Best Batman Comics for New Readers, Current Titles, Top Trades and Recent Events
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Hi, this is a thread for all questions, advice or opinions on Batman trade collections or monthly series'. If you've never read a Batman comic in your life; or if maybe you've read a few and are wondering where to go next; if you're interested in picking up the monthly comics (which are pretty cool right now) or just looking for general recommendations, begin here. And with that...
The best Batman comics for new readers...
^ this is them!
Pretty much every fan here was introduced to the character through movies and TV. Then one day we picked up a comic book and fell into a deeper, richer, crazier Gotham City with a history stretching back to 1939. Interested? I think you are. But what the hell am I supposed to read first?
Fortunately there is a standard answer to this question, ask around and you'll see the same four or five comics invariably referred to as the classics, the bedrock of the lore, best primers on the continuity, or simply just essential reading when it comes to Batman on the page. The value of these particular comics to new readers is one thing we can pretty much all agree on
Year OneThe definitive origin of Batman, the second landmark Batman story by Frank Miller (Sin City, 300), the basis for Batman Begins The Long HalloweenA crime-noir inspired mystery set in the year after Batman's first appearance, highly influential to The Dark Knight film The Killing JokeThe classic Joker story from Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), highly influential to The Dark Knight film The Dark Knight ReturnsFrank Millers' dark, dense and revolutionary epic featuring an older Bruce Wayne in a nightmare future setting, redefined the Batman concept and the comic book medium in general. Highly influential to The Dark Knight Rises HushA hugely successful "summer blockbuster" featuring a variety of villains, Bat-family and recaps of classic lore - an excellent introduction to the wider modern Batman universe Batman & SonFirst chapter of the groundbreaking saga by writer Grant Morrison, beginning of the current era of comics, continues now in series Batman Incorporated #1 Batman #13 first issue of the current major story line Death of the Family in Batman 13-17, more details here
Singles & Trades
There are two basic formats for reading comics. Singles are the thin 24 page "floppies" published once a month in print or online - many fans prefer reading this format simply because it's more exciting following a story in real time, anticipating the next events and waiting for a new issue. Batman 13 is the only single issue displayed above.
Trades are a catch-all term for a variety of "thicker" formats, short for trade paperback and often confused with a Graphic Novel. A trade collects a sequence of single issues; for instance Batman 404-407, originally published in 1986 is now available in trade as Batman: Year One. A graphic novel is a self contained original story that was never released in singles, for example The Killing Joke was first published in 1988 as 46 page standalone one-shot. Trades are perfect for discovering past story lines and classic lore, or for getting up to speed with current events.
Year OneFrank Millers landmark 1988 origin story is the primary source material to the overall Nolan trilogy; also contains the first modern appearance of Selina Kyle and her evolution into Catwoman.
1988 W: Frank Miller: A Dave Mazzuchelli
The Dark Knight Returns The definitive Frank Miller classic shares several key themes and plot points with the third film - a weary Batman in retirement, the city in a state of emergency, marauding gangs headed by a brutal commander and the final legacy of the Dark Knight.
1988 W: Frank Miller: A Frank Miller
Selina's Big Score Highly acclaimed graphic novel that gets to the heart of Selina Kyle's character in a slick crime-noir heist story. Also collected in Ego & Other Tails - buy this edition if possible - alongside a Batman story by same artist and writer, Eisner award winner Darwyn Cooke (Before Watchmen).
2003 W: Darwyn Cooke A: Darwyn Cooke
Knightfall Vol.1The 90's event epic that made Bane famous - the original Breaking of the Bat. Volume One is the first of three parts and the main volume focusing on Bane, containing his arrival in Gotham, a sustained and strategic attack on Batman and the final crippling blow. A new and more complete collection is now available, reprinting origin story The Vengeance of Bane for the first time - look for the edition released 2012 (pictured).
