When you want to start reading comics from Batman, there’s so much material that you might not know which are the best, nor where to start with.
Maybe due to the fact that it’s one of the most human superheroes around, maybe because of it’s great gallery of villains, or even to the more than 80 years that it’s been around us. When it comes to producing good comic stories, the Dark Knight is one of the characters that gave us some of the best stories of the industry. Period. Without discussion. It’s very difficult to find 10 real good stories for most comic characters, but when we talk about the best Batman stories to start reading comics we’re here choosing 27 and we might be leaving many good stories out.
As we always try to do at Good Comics to Read, we try to make your money and shelf space worth the books you buy. You might be sure that any of these recommended books you read will be a enjoyable piece of modern culture.
Let’s take a look at our list and see if you missed any of these books. You can be sure that due to the number of good stories produced, even if you’re a newcomer to comics or a seasoned Batman fan you might have missed some of these and find a golden nugget in the list.
As with any list you find around the web, it’s based on personal preferences and also on what we could read. Hey, we’re human beings with limited time after all, and there are so many good Batman stories. If you think one of your favorites is not on the list, we’d love you to leave a comment with your own recommendation.
Also, we’re trying to point you to stories you might easily find collected in one or a couple of books (maybe with one or two exceptions) and always Batman centered books. That’s why titles such as Gotham Central, by Brubaker, Rucka and Lark, is not included in this list, even when it’s a great piece of work.
Final comment about this list: there are some classic titles that most of you must have read. Titles as The Dark Knight Returns or The Killing Joke, just to put an example. I will include them (it’s impossible to leave them out!) at the top of the list, just to set them out of the picture as soon as possible and maybe after those titles you will find some more personal choices, maybe some material you might have not read. Try to read the post until the end, you probably won´t be disappointed.
Let’s share now our 27 best batman comics stories any fan should never miss:
The Dark Knight Returns
Author: Frank Miller
This is a timeless classic.
Simply put, this book, together with other masterpieces such as Alan Moore’s Watchmen or John Byrne’s Man of Steel was one of the responsible ones for the rebirth of comics in the second part of the 80’s. Seriously.
The story is set in a not so distant future, where Bruce Wayne has put out his Batman alter ego for over a decade. A society filled with mutants and corruption, and the reappearance of some old foes drive him out of retirement and throw us into one of the most intense stories in comics.
Miller’s artwork and storytelling are another incredible part of the story. His use of lights and shadows, the information packed layouts and the use of resources as TV screens to tell us how the story goes, what happens in the society and the background culture is a masterclass of how to tell a story. Also, reflects part of the culture at the time it was written, where everything that happened was on TV.
If you haven’t read this book, what are you waiting for??
Click in this link to buy Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and buy it right away on Amazon. If you’re in a hurry, you can buy a digital version, but believe me, this is one of the books you WANT to HAVE in your bookshelves.
Batman: Year One
Authors: Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli
The setup of the post crisis Batman mythos.
Even when I can’t deny the importance of The Dark Knight Returns, in my personal opinion Batman: Year One is even better. It tells again the origin of Batman, we see the Wayne’s family get destroyed as we knew had happened from previous versions, but the imagery from Miller & Mazzucchelli’s story set up the tone and the iconoclasty of the character for the times to come.
Originally published in Batman 404-407, this story retold Batman´s origin after Crisis, and it was, undoubtedly, the definitive origin story.
Many of the elements and images you saw in the first Nolan’s movie are completely inspired (copied?) from this book, and you’ll get multiple references to many situations that happen in Year One in stories that come to present days, more than 30 years after the book was originally published (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check Tom King references on how Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle first met)
And if you read these two titles and want to know if Frank Miller had more good books under his pen, please check our whole article on Frank Miller’s best books right here.
The Killing Joke
Authors: Alan Moore & Brian Bolland
“The” Joker story.
This self contained story was thought as the “last” Batman & Joker story. It was an instant hit since its launch in 1988, and is one of the most controversial Batman stories ever.
