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The fantastic world of Batman is filled with amazing stories. Some of them are better known, mostly thanks to the fact that they have been adapted on screen in some form, but the true essence of Batman’s adventures lies within the stories told in the comic books. Some of them were published as graphic novels or one-shots (or republished as such), while others were published as a limited series (either a miniseries or a maxiseries) event or were just collections of several issues from an ongoing series. The latter two groups are what interests us, as we are going to bring you a list of the 20 best Batman stories that are not graphic novels or one-shots, but rather a limited series issue or a collection of issues from an ongoing series. Enjoy!
DC Comics, for those of you that are not familiar with the story behind the comics, is a major American comic book publisher founded back in 1934. Along with Marcel Comics, it is the most popular comic book publisher in the United States. DC Comics is a major player in the comic book business and is the “home” of many famous comic book characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and many others.
Batman – An Introduction
Batman is probably one of the most famous (if not the most famous) comic book character in history. The stories about Gotham City’s Dark Knight have been popular for decades now and have created a multimedia franchise consisting of movies, TV shows, video games and a lot of other merchandise. But, who is Batman?
Batman is the secret superhero alter ego of Bruce Wayne, a billionaire playboy based in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne is the owner of Wayne Enterprises, a successful company based in Gotham City and is the heir of the Wayne estate. He lives alone in Wayne Manor, on the outskirts of Gotham, with his butler and trusted friend, Alfred Pennyworth.
Wayne’s life has been defined by a tragedy he had witnessed as a child. Namely, one night Bruce went to the movies with his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. His father decided to take a shortcut through an alley after exiting the theatre, but he did not know that an unknown mugger was standing there, waiting for his prey. The mugger attacked and ultimately killed both Thomas and Martha Wayne, but spared the life of young Bruce, who was left to the care of Alfred Pennyworth. The mystery of his parents’ murder played an important role in Bruce Wayne’s life and was a key fact in his decision to become the vigilante Batman.
Believing that criminals are a “a cowardly and superstitious lot“, Bruce Wayne decided to put on Batman’s cowl, taking inspiration for the name and the design from a childhood experience with bats.
Frank Miller’s important Batman: Year One comic book depicts Batman’s beginnings as a vigilante in Gotham and since that moment, he has become a symbol of Gotham City and a name used with fear among the city’s criminals. While fighting regular villains and members of his Rogue’s Gallery, Batman has also tried to solve the murder of his parents, ultimately finding out that they were killed by a street criminal named Joe Chill.
The Batman mythos has grown with time and with it also Batman, who has evolved from a solitary vigilante to the leader of the Batman family (or Batfamily), which includes several other superheroes like Batgirl, Batwoman, former Robins Nightwing, Red Robin, Spoiler and others. Currently, Batman is aided by his son Damian Wayne (his mother is Talia al-Ghul, Ra’s al-Ghul’s daughter), who is also the fifth and incumbent Robin.
Batman has been present in other media, as well as in the comic books. The first major adaptation was the 1960s camp TV show starring Adam West, after which there have been several animated adaptations. An important event was Tim Burton’s 1989 movie starring Michael Keaton, that launched a film series during the 1990s.
In the same period, Paul Dini created Batman: The Animated Series where Batman was voiced by Kevin Conroy; the show gained a cult following and is generally praised as one of the best adaptations of Batman ever. Christopher Nolan revitalised the movies with his Dark Knight trilogy. Batman is currently a part of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), DC’s response to the lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe.
20 Best Batman Non-Graphic Novels
While assembling our list, we have tried to be as precise as possible, since the difference between a graphic novel and a non-graphic novel is not always clear. This is why we have decided to include only maxiseries stories (as representatives of the limited series group, meaning that miniseries, due to having less than 12 issues, won’t be included) and collections of issues from an ongoing series; graphic novels, miniseries republished as graphic novels and one-shots won’t be included on the list. So, this is our list of the 20 best Batman non-graphic novels:
1. The Long Halloween
Writer(s): Jeph Loeb
Artist(s): Tim Sale
Titles: Batman: The Long Halloween #1-13
Publication: December 1996 – December 1997
As Batman, Captain James Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent work together to end the illegal activities of mobster Carmine “The Roman” Falcone, a mysterious murderer by the name of Holiday begins to kill on every major holiday; his victims are important people linked to the Falcone family. At the crime scene, he always leaves a .22 caliber gun with a bottle nipple as a silencer, and a greeting card. The murders appear to have been carried out by a professional and the clues are scarce.
