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Greatest Batman Graphic Novels: Best Batman Comics of All Time

Is he the most popular comic character ever?

Recently, the Comics Buyer’s Guide conducted a major poll to determine the best of what the last hundred years of comic books has to offer. And it was the Batman who was voted the most popular comic book character of the last century, beating out the likes of Superman, Spider-Man, Archie and many, many more.

In light of Batman’s enduring popularity, it’s interesting that DC Comics has recently decided to bring about significant changes in all the comic books that revolve around the character. The most significant change in Batman’s comics is the loss of their interconnected storylines. Now, each major Bat-book is made to stand on its own, with stories that are designed to accent different aspects of the Batman family of characters.

Detective Comics, where Batman first debuted over 70 years ago, has been made over as a “crime noir” comic, highlighting Batman’s mystery-solving abilities in hues of grey and red. The almost-sepia tones that permeate the book can be distracting at times, but the overall effect is impressive, and quite different from the majority of what you find on the comics shelves.

By contrast, the other major Bat-title, Batman, now focuses on the Dark Knight as superhero. Every month this comic pits the champion of Gotham City against members of his wild and weird Rogue’s Gallery.

Even with shelves overflowing with Bat-titles (RobinNightwingBirds of PreyLegends of the Dark KnightBatman: Dark Victory, Batman: Gotham Adventures), new comics have made the list. A new Batgirl comic features a primary character from the much-publicized No Man’s Land epic – a new Batgirl to take over the mantle once worn by Barbara Gordon. Batman: Gotham Knights is designed as a “Batman Family for the 21st century,” exploring the effect Batman’s supporting cast has on him.

One of the reasons, it would seem, that Batman endures is his ability to change with the times. His roots are in detective and pulp fiction, but in the Sixties he became a campy parody of those origins. In the 1970s, Batman was a smart and savvy man of action. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns from the 1980s reengineered Batman as a dark, compelling character who could face down any opposition. In the Nineties, though, Knightfall and other storylines broke that character down, deconstructed him, examining every facet of the Batman until we knew him entirely too well.

Now, a new age for Batman begins. With two major titles devoted to examining completely different aspects of his character, an air of mystery is returning to these books. Readers don’t necessarily know where Batman will go next, what he will do in a given situation, and this is for the best. Batman works best in the shadows, and it is there that he becomes one of the world’s most enduring comic book legends.

Best Batman Comics of All Time

The Killing Joke

One of the most famous Batman stories of all time is offered for the first time in hardcover in this special twentieth-anniversary edition.
This is the unforgettable that forever changed Batman’s world, adding a new element of darkness with its unflinching portrayal of The Joker’s twisted psyche.

Writer Alan Moore, acclaimed author of WATCHMEN and V FOR VENDETTA, offers his take on the disturbing relationship between The Dark Knight and his greatest foe. The Clown Prince of Crime has never been more ruthless than in this brutal tale.

This special new edition also includes a story written and exquisitely illustrated by Brian Bolland.

Dark Victory

The sequel to the critically acclaimed BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN, DARK VICTORY continues the story of an early time in Batman’s life when James Gordon, Harvey Dent, and the vigilante himself were all just beginning their roles as Gotham’s protectors.

Once a town controlled by organized crime, Gotham City suddenly finds itself being run by lawless freaks, such as Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, and the Joker. Witnessing his city’s dark evolution, the Dark Knight completes his transformation into the city’s greatest defender. He faces multiple threats, including the apparent return of a serial killer called Holiday.

Batman’s previous investigation of Holiday’s killings revealed that more than one person was responsible for the murders. So the question remains: who is committing Holiday’s crimes this time? And how many will die before Batman learns the truth?

Hush

Finally! Previously available as two separate volumes, this is the first time all 12 monthly issues of the Loeb/Lee run have been put together, giving us the complete HUSH story.