This dark story retells the Joker origin, which we doubt if it’s entirely true, as well as delivers one of the most terrifying scenes of comics history, as the Joker attacks Barbara Gordon at her home. The final scene of this comic gave room to different interpretations. What does Batman do with the Joker? You have to read it to have your own opinion…
Brian Bolland’s crazy Joker’s face was one of the most reproduced in T-Shirts and wherever a Joker’s image was used, and his artwork is solid through all the book, making us suffer during Barbara’s attack.
And if you have already read this book and want to know more about the final scene interpretations (spoilers galore!), please check this article from Whatculture.com
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Authors: Grant Morrison & Dave McKean
An acid trip inside the Arkham Asylum.
This graphic novel from 1989 takes us into an insane journey into the most terryfing place in Gotham, the Arkham Asylum.
In the story, Batman must take control again of the Asylum, which has been overrun by its inmates. Dave McKean artwork is the perfect fit to reflect the madness around the facilities, as our favorite Dark Knight must fight the asylum’s terrors in a suspense crescendo.
Best Neal Adams Stories
Authors: Neal Adams & various
Do not forget the classics!
During the 60’s, Batman was a washed out version of himself. That changed with Neil Adams & Denny O’Neil at the beginning of the seventies.
Their stories were more realistic, the storytelling was more elaborate, and the artwork was eye-catching. Menaces where really dangerous and not silly stooges as they used to be before. Also they introduced new and interesting characters as Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter, Talia, and brought back a fearful version of the Joker.
I won’t say that it all started here, but the seeds of all the good stories you read afterwards, were planted here.
His stories are collected in three books, and the second two are probably the most enjoyable.
Best Marshall Rogers stories
Authors: Steve Englehart, Len Wein, Marshall Rogers & Walt Simonson
Ever seen the fishes laugh?
The stories from the Englehart/Wein & Rogers run are some of the most representative Batman material from the 70’s. These stories include memorable clashes with the likes of Hugo Strange, Deadshot and even the Joker, including the nightmarish story with the joker faced fishes.
This pages also introduce us to Silver St. Cloud, one of the most important Bruce Wayne’s love interests who is clever enough to figure out Batman’s identity, and Rupert Thorne, a mobster with political connections who’s looking to outlaw Batman´s vigilante activities.
These stories were also a strong inspiration to the Batman Animated series.
You can approach Marshall Roger’s stories in two different collections: the first of them is Batman: Strange Apparitions, that include only the classic stories (find it on Amazon here).
A much better choice would be the Hardcover Legends of the Dark Knight: Steve Englehart that includes the classic material plus modern stories from Legends of the Dark Knight and Batman Dark Detective. Nice material too, and to me it’s a much better value for money.
Ten Nights of the Beast
Authors: Jim Starlin & Jim Aparo
One of the best endings in a Batman story.
I have a personal weak spot about this story: I was around 18 years old, and I had not read a Batman comic in a long, long time. Visiting a local book shop in my home country, Argentina, I found a copy of Batman 418, which happened to be the second part of this saga. I read it and I liked it. It introduced a villain I didn’t know, the KGBeast. Nothing to drive me crazy, but I liked it, and since the story continued I wanted to get the next issue.
About two weeks later, I found issues 419 and 420 at some other book store. I didn’t have much money on me, so I bought only 419 and went back home to read it. I did read it. And boy, what happened on the story blew me away and made me run back to the store to buy the final issue!
And the final issue… to me, it’s a masterpiece. In the final scene of this book Batman has a instrospective view about maturity and choosing the battles you fight that I took as a learning for my own life since then, and retold and used as an example many times… It has one of the best Batman quotes I’ve read in my life, which I won’t say here to avoid spoiling the story…
There’s also the maybe easier to find now Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol 1. , that also includes real good stories about Jason Todd that are the prelude of what comes next. This book would be my choice, find it on Amazon here.
Batman: A Death in the Family
Authors: Jim Starlin & Jim Aparo (again!)
A can’t miss, pivotal Batman story!
Dude, the second half of the eighties WAS a GREAT time for comics!
Jason Todd was created to replace Dick Grayson as Robin, in issue 357. After Crisis, Max Allan Collins retold his origins in issues 408-409, and Jim Starlin took him on a bumpy road that included the doubts about him killing a rapist in issue 424 (another really good story, by the way, that you may read if you see my previous recommendation…).