Batman and Gordon turn to a villain who has also used the holiday theme, Calendar Man, who is in prison. As the investigation progresses, the evidence begins to point against the prosecutor Harvey Dent himself, who is determined to destroy the criminal activity of the Falcone family, and who, in those days, is going through a difficult family situation.
Gilda, his wife, reproaches him for his obsessive attitude towards work and asks him to have a child and a more peaceful life. However, Dent remains obsessed in campaigning against the Falcone clan. Carmine Falcone is, on his part, concerned that his empire is no longer invincible and begins recruiting supervillains in order to stop Holiday.
Riddler is tasked with finding out the identity of the mysterious killer; Poison Ivy into seducing Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne into helping him get money from the Bank of Gotham City; the Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter perform a series of robberies in order to obtain a resource for the Falcone. However, the murders continue and Falcone is devastated when his son Alberto, a successful Harvard student, is murdered on New Year’s Eve, losing his body in the Gotham City river.
Prosecutor Dent, despite mounting accusations indicating him as the Holiday Killer, continues his offensive against the Falcone family. He gets Carmine Falcone’s rival mobster Sal Maroni to agree to testify in exchange for criminal benefits. Everything is going well, but on the day of the trial, Dent’s assistant, Vernon Field, is contacted in order to deliver a package to Maroni, which turns out to be acid that the mobster uses to disfigure Dent’s face.
The prosecutor is hospitalized, but the attack affects him psychologically and makes him develop a second personality; he flees the hospital and takes refuge in the sewers with Solomon Grundy. Despite being in police custody, Maroni is murdered by the supposedly deceased Alberto Falcone, who introduces himself as Holiday, reveals that he faked his own death and tells the reason for his murders: his birthday was on Valentine’s Day and his father was always too busy to spend time with him.
The murder spree was his way of “making time” to be with his father and earn a place in the family from which he felt marginalized since he was not allowed to participate in the family business. Alberto is sentenced to the gas chamber, but clemency is requested pointing out his lack of sanity, so the sentence is commuted to seclusion in Arkham Asylum as a criminally insane offender.
In the climax, Carmine Falcone is harassed by all the villains that appear throughout the story, including The Joker, Catwoman, Solomon Grundy, Poison Ivy, the Mad Hatter, the Scarecrow, and the Penguin, who had not appeared before in the story. The group is led by Harvey Dent, now known as Two-Face. Batman appears and manages to contain them all, except Catwoman and Two-Face. The latter murders Falcone in the manner of Holiday in front of the gangster’s daughter, Sofia Falcone Gigante.
Sofia tries to defend her father, but is stopped by Catwoman. Both fall out of the room through a window. Catwoman comes out unscathed, but Sofia is not so lucky. Two-Face, after taking revenge on his assistant, turns himself in to the police. Before being locked up in Arkham, he comments on the existence of two Holiday killers; Batman and Gordon believe they understand that Dent refers to himself as the second killer.
However, in the comic’s epilogue, we see Gilda Dent getting ready to leave Gotham City for good and explaining, to an absent Harvey Dent, that she was the first Holiday and that her motive was none other than to free the city from threats. criminals so that her husband could spend more time with her.
As far as The Long Halloween is concerned, the comic book has become a cult classic and one of the best maxiseries in the history of Batman comics. This comic book is a must-read however you look at it and you’ll always find it on the list of the best and most important Batman stories in the history of the franchise. Jeph Loeb has done an amazing job in crafting his story and incorporating in the Batman mythos, while Tim Sale’s characteristic art made the whole story quite recognisable. The Long Halloween is an absolute classic and we highly recommend, as we have already done before; the mere fact that we have included this comic book on practically all main continuity lists speaks for itself, but there really is no problem with reiterating the importance and the quality of The Long Halloween, which is why we’re – once again – including it on our list.
2. Dark Victory
Writer(s): Jeph Loeb
Artist(s): Tim Sale
Titles: Batman: Dark Victory #1-14
Publication: November 1999 – December 2000
During the events of Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman captures and imprisons Alberto Falcone, the serial killer known as Holiday. Months later, a massive escape occurs at Arkham Asylum, orchestrated by Pino and Umberto Maroni, the sons of Sal Maroni. The breakout is staged so that in the confusion, the two can find and kill Two-Face as an offer of peace to Sofia Falcone Gigante.