1992 W: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon A: Graham Nolan, Various
Batman VS BaneFeaturing Ra's Al Ghul and Talia Al Ghul in the arc Bane of the Demon, in which Bane is chosen by Ra's Al Ghul to be leader of The League of Assassins, husband to his daughter Talia and future heir to Ra's terrorist legacy. Also collects the origin Vengeance of Bane.
1998 W: Chuck Dixon A: Graham Nolan, Brian Stelfreeze
Birth of the Demon Collects the original Demon Trilogy. Son of the Demon portrays the early alliance between Ra's al Ghul and Batman; Bruce's betrothal to Talia and the birth of their son; Bride of the Demon continues the Talia story; Birth of the Demon is the origin of Ra's Al Ghul
1987 W: Mike Barr A: Jerry Bingham / 1990 W: Mike Barr A: Tom Grindberg / 1992: W: Dennis O'Neil A: Norm Breyfogle
Gotham Central Vol.2: Lovers & Madmen This award-winning and critically acclaimed series portrays the lives of the GCPD Special Crimes Unit in a city where madmen run amok and a lone vigilante regularly complicates their work. Here Batman is more of a bogeyman in the shadows with Gordon and a regular cast of cops taking center stage - the style and plotting of the series becoming an obvious influence to the Nolan films. Lovers & Madmen can be started fresh on its own and contains standout arcs Soft Targets featuring Joker and Mad Hatter. Volume One On The Freak Beat features Mr. Freeze and Two-Face in Half a Life
2004 W: Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker A: Michael Lark
Batman Incorporated Vol.2 #1 This ongoing series features Talia as lead villain and mastermind of the global terror group Leviathan with an ongoing focus on her son Damian Wayne/Robin and father Ra's Al Ghul. Issue 2 of the series is a Talia origin story. You can start fresh with Batman Incorporated Vol.2 #1 no problem.
2012 W: Grant Morrison A: Chris Burnham
September 2011 saw DC Comics embark on a historic relaunch of its entire line-up. Dubbed the The New 52 this initiative aims to streamline over 70 years of continuity making the DC Universe accessible to new and old readers alike. It's a fresh start - just look for any issue #1 and dive in.
Does this mean all the old Batman stories are thrown out?
Not exactly, in fact the Batman corner has been pretty much left intact. All the broad outlines are still there, barring a few changes that have been explained in-story. Overall you can assume that unless an event from the past is explicitly contradicted, it all it still happened.
A huge part in all this is DC's move to digital comics. You no longer need to travel to your nearest bookshop or comic shop - simultaneous release in digital and hard copy means it's now almost too easy to follow all of these stories whenever you feel like it just by heading over to Comixology's DC - The New 52 on any Android or Apple iOS device (or better yet, download the app). Take a minute to set up a billing account and you'll have the whole line at your fingertips in an easy-to-use and visually immersive format where ever you go.
How many titles do I have to read to follow the story? Do the titles crossover?
Read only what you want; each series in the line-up is telling its own story and doing its own thing. They may occasionally namedrop or even guest star characters from other titles, but that's only because they're all inhabiting a shared universe - part of the fun of comics!
Zero Month in September 2012 To celebrate the one year anniversary of the relaunch and provide yet another new entry point, September 2012 saw a full month of special #0 issues in all series', telling stand alone origin and background tales for each character. See a complete breakdown of the September Zero issues here.
