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Best Batman Graphic Novels Ever?

Updated on January 14, 2016
A small sample of my Batman collection.
A small sample of my Batman collection.

Recommended Batman Books

Batman is one of the best known and best loved comic book characters of all time. There are lots of excellent Batman books available, as well as some awesome games and movies. However, for comic newcomers, the choice of stories can be little daunting. Having been in that situation a couple of years ago, I know how it feels, so I decided to write this lens to offer some advice to people about some of the great books I have read. I admit there are some titles I haven't read yet, including many I intend to read, but the following books are some of the best stories available and are all great books for Batman newcomers as well as being essential reads for Batman fans. I'm not even going to attempt to put them into any order, but if they've made my list, then their worth a read.

So take a look and let me know if you agree or if you can't believe I forgot your favourite. Oh, and if there's one you haven't read that catches your eye, don't forget to pick it up!

One of my favourite moments in Year One
One of my favourite moments in Year One

Batman: Year One

Frank Miller

When I first decided to read a Batman comic, this was the book that pretty much every website I found recommended as a starting point and I soon understood why. This book is significant for a number of reasons. First of all it tells of the origin of Batman, beginning with Bruce Wayne's first relatively unsuccessful attempts at fighting crime to him taking on the Persona of the Bat and battling crime in the city. It also tells the story of James Gordon's arrival in Gotham and how he deals with some of the corruption that is rife in the city, and beginning to form a relationship with Batman in the process. We also see a young Selina Kyle becoming Catwoman.

But this book is perhaps most significant for the change in style it signified for Batman. Previous to Year One, most portrayals of Batman were in the lighter, 60's TV show image. Year One signalled the start of a darker, more grown up version of Batman.

Frank Miller's writing is excellent, and includes several memorable moments including on of my favourites which I've included below when Batman disturbs a Mob dinner party and his escape from a collapsing building and a deadly Police SWAT team.

I have to agree that this is THE best starting point for anyone who wants to get into Batman comics, and is an excellent starting point for anyone getting into comics generally.

The Long Halloween

Loeb and Sale

This was one of the first Batman books I read and is near the top of my list of books I want to read again. The graphic novel brings together 13 issues from a limited series with the same title.

The story revolves around Batman's attempts to stop a serial killer who kills monthly on significant dates/holidays such as Valentine's Day, July 4th and Halloween. To do those works with James Gordon and DA Harvey Dent, while at the same time he tries to stop a mob war between two of Gotham's dominant families. The story is set just after Batman Year One in DC continuity and involves several of Batman's most famous enemies including the Joker, the Riddler, the Mad Hatter, Scarecrow and Poison Ivy. It also retells the origin of Two-Face.

The story involves a few twists and turns and is really well written and drawn by the Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, who also teamed up for sequel books titled Batman: Dark Victory and Catwoman: When in Rome, as well as other working together on other titles such as Spiderman: Blue, Daredevil : Yellow and Hulk: Grey. Loeb has also written for numerous TV shows and movies including 'Lost', 'Heroes' and Smallville. The book is also thought to have been one of the books that influenced the Batman movie 'The Dark Knight'.

Batman: No Man's Land is in 4 volumes but is worth the time and effort.
Batman: No Man's Land is in 4 volumes but is worth the time and effort.

No Man's Land

This story is quite a daunting one at first, with four thick trade paper backs (in the current printing edition) bringing together the story which was originally told across several DC titles. I must admit mine sat on my shelf for three or four months before I finally found the time I felt I needed to give the story my full attention. However once I started reading I found it difficult to stop.

The story is set in Gotham after an Earthquake. The city is so badly damaged that its citizens are told to evacuate. However they are given only a brief time to do this before it is declared a no man's land with no one allowed in or out. However many stay behind and are forced to live in a world with different rules where food, water, batteries and bullets become scarce and therefore valuable. In the midst of all of this, many of Gotham's biggest villains seize the opportunity to take control of their share of the city. To begin with it appears Batman has deserted Gotham and the remaining Police have to resort to extreme measures to take and maintain control of just a small part of the city.

When Batman does arrive, he has to fight harder than ever to help his city and gain the fear and respect of its residents again (including the Police) and needs the support of his friends and allies more than usual.

This is a great story with appearances from many of the best characters from the DC world, including, the Joker, Two Face, Penguin and Bane to name just a few. It has something for everyone and also provides a context for some other great Batman novels. A great read and an essential part of any Batman fan's collection.

Who is the best Batman villain?

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A Talon from the Court of Owls
A Talon from the Court of Owls

Batman: The Court of Owls

Scott Snyder

This was the first storyline in Batman comics after the launch of the New 52. I read this as individual issues, not as a Graphic Novel but it has since been collected together in both hardback and paperback form.