Fans, still loving Dick Grayson, hated Jason Todd. In 1988, DC wanted to do a 1-900 phone poll, letting the reader participate in the creative process. Since they wanted to use it on a MAJOR subject, they put to vote if Jason Todd should leave or die. During this storyline, originally published in Batman 426-429, readers were asked to vote for Jason’s death or survival by calling to two different 1-900 numbers.
More than 10.000 votes were received, and Jason’s death was decided by 72 votes of difference.
Of course, this is the story told in this book: Jason Todd’s death. A very touching and emotional story, again with the Joker as antagonist.
If you consider yourself a Batman fan, you must read this one.
Batman: The Cult
Authors: Jim Starlin & Berni Wrightson
One of the worst Batman knightmares.
Third story by Jim Starlin… he did a nice job with the bat during those years, didn’t he?
In this story Batman faces Deacon Blackfire, the leader of a dangerous cult comprised of vagabonds and transients. And boy, he gets his share of it! He gets captured, drugged and brainwashed, and see him broken down as we never had seen it before (years before Knightfall, of course…)
Batman: The Cult is a strange story in the Batman collection, somewhat chaotic, and Berni Wrightson´s horror influenced art is the perfect match to Batman’s state of mind during the story.
Batman: Son of the Demon
Authors: Mike W. Barr & Jerry Bingham
The real origin of Damien Wayne!
This story was originally published as an oversized graphic novel in 1987 and became an instant success.
Simply put: Batman teams up with one of his old enemies, Ra’s al Ghul, who also believes he’s the only man worthy to mate his daughter Talia. What we have in this story then? The origin of Damien Wayne, who’ll become Robin during Morrison’s run.
You can find this story in a book that collects it with other two good stories, Batman: Bride of The Demon and Batman: Birth of the Demon, exploring further the character’s origin and the respect / hate relationship with Ra’s al Ghul, who seeks to destroy Batman but secretly admires him.
Batman: The Long Halloween
Authors: Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale
A who’s who of Batman villains.
The Long Halloween revises the early days of the Dark Knight’s career, as he faces a serial killer basing his killings on holidays. The story follows Batman’s war on Gotham’s mob that started on Year One, and also starts introducing his gallery of villains, including Harvey Dent’s descent to his Two Face persona.
Tim Sale’s artwork is incredibly beautiful, rounding an extremely enjoyable book here.
The eye of the Beholder (Batman Annual #14)
Authors: Andrew Helfer & Chris Spouse
The definitive Two Face origin story.
When we want to explore Two Face’s story, I think this is the definitive version, the one that makes a better companion to Year One: in this Annual, Andrew Helfner starts by showing us the alliance and almost friendship between Batman & Harvey Dent as they settle to put down Gotham crime families, and explores how Dent’s scars go deeper than the famous acid burns.
As a Two Face origin story, to me, is much better than The Long Halloween…
Batman: Prey (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 11-15)
Authors: Doug Moench, Paul Gulacy & Terry Austin
Fear Hugo Strange…
At the beginning of the 90’s, DC started publishing a new Batman series: Legends of the Dark Knight.
It was clear from the start that this book was something different: published in a different paper than normal comics, it presented short, independent story arcs by different top quality creative teams.
For the third story arc DC put together the creative team that made the famous “Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu” run at Marvel many years ago. The story, set in the early years of Batman’s crimefighting career, tells the first encounter between our caped hero and Dr. Hugo Strange, who’s appointed by the Mayor of Gotham to help the police to capture the Bat.
Strange, of course, plays with Bruce’s psyche, and turns into a real threat to the Dark Knight of Gotham.
Batman: Venom (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 16-20)
Authors: Denny O’Neil & Trevor Von Eden
Witness Batman on drugs as he tries to improve himself
I don’t know if it’s technically one of the best Batman stories you may read, but I believe you’ll find some things in this story that you don’t commonly see.
The story starts when Batman fails to save a little girl who is drowning to death. Yes. He fails. And we see the little girl drowning in front of us… This situation throws old Bruce in a frenzy to try to improve himself to avoid such a thing to happen again. And that search makes him go into Venom, a designer drug that improves his strength and resistance, but is highly addictive. A nice look on how far Bruce may go in his crusade against crime.