In later events, Alberto is granted parole based on his actions during the riots. Soon after, several important characters connected to the GCPD are being killed on holidays; the corpses are accompanied by a note with the hangman game and the facts suggest that Harvey Dent is the murderer. The new district attorney, Janice Porter, begins working on the case, while Alberto welcomes his enigmatic brother, Mario Falcone, who is returning from exile in Italy.
Alberto also welcomes his sister, Sofia, who barely survives her encounter with Catwoman in Batman: The Long Halloween, and is limited to being in a wheelchair due to her injuries. Sofia, however, continues to run the decaying Falcone empire. As Hangman’s victims begin to appear more frequently, Two-Face initiates a war against Sofia Falcone to destroy her criminal empire once for all. Collateral damage from the war includes Dick Grayson’s parents, leaving him in the custody of Bruce Wayne, Batman’s alter ego.
It is then that Two-Face enlists several supervillains to destroy the remains of the Gotham mafia; his associates include the Joker, the Scarecrow, the Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, the Mad Hatter, and Solomon Grundy. Mario Falcone, who has formed an alliance with Janice Porter, is soon faced with isolation from Porter who has a secret affair with Two-Face, who ultimately becomes her murderer.
However, at the same time, Two-Face saves James Gordon’s life when the Hangman tries to hang him on the Bat-Signal, thus affirming that he is not the murderer. The final event of the battle arrives on the following Halloween; Sofia reveals that she was never disabled, and that she committed the Hangman murders, targeting all the policemen who had helped Harvey Dent’s career.
She later kills Alberto by drowning him and she breaks Gotham’s gas lines in order to set fire to Two-Face, who is hiding in the sewers. Saved by Batman, Two-Face returns to Sofia and shoots her in the head. Escaping from an underground cordoned-off area, Two-Face meets with the Joker, Poison Ivy, and Mr. Freez in the Batcave.
Batman’s secret would have been exposed had it not been for the timely intervention of Dick, who had trained in secret to become Robin. In his old circus uniform, he makes his debut as Robin and helps Batman defeat most of the villains. When the battle comes down to Batman and Two-Face, the latter claims that Gotham belongs to him.
At the last moment, the Joker appears, shooting Two-Face, who falls off a cliff. Robin then helps immobilize the Joker. Meanwhile, Mario Falcone, a destroyed man, sets fire to his mansion, losing everything. Catwoman then visits Carmine Falcone’s grave revealing that he is possibly her father. We also see that Two-Face not only survived, but also has the body of Carmine Falcone frozen.
In the final pages, Batman offers Dick a chance to escape his crusade for revenge on the criminals who murdered his parents. Dick rejects the offer and Batman tells him that now the two will work together. He then states that he will continue with the oath made to his parents, but that he is not alone anymore.
And while sequels aren’t always that good, Dark Victory actually lived up to the hype and although it lacked the originality of its predecessor – Loeb copied a lot of narrative elements from the original story – it as still an amazing story and a worthy sequel to Loeb’s cult classic storyline; Tim Sale once more added to the quality with his characteristic style. All of this made Dark Victory a great story that, despite all of its shortcomings, is still one of the best Batman stories ever written and an integral part of the narrative that Jeph Loeb created for DC Comics. Dark Victory combines all the best elements of The Long Halloween while continuing the story in a high-quality manner and despite borrowing some elements from Loeb’s first story, Dark Victory is an integral part of the Batman mythos and one of the best stories about the Dark Knight ever written.