The story is very cleverly written by Scott Snyder,introducing a new enemy for Batman who have actually existed in Gotham for longer than Batman. He takes the idea that Batman feels he knows the city like the back of his hand, better than anyone else, just as many long time Batman fans feel they know it well and then there is the revelation that Batman (and his readers) doesn't know it as well as he thinks.

He introduces a powerful society called the Court of Owls, made up of many of the wealthiest people in Gotham who have controlled and manipulated the city for years. Key to this control is a highly trained individual known as a Talon who carries out much of their dirty work for them, including an attempt to kill Bruce Wayne.

Without giving the story away, this book revolves around Batman's attempts to find out about the Court and deal with the Talons. It is cleverly written, introducing new ideas to the Batman universe about characters we have known about for a long time, without destroying Batman's previous history. Snyder is a talented writer and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (The New 52)
Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (The New 52)

Scott Snyder's writing on Batman is some of the best I have come across. A great starting point for anyone new to Batman and a must read for all Batman fans.

 

The Killing Joke

Alan Moore

One of the key moments in Batman's history, this short story sees the Joker at his worst when he shoots and paralyses Barbara Gordon. An excellent piece of writing by one of the biggest names in comics Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing). Original copies of this book have increased significantly in value since its release in the 80's. A must have in any serious Batman comic enthusiasts collection, it has since been re-published multiple times in both paper and hard back forms. The original paper back from DC can be distinguished by the title lettering being in green. A highly recommended book for anyone interested in Batman.

Batman: The Killing Joke, Deluxe Edition
Batman: The Killing Joke, Deluxe Edition

A must have for any Batman collection

 

Batman or Detective Comics?

Most people know that Batman started out in issue #27 of Detective Comics, but since then his stories have been published both as a self titled Batman comic as well as the original Detective Comics. Both books have seen some classic story lines, but which is the best overall?

Batman or Detective Comics?

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The Dark Knight Returns

Frank Miller

This book is set much later than Many other Batman novels and features an older Bruce Wayne who at the start has retired from being Batman. He realises Batman is part of him and can't be retired so once again puts on the Cowl. He comes up against Harvey Dent who people believe is cured of his problems but really hasn't and sets of a bomb. He takes on a Gotham street gang and is saved from their leader by a young girl who has dressed herself as Robin.

The Joker then contrives a plan to murder a TV studio full of people and escapes, later framing Batman for murder. Superman also features in the Dark Knight Returns and after a series of events that I won't go into here, he is sent to track down and take down Batman by the US government. The ensuing fight is one of the most famous in comics. There is even more to the story that follows, but I don't want to spoil it any more than I already have.

Often found at the top of 'Best Batman Book' lists, the Dark Knight Returns is certainly a great read and another must have for any self respecting Batman fan.

Jean-Paul Valley as Batman
Jean-Paul Valley as Batman

Batman: Knightfall

Another Batman title that was influential in the writing of the movie 'The Dark Knight Rises', this 3 book story (in its current publishing format) tells of Batman battling a multitude of his enemies who have been broken out of prison by Bane. Bane watches on as an already weakened Batman (from a previous story) battles to recapture each villain, before taking on and defeating Batman.

The story that follows is about Bruce Wayne recvering from his serious injuries and about how his replacement as Batman (Jean-Paul Valley AKA Azreal) acts as the Batman. Valley is Bruce Wayne's choice to replace him despite protests from Robin (Tim Drake) who believes Dick Grayson (formerly Robin and now Nightwing) should take over. The new Batman becomes more and more extreme in his use of force to apprehend criminals and displays a disregard for detective work which serves to damage Batman's relationships with others in Gotham. He also adapts the Bat suit with weaponary which Bruce Wayne would not approve of.

There are several other sub plots to the story and it is an enjoyable read, particularly volume one of the story.

Batman: Knightfall, Vol. 1
Batman: Knightfall, Vol. 1

Batman takes on a multitude of his enemies, becoming increasingly weak and vulnerable.

 

Other Batman Titles on Amazon Worth a Read

Here are some other books I have read that you may want to try. You won't find some of them on many top ten lists, but I enjoyed reading them so you might too.

Batman: Hush
Batman: Hush

This book was very nearly on my main list. Another book by Loeb and Sale with the help of Jim Lee, this is an excellent read and comes highly recommended.

 
Batman: Cacophony
Batman: Cacophony

Like Marmite, most people either love or hate Kevin Smith. If you love his work, give this a try, if you don't then maybe look elsewhere. An enjoyable story with art by Smith's close friend and fellow Comic Book Man Walt Flanagan.

 

What's Your Favourite Moment in Batman History?

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    • Siclone profile image
      Author

      Simon 2 years ago from NSW, Australia

      I have read some of Morrison's run but not Batman and Son. I will have to pick up a copy!

    • mojoCNYartist profile image

      Dan 4 years ago from CNY

      I just read Batman and son. I was surprised by how good it was. I gave it 5 stars.