With the release of The Batman, the Caped Crusader has again emerged from the shadows to entertain audiences worldwide.
Since debuting in 1939 in Detective Comics no. 27, Batman has starred in countless graphic novels, movies, TV shows, and video games. However, while his blockbuster movies may get more attention, some of the Bat’s best stories have been told in comic form.
Whether you’re a hardcore fan looking to re-read some classics or a new fan hoping to get into comics, I’ve assembled a list of recommendations with something for everyone.
Batman: Year One by Frank Miller
Matt Reeves’ The Batman took inspiration from Year One. The graphic novel follows a young Bruce Wayne during his first year fighting crime.
In Year One, Batman learns the ropes—often the hard way—upon returning to Gotham City after spending 12 years training abroad. He does so with the help of James Gordon, the good-intentioned police officer who has yet to become commissioner.
Like all great Batman stories, this is a tale of crime and justice. It’s refreshing to see a version of Batman who hasn’t quite figured it all out yet. His mistakes remind both the reader and Bruce Wayne he is only human behind the cowl.
Batman: Year One is a fun, quick adventure brought to life by Miller’s masterful storytelling and David Mazzucchelli’s stylish illustrations. Don’t miss it.
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore
Perhaps better known for masterpieces such as Watchmen and V for Vendetta, Moore told one of Batman’s most iconic stories with The Killing Joke.
Many consider this the definitive Joker origin story. Moore paints the Joker as a family man and failed comedian who is tragically driven to the brink by circumstance, ultimately becoming arguably the most iconic supervillain in all of pop culture.
One shocking plot point involving Barbara Gordon—which I won’t spoil—has had long-lasting effects on the broader Batman canon, but The Killing Joke truly excels in how it portrays the similarities and differences between its hero and villain.
Batman and The Joker work because they’re moral opposites—their struggles are clashes between a man with a rigid moral code and an agent of chaos. The Killing Joke works as both a riveting deconstruction of a legendary villain and a great Batman story.
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
When Batman v. Superman was released to lukewarm reviews, part of the frustration was that director Zac Snyder didn’t just adapt The Dark Knight Returns.
This four-issue miniseries released in 1986 is very different from Year One. It depicts a much older Batman. He has been retired for 10 years, grizzled by a lifetime of fighting crime and haunted by the death of his one-time protégé, Jason Todd.
However, when a new gang begins terrorizing Gotham, Batman has no choice but to don the cowl once again to protect Gotham—inciting more crime in the process. The dangers transpiring in Gotham are enough to provoke Superman into intervening, leading to a climactic showdown between the two heroes that is just as awesome as it should be.
The Dark Knight Returns is a sprawling four-part epic packed with fan-favourite characters and memorable moments. It’s also a dark, mature superhero story that elevated the medium through exploring grief, regret, and morality.
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