3. No Man’s Land
Writer(s): Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Greg Rucka, Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Paul Dini, Bob Gale, Devin K. Grayson, Kelley Puckett, Larry Hama, Bronwyn Carlton
Artist(s): Greg Land, Andy Kuhn, Yvel Guichet, Alex Maleev, Dale Eaglesham, Frank Teran, Phil Winslade, Damion Scott, Dan Jurgens, Mike Deodato, Tom Morgan, Mat Broome, Sergio Cariello
Titles: Azrael: Agent of the Bat #47-61, Batman #560-574, Batman: Harley Quinn, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #116-126, Batman: No Man’s Land #1-0, Batman: No Man’s Land Secret Files and Origins #1, Batman: Day of Judgment #1, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #80-94, The Batman Chronicles #16-18, Catwoman (vol. 2) #72-77, Detective Comics #727-741, JLA #32, Nightwing #35-39, Nightwing Secret Files and Origins #1, Robin (vol. 4) #67-73, Young Justice In No Man’s Land #1
Publication: January – December 1999
Gotham City is suffering the aftermath of a 7.61 magnitude earthquake. In response, the US government declares Gotham “no man’s land”, destroys all bridges leading to the island, and sets up a military blockade to prevent people from entering or leaving. The Gangs and various Batman Villains have struggled over the years to take over the city. Police Commissioner James Gordon and several members of his department, who nicknamed their troop the “Blue Boys”, remain behind to protect civilians.
Oracle and Huntress are also inside. Bruce Wayne left town to pressure the government to continue helping Gotham, but he fails. Gordon and his men await Batman’s return, but he’s been missing for months, leading police to believe he’s abandoned Gotham. A disappointed and bitter Gordon blames Batman and refuses to even pronounce his name. Huntress attempts to maintain order by wearing the Batgirl costume.
She soon discovers that the criminals are more afraid of her as the Batgirl than as the Huntress and succeeds in controlling her own territory. When Batman returns, he allows him to continue using the costume. However, when she fails to contain Double-Face and his army of men and loses Batman’s territory, she abandons the costume. Batman and the police work separately to reclaim Gotham, piece by piece, fighting and subduing gang leaders and marking reclaimed territories with graffiti.
However, a schism breaks out between Gordon and SWAT Lieutenant William “Billy” Petit, whose militaristic and uncompromising methods (no prisoners) shock and indignant Gordon; the “Blue Boys” eventually split into two distinct factions, with Petit and his officers forming the “Strong Men”.
No Man’s Land is a seminal and highly influential Batman storyline. It was a truly major in-universe event that showed what would happen when the criminals divided Gotham and took over the city in an already chaotic environment. This storyline has been loosely adapted in the TV series Gotham and in Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Although it didn’t change much globally – although it did impact individual stories – No Man’s Land is without a doubt one of the most interesting and innovative Batman stories ever and is definitely worth your time. In order to fully comprehend the whole story and its significance, we recommend you read the Cataclysm prequel, but also the sequels Batman: Evolution and Bruce Wayne: Fugitive.
4. Batman: Endgame
Writer(s): Scott Snyder
Artist(s): Greg Capullo
Titles: Batman (vol. 2) #35-40
Publication: October 2014 – April 2015
After a terrifying chemical attack by the Scarecrow, Batman recovers in his new base of operations, a safehouse seized from the Court of Owls. Suddenly, Batman is attacked by Wonder Woman, who is determined to kill him. Batman orders his butler Alfred to implement the “Fenrir” plan, a powerful robotic armor developed by Batman to fight with the entire Justice League.
He manages to overpower Wonder Woman, The Flash and Aquaman, but is later attacked by Superman and thrown into the Gotham Royal Theater. When Batman asks who rigged the League to kill him, Superman’s mouth opens in a big grin as he and the hushed members of the League start laughing. Batman fights the unscrupulous Superman and eventually subdues him with kryptonite-based chewing gum. It turns out that the league is infected with a stronger strain of Joker toxin that is customized for each individual.
Batman visits the Joker’s old cell in Arkham’s abandoned Asylum, where he meets Eric Border, an employee at Arkham’s New Mansion. Border states that he has only tried to help the city and Batman since arriving, but now he sees that Batman cannot be helped. Batman is locked in Joker’s cell while Border removes his makeup to reveal himself as the Joker after using muscle relaxants and medication to mask his appearance. The Joker admits that he finds Batman boring after their last meeting and now intends to end their relationship permanently.
Batman is incapacitated by paralyzing gas when the Joker announces that he will remain defenseless if his plan really begins. Batman eventually recovers from his paralysis to discover that the Joker in Gotham released an incurable pathogen into the air that is transmitted through laughter. This makes the victim look like the wild card and transforms feelings of love into violent hatred that creates mass chaos. Batman goes to Gotham Presbyterian Hospital to look for the first recorded infection, but finds an infected Joe Chill, the man who murdered his parents and a replica of the night Batman’s parents died, and reveals that the Joker knows his identity.