Jeph Loeb gives us a very good detective story. Better is his character-study, nuanced approach to the Dark Knight, himself. Loeb manages to bring fresh eyes to the Batman, displaying a longing and a loneliness previously unrevealed. The scenes with Catwoman are some of the best in years. Those with Nightwing (the original Robin) show growth and a new maturity for both characters. And, of course, the new villain – Hush, is a great addition to the rogues gallery.

Ranking high on the list (just after The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, and Batman: Absolution), HUSH instantly becomes one of the most important and character-defining Batman stories of all time.

The Long Halloween

“THE LONG HALLOWEEN is more than a comic book. It’s an epic tragedy.” – Christopher Nolan (director The Dark Knight Rises)

Taking place during Batman’s early days of crime fighting, this new edition of the classic mystery tells the story of a mysterious killer who murders his prey only on holidays. Working with District Attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant James Gordon, Batman races against the calendar as he tries to discover who Holiday is before he claims his next victim each month. A mystery that has the reader continually guessing the identity of the killer, this story also ties into the events that transform Harvey Dent into Batman’s deadly enemy, Two-Face.

This edition includes original 13-issue series as well as two additional story pages that appeared only in ABSOLUTE BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN.

Year One

Whether you grew up reading Batman comics, watched the campy television show, or eagerly await each new movie, this is the book for you. A retelling of the events that led to Bruce Wayne’s becoming Batman, this book combines Frank Miller’s tight film-noir writing with David Mazucchelli’s solid artwork.

Batman: Year One is the story of Batman’s first year in Gotham City after returning from training abroad, making it the perfect book for someone unfamiliar with Batman’s origins, or just looking for a fresh take on the classic story. But the book is as much about the origins of Jim Gordon, who will later become the famed police commissioner of Gotham City, as it is about Batman’s beginning.

The story hinges on Gordon’s attempts to clean up a police force that is corrupt to its very core, and his encounters with the Batman that finally lead up to a climactic confrontation that brings both men together in their fight against crime.

The Dark Knight Returns

The Dark Knight is a success on every level. Firstly it does keep the core elements of the Batman myth intact, with Robin, Alfred the butler, Commissioner Gordon, and the old roster of villains, present yet brilliantly subverted. Secondly the artwork is fantastic – detailed, sometimes claustrophobic, psychotic. Lastly it’s a great story: Gotham City is a hell on earth, street gangs roam but there are no heroes. Decay is ubiquitous.

Where is a hero to save Gotham?

It is 10 years since the last recorded sighting of the Batman. And things have got worse than ever. Bruce Wayne is close to being a broken man but something is keeping him sane: the need to see change and the belief that he can orchestrate some of that change. Batman is back. The Dark Knight has returned.

Haunted Knight

This excellent compilation gathers up the three consecutive Halloween specials mastered by the Dynamic Duo, Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale (after these three Legends Of The Dark Knight-specials the two wrote Long Halloween).

First story features Scarecrow and rather unyielding and even too determined Batman, who scarcely sleeps at all. The story features also the possible love interest of Bruce Wayne… but it’s eventually up to Alfred to discover the truth.

The second marvellous story tells the modern version of Alice in Wonderland – the teenager Barbara Gordon is kidnapped to play Alice in the monstrous, twisted world of The Mad Hatter. The tale also reveals us some new details about young Bruce Wayne’s relationship with her mother. Intense, scary and emotionally touching – this is a Batman story of highest quality!

The third tale is a remake of Dickens’ Christmas Carol – feverous Batman sleeps rather badly after a long night in the streets of Gotham. Bruce Wayne is depicted as a grim, joyless hermit – the commitments of Batman do not leave space for anything else. The first ghost, Thomas Wayne, tries to warn his son, but eventually Bruce encounters the three ghosts of Halloween past, present and future. In the end Bruce realizes, that the work of Bruce Wayne is equally important to the work of Batman: Bruce sets up his B.W. Foundation (with mr. Lucius Fox, his old acquintance), and even delivers some Halloween candies to local kids!

Top Ten Batman Graphic Novels

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