And of course, this story introduce Venom, that plays an important role in the creation of Bane, the character that will turn Batman’s life into a hell in our next story…
An all time classic
During the first half of the 90´s, sales drop made DC Comics come up with the idea to renew their characters. That’s when the Death of Superman came in, the death of Hal Jordan happened in Emerald Twilight, and of course, our caped crusader couldn’t be absent. Knightfall is the response to this movement.
During Knightfall, Bane, who is powered by the Venom drug introduced in Batman: Venom, comes to Gotham city and after figuring out Batman’s secret identity starts his own bull fight with him by wearing him off by breaking out all of Arkham’s most dangerous inmates. Batman starts his unrelentless pursue of the criminals, at the expense of his own physical integrity.
In Batman 497, Bane confronts Batman and breaks his back. Literally.
What happens next? A recently introduced character, Jean Paul Valley, takes the Batman mantle and continues Batman’s fight against crime. Until he starts to lose his mind, and then Bruce must find his way back to wear the cape and take bake his position of crime fighter in Gotham.
This story takes Bruce to his limits and beyond, and shows how his will has no limits.
Authors: Sam Hamm & Dennis Cowan
A less known classic jewel
Maybe you think Knightfall was the first story where Batman was substituted by a previously unknown replacement. Well, that’s not completely true.
The story was published in 1989, as a three part oversized arc to celebrate Detective Comics 600. Similarities are many. In this story, Bruce is shot and confined in a wheelchair. The villain here is a big, muscle bound guy with his head covered and wires connecting his wrists to a high tech belt called Bonecrusher. Only here, Bruce somehow controls the body of his alter ego, a guy called Roy Kane.
Of course, there are many differences between the stories, Knightfall being more interesting in terms of villain complexity and also generating more permanent characters into the Batman mythos. But Blind Justice is a good dark history, and deserves a place in the Batman’s history by itself (which by the way, I’m quite sure it would have if Knightfall hadn’t existed…).
Plus, it’s also interesting to see how that story must have been growing within DC’s thinktank during those years, and Blind Justice might have been a prelude to what came some years behind.
Anyway, it’s a story that is, by our own page name says, a good comic to read.
Batman: No Man’s Land
Gotham isolated, villains rampant…
During the second half of the 90’s Batman was faced not only with villains, but with various disasters, natural and otherwise. First came Contagion, the spread of a deadly ebola like disease in Gotham. Then Cataclysm, a saga centered on Gotham City being hit by a massive earthquake. The corollary to these events came in the form of No Man’s Land, a saga that chronicles how our heroes fight against a situation that is much bigger than themselves.
The story begins right after the earthquake, when the American government evacuates Gotham and leaves the remaining people who decide to remain in the city isolated.
It was originally published in 80 issues from different Batman family titles for almost a year, as many villains fight to claim parts of the city as their territory and terrorize the people who stayed in their homes.
During this storyline Cassandra Cain, a mute character that communicates through fighting, is presented as the new Batgirl and makes a very good addition to the Batman family.
As I mentioned before, the interesting element of this story is seeing Batman out of his element, fighting things in an environment that he cannot control, since this is nor “his city” any longer.
As you can guess, parts of this story, as well as parts of Knightfall, inspired the last Batman’s Nolan movie.
Authors: Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee
Best pin’up collection ever?
I might get a round of boo’s here, but I have to be true on one fact: I’m not the biggest fan of Batman: Hush. In my opinion, it’s an excuse of a story to make a series of pin ups of the Batman’s villains gallery by Jim Lee. But I also have to be concious that this story had a lot of appeal between Batman’s fans.
Apart from the fact of the introduction of a new enemy, Hush, to the Dark Knight’s villains gallery, this story also sets the ground for the return of Jason Todd, who hadn’t appeared since his death in the “Death in the Family” storyline back at the end of the 80’s, and who will later become the Red Hood in more recent stories.