Batman can save Duke Thomas from Chill and the infected mob, but not his parents. Meanwhile, James Gordon does research at the hospital and finds footage that looks like the Joker decades before the Joker first met Batman. The Joker attacks Gordon, who then switches off the Joker. When Gordon calls Batman to forward the news, the Joker stands up and incapacitates Gordon. While Batman yells for Gordon, the Joker picks up the phone and replies, “Hello, Bruce.”
Batman finds Gordon dying with an axe in his chest. Gordon is infected and suddenly attacks Batman, but is overwhelmed by Alfred’s daughter Julia. With the help of Nightwing, Batman concludes that the Joker is using a serum that can cure him of fatal damage and that the virus contains the full reverse side of the serum. They also find out that Paul Dekker, a mad genius in regenerative technologies, was brought back into frontier custody a year earlier. Batman confronts Dekker, who reveals that he could only develop the healing serum and virus using a rare natural component in the Joker’s spine; Dekker thinks the Joker is immortal.
He injects himself with a serum the Joker gave him and believes it will make him immortal, but it kills him. Julia informs Batman that research has revealed images of the Joker dating back centuries of Gotham history, and that if a cure for the virus is not found, those infected will die within 24 hours. Desperate, Batman asks the Court of Owls for help. The court refuses to help Batman, but he confronts their assassin Talon Uriah Boone, who has survived since Gotham’s inception, about the Joker’s alleged immortality. In the meantime, the Joker uses his regeneration skills to survive the long swim in the Batcave and its defenses.
Alfred tries to take down the villain, but the Joker cuts off his hand before running away with Batman’s crime fighting trophies. Joker then leads a parade around town, leading tanks that carry the trophies through the infected citizens. Batman brings together his family and some of his greatest enemies to unite against the Joker and save the city they all share. Given their combined efforts, The Joker is preparing for its “best twist of all”.
Batman fights the Joker, but he and his allies are overwhelmed by Joker’s deadly gas. The Joker removes the Batman mask, revealing that Nightwing pretended to be Batman as a distraction while the real Batman searched the cave system below Gotham that the Joker would have toured after falling off the cliff at the end of “Death of the” Family Batman finds a cave full of Joker’s explosives and houses a pool of Dionesium, the healing fluid that gives Joker his regenerative abilities. The Joker confronts Batman and detonates the explosives. When the cave begins to crumble, he and Batman fight and seriously injure each other.
Batman injects the Joker with an immune response blocker after realizing that he hasn’t actually lived as long as others claim, but uses Dionesium. When the Joker tries to stab a muted Batman, he is pushed into the path of a falling icicle that breaks his back. When he desperately tries to crawl to the pool to heal, Batman holds him back until the cave roof falls, destroying the pool. Surrendering to their fate, Batman reveals that the Joker failed when Batman gave small doses of Dionesium to his allies to protect them from Joker’s venom, while collecting a larger amount of Dionesium for Julia to heal across town.
The Joker and Batman are lying on the floor when the cave collapses above them. In doing so, Alfred refuses to put his hand back, claiming he has no more cure, while Dionesium, collected by Batman and given to Julia, enables the city to be cured of Joker’s plague. Speaking of Batman’s last letter, Alfred claims that Batman’s story would always end in tragedy and that while Batman had the means to be immortal and escape death as the Joker offered, Batman was determined to be just that Time to live he had and “smile” emptiness. The note bears only the word “Ha” and reflects Joker’s final message to him at the end of “Death of the Family”.
As far as Snyder’s run with Batman is concerned, Endgame is quite possibly the best among his stories and certainly one of the best Batman stories ever written. The conclusion of Snyder’s interpretation of the endless Batman/Joker feud culminated in an epic showdown in Endgame, which drastically changed Batman’s narrative for a short amount of time. The story had universe-wide repercussions and Snyder’s New 52 stories after Endgame reflected these events and have proven how creative and powerful of a narrator Scott Snyder is. Combine that with Greg Capullo’s majestic artwork and you get a truly modern masterpiece.