March, April, May Which series a most popular? See voting on Batman solicits as a rough guide
Batman Incorporatedis the story of a man and a woman fighting over the heart and soul of their child. Unfortunately for the world, the man is BATMAN, the woman is TALIA AL GHUL, and the child is DAMIAN!". The main book of the line-up and the final chapter in a seven year saga by best selling and critically acclaimed writer Grant Morrison; a sprawling adventure told in trademark innovative style. This series relaunched in MAY with Batman Incorporated 1 as Bruce and Damian go to war against the super crime organisation Leviathan. A major tragic event occurred recently in FEBRUARY's Batman Incorporated 8; the Grant Morrison run will end finally in Batman Incorporated 13. Batman Incorporated Vol.1 collects the entire first series; see below for the complete Morrison Batman run
W: Grant Morrison A: Chris Burnham
Batman the traditional flagship title tells more conventional action/horror stories in a style reminiscent of the Arkham Asylum video games. Best selling, fan favourite and easily accessible to new readers. Most previously Batman and his allies faced down a vicious and prolonged attack from the Joker in the event story Death of the Family, running from Batman 13-17: see more details here. A new arc begins in Batman 18 where in the aftermath of Jokers rampage and the heartbreak of Robin R.I.P., is Bruce's humanity finally starting to slip? Batman vol.1: The Court of Owls collecting Batman 1-7 is available now, Batman vol.2: City of Owls collecting 8-12 due March 2013
W: Scott Snyder A: Greg Capullo
Detective Comics dives deep into Gothams underworld to feature the Penguin, Poison Ivy, Clayface and Joker cults in a humorous and classical style reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series. Current arc Emperor Penguin began in OCTOBER Detective 13, as a young usurper to Penguins throne makes himself known across Gotham. New series writer John Layman is well known and critically acclaimed for his long running work on Chew; a highly absurd and comedic series about a detective who experiences psychic feedback from eating food. Chew #1 read the first issue of this awesome series for FREE! W: John Layman A: Jason Fabok
Batman: The Dark Knight a moody and psychological series delves into the deranged minds of Batmans classic villains. No direct connection to the films yet very similar in tone and style. A new 6-part arc began in FEBRUARY Dark Knight 16 featuring the origin of the psychedelic cult leader Mad Hatter, also featuring Catwoman; by new series artist Ethan Van Sciver and acclaimed crime novelist Gregg Hurwitz. Previously a 6 issue Scarecrow origin ran in Dark Knight 10-15. Penguin: Pain & Prejudice Gregg Hurwitz' previous miniseries available in trade SEPTEMBER 2012
W: Gregg Hurwitz A: Ethan Van Sciver
Batwomanstars Kate Kane - punk rocker, society girl, lesbian, West Point cadet and one of the most intriguing new characters of recent years. Combining street crime, romance, black ops and the supernatural. A critically acclaimed previous arc Worlds Finest began in AUGUST Batwoman 12 featuring Wonder Woman and the mythical hordes of the Queen of Monsters herself, Medusa. Next arc begins in MARCH Batwoman 18as Kate adjusts to her new sidekick Hawkfire, a marriage proposal to GCPD Captain Maggie Sawyer, the return of her villainous twin sister Alice and a new role in Kate's war on crime. Batwoman: Elegy the debut and origin of Kate Kane, Batwoman Vol.1: Hydrology collecting Batwoman 1-5 available now
W: JH Williams, Haden Blackman A: JH Williams
Nightwing is a return to a previous life for Richard Grayson - child of the circus, original Boy Wonder and now one of the most veteran crime fighters of the DCU. Recently he was called to take up the heavy legacy of Batman after Bruce Wayne's apparent death - now after a period travelling the country with the circus he grew up in, Richard has decided to call Gotham home again. Most previously the Joker murdered close friends and burned down his circus in a Death in the Family tie-in from Nightwing 15-17. New arc begins MARCH Nightwing 18 as a hopeless and devastated Dick Grayson is devasted in the wake of Robin R.I.P. Batman Reborn Graysons debut as Batman / Nightwing Vol.1 Traps & Trapezes (Nightwing 1-7) available OCTOBER W: Kyle Higgins A: Eddie Barrows