Hush is an interesting addition to the villains gallery, a cunning, ruthless character from Bruce’s childhood who is driven to destroy both Batman & Bruce himself. Hush will also appear in many storylines since then, so it’s nice to know where he comes from.
Please ignore my own personal tastes and go get Batman: Hush on Amazon by clicking here.
The Grant Morrison Run
Authors: Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert, Tony Daniel
A dark and strange story
I will admit another thing that will make many of you hate me (again!): I’m not a big Grant Morrison’s fan, specially on Batman. I find his style somehow pretentious and empty of content, not to say extremely complex to the extent of not really understanding what’s going on.
But as I tell you this, I have to admit that his run is extremely different to any runs on Batman. He breaks and destroys and makes you doubt about everything you think you know about the Caped Crusader, with one exception: Batman has everything planned, and he always wins.
During this run, Morrison introduces Damian, Bruce Wayne’s son that will later become Robin, and also places Batman against the Black Glove, a criminal mastermind organization lead by Dr. Hurt that drives him to madness and very close to death.
You can find the story compiled in two books: Batman and Son & Batman: R.I.P., probably one of the sickest Batman stories ever.
Batman & Robin
Authors: Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely, later Andy Clarke & others
A team up that worked to perfection.
These stories come right after Bruce Wayne’s supposed demise at the hands of Darkseid during Final Crisis. With Bruce out of the picture, Dick Grayson takes his mentor’s mantle as Batman and Damien Wayne, Bruce’s and Talia al Ghul’s child, becomes the new Robin.
The team couldn’t work any better. Morrison takes here a totally different approach than in his previous Batman work, working more the humorous side and exploding the mentorship relation between the more optimistic and lighthearted Dick Grayson and the grim and obnoxious Damien.
The new, dark, sadistic villains are also good additions to the story, as Batman & Robin face Professor Pyg, Flamingo and Dr. Hurt.
A separate paragraph for Frank Quitely’s art: wherever he draws, he magnifies the story as not many other artists can do, and these books are no exception. Nuff said!
The Paul Dini’s Run on Detective Comics
Authors: Paul Dini, J.H. Williams III, Don Kramer, Joe Benitez
Less famous material, but nonetheless real good!
Paul Dini took Detective Comics from issue 821, and his run takes our Dark Knight closer to his detective side. With many single issue stories, Dini starts building his universe in the background: the appearance of many classic villains as Poison Ivy, the Penguin and Rupert Thorne, a great single issue story with the Joker driving around Tim Drake, and one of the best uses of the Riddler ever. During Dini’s run, the Riddler reforms and starts playing detective himself.
Another serious player during Dini’s run is Hush, that uses his surgeon abilities to transform his face to look like Bruce Wayne. You can be sure that if Selina has ripped Bruce’s heart during Tom King’s Batman, this Bruce rips her heart… literally. You have to read it to know what I talk about!
Dini’s run on Detective has been a long one, from 2006 to 2009, so you might find his work collected in many volumes. You may click on each of them to go and buy them on Amazon.
Batman: The Black Mirror
Authors: Scott Snyder, Jock & Francisco Francavila
A subtly terrifying suspense story.
This story is situated in the period when Dick Grayson was taking the Batman mantle, same as in Batman & Robin but on his solitary adventures. It has two well differentiated stories, one of the based on Batman and a ring of hero related articles sellers that also interlaces with Dick,s past, and the other, the best one, centered on a character we first saw during Batman Year One: Commissioner’s Gordon son, James Jr. Both stories mix at the end, closing some loose ends.
James Jr is presented here as a young man of Dick’s age, and the story slowly shows him as a dangerous psychopath. How the story slowly shows his ways, how the suspense is handled, is one of the key aspects of this book. The issue where James father and son have a simple conversation at a restaurant while we doubt if he has committed a crime or not is simply a masterpiece.
I won’t give much more spoilers here, I don’t want to ruin the fun to you. Simply read it!
Batman: The Court of Owls / Night of the Owls
Authors: Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
Maybe the highest point of the DC’s New 52 universe.
This story appears in the first 12 issues of the 52 reboot, and was a very pleasant surprise to fans, since nobody expected such a good story, and also is the best Snyder’s story of the run (don’t even mention me the Year Zero or the Superheavy bullsh#ts…!)