5. Batman: City of Bane
Writer(s): Tom King, Tony S. Daniel
Artist(s): Mikel Janín
Titles: Batman (vol. 3) #75-85
Publication: September 2019 – February 2020
After “The Fall And The Fallen”, Thomas Wayne and Bane took over Gotham completely and turned into a fortress where Dr. Hugo Strange became police superintendent. The Arkham inmates became cops, and Thomas took over the role of Batman. He has moved into the villa, holds Alfred prisoner and uses the Ventriloquist as his butler. He also took on Gotham Girl as an apprentice; she becomes so powerful she almost kills Captain Atom to keep the Justice League out of the city.
Robin, Batwoman, Red Robin, The Signal, and Batgirl have no idea what happened to Bruce and force Robin to try to infiltrate the Manor, but things go terribly wrong. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne was abandoned by Thomas in the wild after a poorly thought out plan to resurrect Martha in a Lazarus Pit. He manages to escape, only to be captured by Magpie. After she brutalizes Catwoman, she comes to save him and vows to do things right after leaving him at the altar. This leads Bruce into a direct conflict with the Flashpoint iteration of his father.
A Russian folk tale that Bruce apparently loved as a child is also heavily featured in the story and is important in understanding the relationship between Batman and his father. The story was first featured in #57, and initially appeared to be connected to the KGBeast. However, it turns out to be a storybook that Thomas Bruce read to almost every night before bed. This is mentioned several times.
Later in the story, Thomas Wayne, who probably knew Alfred, uses him as a hostage to prevent the Batman family from entering. When Damian Wayne violates this condition, Thomas Wayne shoots Alfred and murders the innocent butler in cold blood. When Bruce learns about this, he reacts as expected and explains that the “Flashpoint” Thomas is not his father. The story culminates in a final confrontation between Batman and the Flashpoint Thomas Wayne.
Tom King’s new story featuring yet another epic encounter between Batman and Bane was one of the highlights of his run on Batman. In a story that somewhat reminds us of the epic Knightfall trilogy, Batman again has to raise the bar for himself in order to defeat Bane and another menacing enemy – his own father. With the stakes being much higher this time, King’s new take on the Batman/Bane rivalry is one of the best modern Batman stories and is certainly a narrative that has already become an essential part, despite not being out there that long, which is why we highly recommend it.
6. The Knightfall trilogy
Writer(s): Chuck Dixon, Jo Duffy, Alan Grant, Dennis O’Neil, Doug Moench
Artist(s): Jim Aparo, Jim Balent, Eduardo Barreto, Bret Blevins, Norm Breyfogle, Vincent Giarrano, Tom Grummett, Klaus Janson, Barry Kitson, Mike Manley, Graham Nolan, Sal Velluto, Mike Vosburg, Ron Wagner
Titles: Batman #492-510; 512-515, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #16-30; 32-35, Catwoman #6-7; 12-13, Detective Comics #659-677; 679-682, Justice League Task Force #5-6, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #59-63, Robin #7-9; 11-14, Showcase ’93 #7-8, Showcase ’94 #10
Publication: April 1993 – August 1994
This large scale storyline consists of three major narratives and a series of prequel, sequel and tie-in stories that take place over a period of six months. In the first major narrative – “Knightfall” – a new supervillain appears in Gotham. Bane, as he calls himself, is a “super-steroid” criminal mastermind who launches a tactical attack on Batman, draining him both physically and mentally until he finally defeats him in a fight, breaking his back and almost killing him. Batman is saved but is unable to wear the cowl due to his paralysis. In a surprise move, Batman names Jean-Paul Valley, also known as Azrael, as his successor.
Although a worthy replacement, Valley is a very different Batman, much more brutal, arrogant and paranoid, which causes problems and alienates him from his helpers. Valley built a new, mechanical Bat-suit and ultimately challenged Bane, defeating him and leaving him broken mentally and physically, just like he did with Batman. Deciding not to kill him, Valley sends him to Blackgate and continues watching over Gotham.
“Knightquest” follows two narratives and is a direct sequel to “Knightfall”. The first narrative follows Valley’s controversial tenure as Batman and his fights against Gotham’s criminals and supervillains; this narrative includes the notorious scene where Valley let the serial killer Abattoir and his victim to die. The second narrative follows Bruce Wayne and Alfred on a quest to find Jack Drake and Shondra Kinsolving.
