one of the best Batman comics on the market.
Although it might feel depressing, the story finds a way to celebrate Batman’s life and what he stands for. This is really what makes the experience of reading it all the more enjoyable. Gaiman truly knows and respects the character, making the comic even more valuable for longtime readers.
3. The Long Halloween
Dynamic duo, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale bring another Batman tale outside the main continuity — The Long Halloween.
Batman has to deal with the threat of a mysterious killer who is committing murders only on certain holidays. On top of that, he’s coping with the threat of the first supervillain he’s had to face in his crime-fighting career. During these events, Gotham’s old crime bosses are trying to find a way to survive in a city where the likes of Catwoman and Two-Face are beginning to make names for themselves.
The Long Halloween is highly regarded as one of the best Batman comics of all time. Not only does Loeb have a firm understanding of Bruce Wayne, he’s also able to combine the story into a superhero action blockbuster, a mystery and crime noir.
2. Year One
When DC Comics rebooted their whole line with the Crisis on Infinite Earths event in 1985, they had the opportunity to revamp some of their most important titles and start from scratch. Marvel writer and artist Frank Miller, who made a name for himself with his Daredevil run, saw great success with this modernized origin story for the Dark Knight.
Batman: Year One shows Bruce Wayne’s first year as a crime-fighter as well as Jim Gordon’s beginnings with the corrupt Gotham Police. Both men have to learn to deal with a city that is on the edge of collapse and have to learn to fight against the system in order to make a difference.
1. The Dark Knight Returns
The Dark Knight Returns is the first Batman story written by Frank Miller and easily the most iconic. Miller, who also provided the art for this story, brings us an older, retired Batman. Gotham has gotten much worse since Bruce Wayne hung up the cowl for good. However, recent events have convinced him to come out of retirement, even when he’s a fraction of his old self. This story also brings back some iconic villains, and we’re also treated to an appearance from Superman!
Miller writes a delightful and complex tale where every page matters. Readers are treated to a more beaten and cynical Batman, but don’t let his age distract you. He’s as strong and ruthless as ever. We also get a deeper glimpse into what makes him tick and what happens when his morals are pushed to the limit. The Dark Knight Returns is not only the best Batman story of all time, but also one of the finest comic book series ever!
Zack Snyder’s controversial film Batman v. Superman movie even borrowed important plot points from this tale. So if you loved that movie, you’ll definitely enjoy this epic story!