Red Hood and the Outlaws are three very damaged individuals: Jason Todd was the second Robin until murdered by the Joker and returned to life as the crazed vigilante Red Hood; Roy Harper was sidekick to Green Arrow until rejected due to his heroin habit and becoming soldier-of-fortune Arsenal; Starfire is an alien princess once taken prisoner and sex slave in an intergalactic war. This series is unique among the line-up for its humour and a more outlandish and off-the-wall style featuring magic societies, aliens and hidden dimensions. MARCH's Red Hood 18 a begins a new arc when Jason changes the Outlaws mission in the wake of Death in the Family and Robin R.I.P. Under the Red Hood the death and return of Jason Todd / Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol.1: REDemption (RatO 1-7) available NOVEMBER W: Scott Lobdell A: Dwayne Turner
Batman and Robin previously focused on a unique and evolving father and son relationship. Originally introduced as an obnoxious child assassin in 2006's Batman & Son, Damian Wayne eventually discovered his nobler side with the help of Dick Grayson, the first Robin, when the unlikely pair were thrown together in the wake of Bruce Wayne's disappearance. A new arc begins in MARCH Batman & Robin 18 as Bruce grieves after Damians shocking death. The series will then feature a rotating cast of characters reflecting on the life and legacy of Damian Wayne, with the title renamed accordingly. Announced so far are Batman & Red Robin 19, Batman & Red Hood 20, Batman & Batgirl 21, Batman & Catwoman 22, Batman & Nightwing 23. Batman & Son first appearance of Damian Wayne / Batman & Robin Vol.1: Born to Kill (B&R 1-7) available now W: Peter Tomasi A: Patrick Gleason
Talon spinning out of the Night of the Owls event in the pages of Batman is the debut of of a brand new character in an ongoing series, in SEPTEMBER's Talon 0. Escape artist Calvin Rose was destined to join the ranks of the Courts undead assassins - now after years on the run as the single escapee from their grip, Calvin returns to face his former masters. Featuring highly detailed and energetic art from acclaimed artist Guillem March. Batman Vol.1 The Court of Owls available now, Batman Vol.2 City of Owls due March 2013
W: James Tynion A: Guillem March
Catwoman revels in a world of theft, chase, sex and violence. A back-to-basics approach highlights Selina Kyle's playful and thrill seeking side against the dark and dangerous underground that she moves in. New arc begins MARCH Catwoman 18 as Selina is selected for membership in the new Justice League of America - whether she likes it or not. Catwoman: Vol.1 The Game (Catwoman 1-7) available now
W: Ann Nocenti A: Rafa Sandoval
Birds of Prey a dysfunctional covert ops team led by Dinah Lance aka Black Canary, alongside cheeky super spy Starling, creepy samurai Katana and girl scout Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl. New writer Kristy Marx begins MARCH Birds of Prey 18 in an arc featuring villain Mr Freeze and the 'Birds newest member, former Court of Owls assassin Strix.
W: Kristy Marx A: Romano Molenaar
Batwing an African Batman in a fictional city plagued by war and poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a former child soldier and now an officer in an overwhelmed police force, David Zavimbe was drafted into Bruce Wayne's global Batman Incorporated in a world where superheroes and masked mass murderers are woven into the brutal landscape of DCU's Africa. New arc begins JANUARY Batwing 16 as Zavimbe finds himself an enemy of the state of Tinasha. New series writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmitoo (All Star Western, Jonah Hex) will take over MAY Batwing 20 with a significantly different series direction and possible lead in the costume. Batwing Vol.1 The Lost Kingdom available now
W: Judd Winick A: Marcus To
Batgirlone of most controversial moves of the relaunch saw Barbara Gordon regain the use of her legs and abandon her iconic role as the hacker and cyber ghost-in-the-machine "Oracle". Crippled by the Joker and confined to a wheelchair in the now classic 1988 storyline The Killing Joke, Barbara became beloved by many readers when she found new purpose as an invaluable intel resource to the heroes of the DCU. While some fans see the new series as a regressive move that diminishes her character and the diversity of the DCU, others argue she is the most iconic incarnation of Batgirl and welcome her restoration as long overdue. Previously the series explored Barbara's shaky return to the costumed life. Current arc begins FEBRUARY Batgirl 17 featuring her psychopathic brother James Gordon Jr in the aftermath of the Death in the Family event tie-in. Batgirl Vol.1: The Darkest Reflection (Batgirl 1-6) available now
W: Gail Simone A: Adrian Syaf
Legends of the Dark Knight something a little different. Digital First means available first online through Comixology, a new short story released once a week, then published the month after in print floppy. Stories are set outside of normal continuity by rotating creative teams. An innovative, experimental and high class series, get them here and check back every Thursday for a new digital short.