Ultimately, “KnightsEnd” follows Valley’s breakdown and him becoming a brutal and unacceptable version of Batman. Bruce Wayne demands he step down, but Valley refuses, so Bruce starts to prepare for a confrontation. The final battle is held between Valley and Wayne in the caverns surrounding the Batcave below Wayne Manor. Bruce outsmarts Valley and then manages to defeat him, ultimately letting him go because he himself appointed him as his successor, therefore – he is to blame for his wrongdoings.
It would take a lot of time and space to talk about how the Knightfall saga changed Batman and his stories. This very large series – now available in three omnibus volumes – was a seminal 1990s storyline that not only introduced Bane to the main continuity, but also went even deeper in Batman’s psyche and became even darker in tone. It changed a lot. It changed how the readers viewed the until-then unbeatable Batman. It introduced the possibility of an “out-of-control” Batman other than Bruce Wayne himself and it gave a larger role to Jean-Paul Valley, who was until then a supporting character known as Azrael. Knightfall was a truly entertaining and important story that set the tone for future stories, and it still remains as one of the most important and must-read stories in the Batman mythos. These three omnibus editions are must-haves for every true collector.
7. Batman: Death of the Family
Writer(s): Scott Snyder, Adam Glass, Kyle Higgins, John Layman, Scott Lobdell, Ann Nocenti, Gail Simone, Peter Tomasi, James Tynion IV
Artist(s): Greg Capullo, Eddy Barrows, Ed Benes, Brett Booth, Fernando Dagnino, Jason Fabok, Patrick Gleason, Jock, Timothy Green, Rafa Sandoval
Titles: Batman (vol. 2) #13-17, Batgirl #13-16, Batman and Robin #15-16, Catwoman #13-14, Detective Comics (vol. 2) #15-16, Nightwing #15-16, Red Hood and the Outlaws #15-17, Suicide Squad #14-15, Teen Titans #15-16
Publication: October 2012 – February 2013
After having attacked the police department, assassinated 19 officers, and assaulted James Gordon, the Joker makes his return to Gotham City after being missing for a year, and infuses a message via television in which he comments that he has several targets, including the mayor of Gotham whom he threatens to assassinate that same night.
Batman and several city officials watch to prevent the man from being murdered, however, all the officers present there die from a toxic gas that had been prepared by the villain weeks ago. Batman analyzes the gas and realizes that it was made in the ACE Chemicals factory, the same place where the Joker fell and transformed into what he is now. He encounters a person dressed as the Red Hood, one of Joker’s aliases, and is struck by an oversized mallet that pushes him into an empty chemical vat; the Hood, revealed to be Harley Quinn, warns Batman that Joker is not the same.
However, he does not follow Harley’s instructions. When the hero returns home, he realizes that his butler Alfred was kidnapped and in one of the rooms he finds a recording and an elastic band with the name of Police Commissioner Gordon. Batman decides to pay him a visit – knowing that he is the next victim – arriving shortly before he begins to bleed unstoppably, so Batman uses a coagulant in order to save his life.
Batman realizes that the Joker is reenacting his previous crimes, and goes to the Gotham reservoir, where his first confrontation with the villain took place. Joker immobilizes Batman, and states his plan to kill each of Batman’s allies, believing they have made Batman weak, so to “help” him, he intends to murder all the people he loves in the next 72 hours, since he knows the identities of all of them.
Batman is paralyzed in the Joker’s lair by a poison that he injected, Lieutenant Bullock and several officers follow his trail and reach the place where he is held captive, however they remain outside since there are several bombs at the entrance. Batman recovers enough to escape, however, he is ambushed by the Joker, who attempts to defeat him but is still in poor condition and allows him to escape.
Bruce get help from some of his allies, who take him to the Batcave, where he discovered a joker playing card in the Batcave; he dismisses the idea that Joker has found the cave, but the family fears that Joker knows their identities and blame Batman for concealing such a possibility.
Batman continues with his investigation and interrogates an Arkham Asylum guard, who confesses to him that the Joker was in the Asylum, but upon reaching the place he realizes that the Joker had previously taken control of the facility with the help of several patients. Batman gains access to the Asylum through the underground conduits, but the Joker sends Clayface, Mr. Freeze and Two-Face to ambush him.
Later, Batman manages to defeat them and finally faces the Joker, who doubts he can defeat him again and shows him some recordings of Catwoman, Robin, Batgirl, Red Hood, Red Robin and Nightwing, all of who are being held captive; he also forces him to sit in an electric chair if he wants to save them.
