Batman The Dark Knight Returns. Written and drawn by Frank Miller. This is the one that started the resurgence in Batman’s popularity and was partially responsible for the developing maturity of comics in the 80’s. Set ten years after Batman’s retirement, the Dark Knight returns to clean up Gotham and remind us that Superman is a stooge. If you’ve ever set foot in a comic shop, it really is must reading.
Batman The Killing Joke. Written by Alan Moore, art by Brian Bolland. The definitive Joker origin story. Very creepy for it’s time period. Images of Bolland’s Joker still strike a cord with people to this day based on this one story. Moore is famous for Watchman and being insane himself. If it’s Joker you’re looking for this is at the top of your list.
Batman The Long Halloween. Written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale. The best Batman mystery ever, with a well conceived plot that has an open ending that’s actually pretty clear. Featuring all of Batman’s Rouge’s gallery in artistic spreads by Sale. Art and story set a consistent tone together. Really, the perfect Batman book and a major influence on the current Batman movie franchise.
Batman Court Of Owls. The First New 52 Volume by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. It deserves to be here. While Capullo’s art can be sparse , it’s also appropriate to the book. Snyder writes noir with really creepy subtext. People have been living in the spaces between walls in Gotham since the beginning, influencing everything. The beginning of a long run that’s still going on today.
Batman Arkham Asylum. Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Dave McKean. One of the first times Batman enters Arkham as if crossing the thresh hold into insanity, and we get a look at it’s tenants through the eyes by Sandman cover artist Dave McKean. Beautifully painted throughout. Early enough in Morrison’s career that he knows when to reel himself in and focus. Some say dated but I believe it’s timeless.
Batman Earth One. By Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. A stand alone retelling of the Batman myth with no concern for continuity. Johns was allowed to do what he wanted here and he did. A little trite but Franks artwork has a believability to it that again suits the book. Good for a one and done.
Batman Hush. Written by Jeph Loeb with art by Jim Lee. Jeph recreates his formula from Long Halloween successfully and Lee just knocks it out of the park. This was Jim Lee at his finest and his respectful full pages of Batman female co stars makes this book a treat. The story keeps up with the art too, and you feel like your money was well spent at the end.
Batman and Son. Written by Grant Morrison and art by Andy Kubert. Morrison does what he does best, writing a dizzying story that you have to be a little bent to get into. But people love it, and his introduction of Damian Wayne into the Batman legend is Grant at his best. Batman gets the son he deserves, and he’s a bit of a dick. Really fun stuff actually, and Kubert shows that he’s well on his way to earning his name.
Batman The Black Mirror. Written by Scott Synder and drawn and Jock and Francesco Francavilla. A modern classic that’s a personal favorite. Both artists set the perfect atmosphere to the story that launched Snyder to fame. Dick Grayson takes over as Batman and learns how to establish a relationship with Gordan, while Jim has his own problems with his son. Written as a series of independent stories, it has a sequential nature that was made for the graphic novel format. I can’t say enough about this book.
Batman Year One. Written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazucchelli. This is it. This is the one. After The Dark Knight Returns, Miller went back and gave us the perfect Batman origin. Where Dark Knight went over the top, Year One is beautifully underplayed. Mazucchelli and Miller work seamlessly together, and his artwork combines a sense of desperation and hope at the same time. There’s a tension to it that’s relieved when you realize the characters are figuring each other out at the same time you are. Debate away, but this is my favorite Batman story of all time.
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