This book introduced a cult-like group called The Court of Owls, a group Bruce Wayne hard rumors of it’s existence since he was a child, but dismissed as a urban legend. The group was real indeed, built by the city’s most wealthy citizens, dangerous and with a long, strong grip on many issues.
As usual, Snyder take us through very dark and gritty horror moments along the story, and stablishes new characters in the Batman mythology that even the all-knowing Batman didn’t know about.
Greg Capullo’s art is a great companion to the story, giving us one of the best Batman characterizations in years.
Comment: this last collection, Night of the Owls, is much more complete than City of Owls, an alternative collection.
Batman: Death of the Family
Authors: Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
ONe of the most horrifying Joker portrayals.
Man, Scott Snyder DID do some creepy Batman stories! Death of the Family was his second arc from the New 52, right after The Court of Owls. In this story, a faceless Joker returns to threaten the whole Batman family and reveal some hidden things from the Dark Kinght’s past.
The portrayal of the Joker, that peeled his face some time ago, is really horrifying, and the story has many climatic moments to force you to advance through the pages willing to know what happens next. A must read from the Batman collection.
Just a heads up: the hardcover volume I recommend here contains the whole story, including material from many different series. There are some other collections, but you have to buy different books to get the wole story. This 456 pages hardcover collects it all in one volume, so it’s worth every buck you pay for it.
Batman: White Knight
Author: Sean Murphy
A different take on the mythos.
A very interesting new take on the Batman / Joker relationship by Sean Murphy. This time, Batman & Joker’s roles are reversed, with the Batman playing the villain of the story and Joker being the hero.
The story, published as a miniseries in 2017 and 2018, is set in an alternate universe, where The Joker is sane again by using a new medication. He starts using his name of Jack Napier again,and sees Batman as the source of all the crime insanity that’s running endlessly around Gotham City.
Even when I don’t care much about alternate reality stories, this book has some special feeling, with a nice construction of the whole environment and the characters.
Batman: The Man Who Laughs
Authors: Ed Brubaker & Doug Mankhe
A trip to the begginings of the character
This story is set in the initial period of Batman as a crime fighter, and chronicles the first encounter between Batman and Joker, even before he ever got the Joker nickname.
The Joker of this story gets sicker and sicker as he sets to murder the most prominent millionaires of Gotham and we see his plan scale on as he goes for the whole city.
Also, the confidence relationship between the Dark Knight and Jim Gordon grows through the story, that is told through the eyes of both characters.
Ed Brubacker is an excellent crime stories writer and this story is no exception. And Dough Mankhe style is a perfect fit for the Joker’s sickness through the book.
Authors: Tom King & various
A seriously good run.
Tom King’s run on Batman since the title’s Rebirth has been a really good one. I cannot point you to any miniseries in particular, because in my personal opinion, Tom King’s arcs are good but what makes the run exceptional are the single issues, that maybe cannot get appreciated if you don’t read the total run.
As an example, The War of Jokes and Riddles is a fun read, but nothing extraordinary to me. The Kite Man issues inside this run, that act as some kind of interludes during the story, are exceptional and drive you to tears.
Also, the double date issue between Bruce & Selina and Lois & Clark, during the Batman / Catwoman wedding storyline, is a story we fans always wanted to see.
It’s a long run, I know, and is still developing. But if you pick it, you won’t be disappointed. Being a long run we can see many different artists, but a good thing is that DC has figured that this is one of it’s flagship titles and has never dropped in quality (as sometimes did in the past…)
The story so far has been collected in many trade paperbacks, but my pick for sure would be the hardcovers: oversized and excellent quality for your bucks.
I usually recommend the Deluxe hardcovers for the Rebirth books, I have the first three and they’re beautiful. I read the 4th one has dropped in paper quality. I didn’t buy it yet, but if so, it’s a shame to ruin such a good collection.
Phew! What a list! Many good books to read here, I assure you. Did you read them all already? Have I left some of your favorites out? If so, use the comments section to let me know.
Hope to have pointed you at least to some book you missed in the past.
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Until the next review, and keep up reading good comics!!