Batman Incorporated Vol.2 #1 relaunched in May kicks off the final death match between Batman Inc and the global supercrime organisation Leviathan. And though it says #1 on cover events in this series are actually the culmination of a seven year epic begun by writer Grant Morrison in the pages of the Batman title waaay back in 2006. To start at the *very* beginning you'll need to pick up Batman & Son and go from there...
The Black Glove: Deluxe Edition / Batman R.I.P. / Batman Reborn / Batman VS Robin / Time & the Batman / The Return of Bruce Wayne / Batman Must Die / Batman Incorporated Vol.1 / Batman Incorporated New 52 #1
Why you should bother
This storyline is kind of a big deal. In a densely woven multi-part saga Batman and his world have been rocked, twisted, broken down and built anew, to spectacular results.
Massive in scope, impact and ambition, the Morrison run is widely regarded as arguably the most definitive, imaginative, and refreshing Batman stories of modern times. Highly controversial throughout its publication, some may disagree with this view of course but they will no doubt tell you it's nevertheless an important and groundbreaking entry.
As the driving force of Batman universe for the last half decade, major events originating from this run include: the introduction of Damian Wayne, the death and return of Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson acting as the new Batman and the rise of a new global initiative in Bruce Wayne's war against crime.
One of the most acclaimed achievements of the run is in celebrating and unifying the various conflicting portrayals in Batman media - across TV, cartoon, film and of course the many eras and styles of comic publication. The run features stories in the style of the weird and wacky 1960's to the globetrotting James Brond-inspired thrillers of the 70's, the grim 'n gritty street noir of the 80's, blockbuster action crossovers of the 90's and everything in between.
The run is also widely credited for reversing the legacy of Frank Millers relentlessly bleak 1986 The Dark Knight Returns, a milestone publishing event which had the unintended effect of plunging Batman comics into a style of broody, angst driven "bat-jerk" storytelling that by mid the 2000's had long become weary and stale. The Morrison run immediately aimed to restore fun, humanity and a glorious sense of the absurd back into Batman while retaining the best of all the eras that came before.
The whole thing is currently collected in nine trades with the final chapter currently ongoing in the monthly series Batman Incorporated: New 52
While each trade contains smaller arcs that CAN be read on their own, most of the significance of the over-aching story will be missed without reading (and re-reading!) from beginning to end..
Batman & Son / The Black Glove / Batman R.I.P. collecting the Batman series 2006 -2009
Three trades lead-up to the first major climax of the run in Batman R.I.P.. Featuring the introduction of Damian Wayne; ninja Man-Bats; Damian as future Batman in an apocalyptic Gotham City; the introduction of Doctor Hurt and the Black Glove: the Batmen-of-Many-Nations: heroin Bruce and his imaginary friend Batmite; Batman of Zur En Arrh; a new incarnation of the Joker and the figurative end of Bruce Wayne's career as Batman. A new release The Black Glove: Deluxe Edition collects the first two trades in a single volume (also printed as Batman & Son VS The Black Glove)
A crossover that occurs in the middle of this chapter is The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul - it shares themes, characters and two issues by Grant Morrison yet is generally considered a diversion to the main story and not as essential.
