Ten Great Batman Comics To Get Ready For ‘The Batman’
by Tony Thornley
Once again Batman is getting a new feature film. That means that it’s time to dust off your old long boxes to check out some incredible Batman stories to get ready for the experience. So as a part of our unofficial Batman week, here’s ten Batman comics you’ve got to read.
Now a disclaimer before we get into the list- this isn’t a list of the ten best Batman stories, or ten Batman stories that inspired the movie or anything like that. This is a list of ten Batman stories that will put you in a Gotham City sort of mood. That’s all we need in our lives anyway.
Batman: The Court Of Owls
Though other parts of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s long Batman legacy could be up for debate amongst the Bat-canon, there’s no denying the duo’s opening story is a banger. After a brawl through Arkham, the story slows down and bit and builds the mystery of a secret society that’s woven into Gotham’s history. It’s an action thriller, psychological horror and personal tragedy, all rolled into one top of the line Batman story. The actual society of the Court of Owls is so popular that they’ve been interwoven into Bat-canon now, to the point that it’s a fan favorite pick for the next adaptation if and when it comes.
Batman & Son
The most influential Batman creator in perhaps the history of the character is arguably Grant Morrison. We could easily fill this entire list just with Morrison stories, and it would honestly be a pretty satisfying list. So we’ll try to keep it to just a couple. Batman & Son was the story that kicked off Morrison’s first run on the character’s main title, alongside comics legend Andy Kubert. The duo would redefine Batman forever by adding one of the most divisive characters in his supporting cast- his son Damian. The story itself is a great action thriller, but it’s worth reading for the impact it would have on the character for years to come.
Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn
Okay, one more Morrison story (maybe). Paired with their longtime collaborator Frank Quitely and then rising star Phillip Tan, Morrison followed up their acclaimed Batman RIP with a story that put Bruce Wayne’s closest ally, Dick Grayson, under the cape and cowl. It wasn’t Dick’s first time in the role, and I’m sure it won’t be the last either, but it was the most impactful. While showing the difference between Dick and Bruce, we also saw Batman’s oldest son struggle to connect with his newly discovered younger brother, and newly minted sidekick. It’s a blast to read, and features some of the most incredible art in the character’s history.
Detective Comics Rebirth V1: Rise of The Batmen
Probably the story on this list least likely to get an adaptation, but man are the movie folks missing the boat. James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, and Alvaro Martinez teams to completely transform DC’s flagship title (I mean, the company is named after this series). Detective Comics turned here from just another Batman title to a team comic that developed into showing why the Bats of Gotham are called the Bat-Family. This first arc is full of gorgeous art, tense conflict, and the best heroic sacrifice in the past decade of comics.
Batman #251: The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge
Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams is perhaps the single most iconic creative team in Batman history. If anyone can challenge Morrison for the title of “most influential” it’s them. The Joker’s Five Way Revenge is probably their most iconic story in a completely iconic run. The Joker suspects one member of his former gang ratted him out, and he angrily sets out for revenge. This is a single issue story, but it’s jam packed with a hell of a lot of mystery and action. It’s also the source of Batman images you’ve seen all your life and may not recognize where they originated. Absolutely one of the most influential single issues in the character’s history.
Batman: Wayne Family Adventures
One of the best Batman stories of the last year wasn’t published by DC Comics. Hell, it’s not even a traditional action or mystery story. It’s the result of the partnership between DC and Webtoon, giving readers an ongoing slice of life comic about the found family that has grown in Wayne Manor. CRC Payne, Starbite, Maria Li, Lan Ma, Jean Kim, Kielamel Sibal, Susan Cheng and Wil Kennedy have created a special sort of comics alchemy that has to be read. It’s the most unconventional story on this list but probably the most must-read.
Look, I’m the one writing this list, and I can fill it with whatever weird books I want to. And I want to include Batman Vs Predator, DC’s first ever major intercompany crossover with a non-Marvel character. This series from Dave Gibbons, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert and Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh is not the story you’d expect of the most famous hunter in scifi duking it out with DC’s most popular character. In the second issue, Batman loses and barely escapes with his life. It’s a terrifying situation for the most prepared superhero in comics, and it makes his eventual victory even better as Batman barely makes it out by the skin of his teeth. It’s a weird choice for a list like this, I know, but it’s one of my favorites.
Look, I tried. But Morrison’s work with Batman in this JLA story with Howard Porter, John Dell, and Pat Garahy is just stellar. After the character largely took a back seat during a slow alien invasion, he takes center stage in the third and fourth issues of the series. The alien Hyperclan have taken out the rest of the League but they underestimated Batman after he figured out their secret. After escaping the wreck of the Batplane, he sneaks into their headquarters and tears apart four Superman level superhumans with two items- a gallon of gas and a box of matches. It’s one of the best “Batman in the wider DCU” stories in general, but those three pages are one of the character’s greatest moments ever.
I’m going to have to cover this book by Dwayne McDuffie & Val Semeiks at length over a weekend soon, because I didn’t see it coming. This is probably the story I’ve seen pop up on lists of Batman’s unappreciated classics or unknown gems, and it delivers. Originally published in Legends of the Dark Knight, this tale of Batman hunting a serial killer has a fascinating twist- he’s aided by a blind man named Lee Hyland who has the metahuman ability to see from the eyes of anyone he touches. The story is largely told from Lee’s perspective, as he tries to aid GCPD and Batman without revealing his ability or implicating himself in the murders. It’s a tense mystery thriller, but also an interesting character piece about the weird world of Gotham City. Best of all, it’s a great comic that I agree needs to be read by just about every comic fan.
Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies
Jeph Loeb may be an awful human being, but he also wrote multiple Batman comics that are influential to the character through today. Teaming with longtime collaborators Ed McGuiness and Cam Smith, Loeb teamed DC’s two greatest heroes in a story about symbols, loss, and hope. It’s a thrilling action story with tons of references to the entire DCU, and had an impact on the characters from its 2004 publication until the 2011 New 52 reboot. This story the epitome of both characters and their friendship, and that makes this story (and its sequel with art by the late, great Michael Turner) worth checking out.