The Top 5 Batman Comic Books
If you suffer from “too long, didn’t read” syndrome, the video up above covers the content, courtesy of me! Below is if you’re unable to watch or would rather read.
Alright so today I’m taking a little bit of a break from gaming to talk about one of my other favourite topics, of course being Batman. Comic books, more specifically. And what the five best Batman comic books of all time are, at least in my opinion. These books are all stand-alone, so you don’t need to read any other Batman material to give them a look. Without further delay, let’s get into the top five Batman comics, naturally starting with number five.
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5) Batman: Arkham Asylum – A Serious House On Serious Earth
Number 5 is Batman: Arkham Asylum, A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison, and it’s perhaps his finest work. Now, you might find yourself immediately thinking about Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham Asylum video game, but this actually comes way before that, having been published in 1989.
This book is iconic because it’s unlike any other Batman book you’ll ever read. It’s one of the darkest and most disturbing of them all, and in many ways is almost like a horror story. Much like the video game, it follows the story of Batman being invited into Arkham, after the super villains have taken over it. It’s notable for demonisising many of the Batman villains, and you can see from the horrifically awesome artwork (that’s Joker by the way) that they really try to unsettle you with each panel as the book gets more and more creepy. I love the art of this book, it’s fantastic, and I especially like the way they draw Batman, like a shadow. This book is psychological, it’s dark and it’s unforgettable.
4) Batman: The Long Halloween
Number 4 for me is Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb. This book was a 13-issue series published over 1996-1997 and it’s a personal tale for Batman as he races to discover the identity of a serial killer called Holiday who is committing murders on each notable holiday. It incorporates nearly all of the famous Batman villains, it takes place during Batman’s early years and it tells the story of how Batman lost his most powerful ally, Harvey Dent, who becomes Two Face in this book, and the impact that has on Gordon and Batman’s relationship.
This book is a landmark in Batman history not only for being one of the best graphic novels out there, but for actually going on to serve as key inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight movie, and here’s a quote from the famous director himself, who said: “The Long Halloween is more than a comic book. It’s an epic tragedy.” I whole heartedly agree. This book has it all, and the story is a wonderful mystery that keeps you guessing, and it definitely has a shocking ending waiting for you that was discussed for years and years after its publication.
The book did have a sequel, Dark Victory, which introduces some prominent Batman themes such as his isolation, relationship with Catwoman and the beginning of Robin, but it wasn’t as good as the Long Halloween. If you’re into Batman comics, you’ve got to read The Long Halloween.
3) Batman: Year One
Number 3 is the worldly famous, Batman: Year One by Frank Miller. There probably isn’t a Batman fan out there who doesn’t know of this book, as it retold the origin story of Batman in a more dark, gritty and realistic setting, much like you know Batman to be today, and it’s entirely what Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins is based off.
This book is a memorable tale because it tells a mature and personal story that revolves around Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham City after years away in training, to find it a hopeless, apathetic mess, and it’s about him learning to become Batman and trying to inspire the city, and most specifically, a conflicted and pained Gordon, to remind him what it takes to be a good cop in a bad city. This is the beginning of Batman, and it’s phenomenally written, taking place over four issues in 1987.
If you’re not so much into reading, then there’s an animated movie that came out in 2011 that’s almost panel for panel like the comic, so you can watch it and get a very similar experience, although it’s always better to read the original source material and complement it with the film adaption.
This book is mature, realistic for a comic book and simply one of the best and most important graphic novels in the Dark Knight’s history in terms of defining his character.
2) Batman: The Killing Joke
Number two for me would have to be, Batman: The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore in 1988 (the writer of Watchmen) and it’s perhaps one of the greatest comic books I know. This story is Joker-orientated, and provides a possible origin story for the Joker. Okay maybe that sounds ambiguous, but the idea is that, in 80 years of the character’s life, you don’t know who he is or where he came from. You have to read this book to see how this is a possible origin story, but at the same time is not. That’s as clear as I can be without spoiling. This comic focuses on the relationship between Batman and the Joker, and tells the story of how Joker tries to break Gordon in a single night, also showing what happened to Barbara (Oracle) and how she got in her wheelchair.
This comic is an absolutely brilliant character study of the Joker, and is truly some of the best you’ll see of the clown prince of crime. It’s one of the best, if not the best Joker story told.
Alan Moore, the writer himself, later criticised the book for not being relatable to humans, and not saying anything to us as people, instead just being about these DC characters that don’t relate to the real world, but personally I believe that you don’t need to do that to be good use of the source material, and to that end The Killing Joke is fantastic, and it’s one that will stay with you for a long time.
1) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
The best Batman comic I have ever read, number one on my list, has got to be, as you may have expected, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.
The story behind this is pretty damn interesting, but in summary Batman was losing popularity due to being too campy, and the writers were unable to, despite repeated attempts, revive him even though they revisited his roots. In comes Frank Miller who, in 1986, writes The Dark Knight Returns. This is a story that takes place in the future of Gotham City where we see a 55-year old Bruce Wayne, on the 10th anniversary of his retirement as Batman, filled with suppressed rage and hatred towards his city that has decayed into the worst hellhole it has ever been, despite all his years of work. This forces him, despite his vow, to return to being Batman to wage his final war on crime. This is an epic story that takes place over 4 books and tells the story of Batman’s last ever encounters with notable villains like Two Face and the Joker, and also tells the tale of two giants with Batman and Superman.
This is Batman at his darkest, most intense, and most brilliant. Eveerything you know today about the character came from this book, and even Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises was inspired by and based on this. What’s very interesting about this book is that it tells a possible ending to the Dark Knight’s story, andof course Frank Miller later went on to write Year One, which was the beginning. This is as perfect a Batman story as you could want, and I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, not just comic books. It’s an incredible ending to Batman’s story, and it’s just scene after scene of unforgettable moments and dialogue, and the writing is out of this world. If you ever wanted to know what the best Batman story was, you’ve got to read this book.
Not everyone will take to the art style, as it’s very unique and in many ways ugly and grotesque but I absolutely love it as it fits the dark, horrifying world the book takes place in. If you really don’t resonate with it, I’d advise watching the two part animated movie that came out end of last year and beginning of this year, which takes some liberties with the story and is awesome in its own way, although perhaps not as memorable in the absence of the stellar writing and monologues.
That wraps up my top 5 Batman comics. I’d love to hear what your favourite books are, and I hope that if you haven’t read any of these books, you’ll go seek them out, because you won’t regret it.