Batman Reborn / Batman VS Robin collecting the Batman & Robin series 2009 - 2010
Bruce Wayne is mourned by friends and allies after falling in battle against the evil New God Darkseid (eventually recapped inTime and the Batman, see below). A new era begins as his legacy is taken up by the very first Robin Dick Grayson and the obnoxious boy assassin Damian Wayne. Together they form a strange and refreshing incarnation of the Dynamic Duo as they struggle in their new roles while unraveling the mystery of Bruce's disappearance and defending Gotham City from a startling wave of bizarre new villains. Featuring Professor Pyg and the Circus Strange, Jason Todd and the assassin Flamingo, British Crime Bible cultists, a zombie Batman clone, Talia Al Ghul and Deathstroke the Terminator.
Batman Reborn is a good midway jump-on point that can be started fresh on its own without too much prior knowledge (even if reading the earlier three collections is definitely ideal!)
Three separately developing subplots converge towards the end of the second act. Time and the Batman picks up directly from the ending of R.I.P., portraying Bruce Wayne's recovery from Doctor Hurts ambush, his last mission with the JLA and the myth-making confrontation with Darkseid. Alternatively this trade *can* be read directly after R.I.P., which will provide much needed clarity to that ending,even though strictly speaking it should occur after Batman VS Robin. The trade recaps and expands on events first told Grant Morrison's DC Universe event-epic Final Crisis(concerning wider DC heroes in battle against cosmic gods) - the scenes containing Batman in the original Final Crisis are very brief and excerpted here in entirety. It is NOT necessary to read Final Crisis if you're only interested in following the Batman story.
The Return of Bruce Wayne picks up after Batmans banishment into Pre-History in the pages of Time and the Batman, following an amnesiac Bruce Wayne time jumping across various periods in Gotham's past; including the Paleolithic, the witch hunts, pirate era, wild west, noir 1920's, present day and The End of Time itself. In each era he must protect its inhabitants while attempting to make sense of strange surroundings and rediscover his former self.
Batman Must Die is the second major high-point of the run; the secret shame of the Wayne family is finally revealed, Dick Grayson shot in the head and Damian left alone with the Joker and a crowbar in a locked cell. Doctor Hurt, Professor Pyg and a drug crazed Jim Gordon run riot in the streets before the surprise arrival of Bruce Wayne throws everything in a completely unexpected direction....
Batman Incorporated Vol.1 collecting Batman Incorporated 1-8, Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes one-shot 2011
After dark times and strange journeys Bruce Wayne realizes not only is he a changed man, but that the fight against crime demands a whole new method. A global defense network of Batman-inspired operatives are recruited to prevent a nightmare future that only Bruce knows. Inspired by CoD: Modern Warfare 2 and the Batman: Brave & the Bold cartoon, check out an 8-page recap as just a small teaser of the wild and zany team-ups contained in this chapter.
The 50 Best Batman trades of All Time!
As voted by members of the CBR Batman forum 2010-11. Results displayed from left to right...
If you're looking for ideas on what to buy next then check out this ranking of our50 Favourite Batman trades based on a poll of 51 forum members. Each poster submitted their twenty favourite stories with points given from twenty-to-one - consider this the collective opinion of many long time fans. Already read the first ten? Great, then have a look at the NEXT FORTY in the list maybe :)
Please bear in mind this ranking cannot account for different types of readers or sensibilities - it's simply a tally of recommendations given from a broad spectrum of fans intended as a basic guide. I can think of a number of great stories which are nowhere to be found on this list, and a few of the entries towards the top I’d personally disagree with. Once you've read a few of these you can form your own opinion, agree, disagree, talk about them on the board.
Do I need to read everything in order?
Not at all, although some people like to. The fact is that there is no concrete reading order - the continuity shifts, overhauls and contradicts itself all the time. Refer to the links as a rough guide if you want, but don't feel that order is in any way necessary - alot of people would say it's more important to read the major books first in order to gain a good appreciation of Batman and the different types of stories he's in. Also alot of the fun is in putting together the various stories and eras as you go. Just read whatever seems interesting to you and make your own way from there