After torturing him in the electric chair, the Joker takes him to his friends who are sitting around a table with bags on their heads, which he removes revealing that he has removed their faces and later sets the place on fire. Batman frees himself from the chair, breaks a sector of the cave where the water falls, putting out the fire, and rescues his allies; after making sure they are safe and sound, he attacks the Joker.
He reveals that he left them a trap and infects them with a toxin that makes them face each other, in order for Batman to let him go so he could save them. But the opposite happens, Batman angrily hits the Joker and tries to end his madness by making him remember his previous life including his real name. The scared Joker refuses to listen and throws himself into the void of a waterfall. Batman heals his allies; they all take some time off (except Alfred), trying to calm down and reflect on what they went through.
Although the New 52 imprint had its fair share of controversies, practically everyone agrees that Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s run on the Batman was an absolute thrill. The two of them managed to evolve the character and push him to limits previously unknown and unfathomable. It all started with “Death of the Family“, the storyline that really did change everything when the Batman and his archenemy, the Joker, are concerned. The Joker became even more twisted and more deranged than he ever was during his criminal career, pushing Batman to his limits. Snyder’s brilliant storytelling and Capullo’s amazing art made this narrative an instant classic. There is absolutely nothing we can say against “Death of the Family” and this is why we highly recommend it as a must-read for all true fans. A great thing about this story is that it was just one of many that Snyder and Capullo created for us and just one segment of their take on the relationship between Batman and Joker, a relationship that these two geniuses redefined, which is why their work is listed here, among the best.
8. Batman: Night of the Owls
Writer(s): Scott Snyder, Tony S. Daniel, Kyle Higgins, Peter J. Tomasi, James Tynion IV, Judd Winick, et al.
Artist(s): Greg Capullo, Tony S. Daniel, Jason Fabok, Rafael Albuquerque, et al.
Titles: All-Star Western #9, Batgirl #9, Batman #1-12, Batman Annual #1, Batman: The Dark Knight #9, Batman and Robin #9, Batwing #9, Birds of Prey #9, Catwoman #9, Detective Comics #9, Nightwing #1-9, Red Hood and the Outlaws #9
Publication: April – May 2012
Scanning the Penguin’s base, Selina Kyle and her lover Spark decide to spy on the gang boss. The Court of Owls, angered by Cobb’s defeat at the hands of Batman, awakens all of their other Talons to take back Gotham City. They also dispose of Cobb’s body for Alfred Pennyworth to find. The Court’s goal is to prove that they are the rulers of Gotham City, and not Batman.
The Talons attack the Batcave first, but the injured Bruce still manages to defeat several of them due to his outdated fighting style. Alfred discovers the forty targets of the Court and sends a radio message to the Batman family for help. Tim Drake and Jason Todd receive one and decide to protect Mr. Freeze. Bruce wears an armored Batman suit so he can fight all the Talons, while one of the Talons revives William Cobb.
The Birds of Prey are one of the first to fight a Talon who is merciless and cruel in his methods, wanting to kill “street vermin”. Nightwing receives the message and goes to save Mayor Sebastian Hady. Nightwing has no problem killing the Talon attacking Hady since he is already dead, but upon stopping him he is stabbed in the chest by a revived Cobb, who credits Nightwing, as his descendant, and working for Batman as his worst betrayal.
When Selina and Spark arrive to steal from the Penguin, they see that the Penguin’s car is leaving, but are unaware that the Penguin himself is still alive and is being brutally beaten by Ephraim Newman, a Talon. Bruce, meanwhile, continues to fight the Talons invading the Batcave and eventually manages to stop them and heads to save Jeremiah Arkham who is fighting the Talons through Roman Sionis, a.k.a. Black Mask.
Nightwing is brutally beaten by Cobb who continues to taunt him; Cobb demands that his heir impress him, finally giving up and saying that Nightwing is a waste. Nightwing, however, retaliates and electrocutes Cobb, then offers to take Jeremiah Arkham from Batman. Selina and Spark control the fight and while Spark wishes to retreat, Selina throws herself into the fight. After giving Arkham to Nightwing, Batman goes to save Lincoln March.
Bruce fights Alton Carver, the Talon sent to kill March, but he can’t stop Carver from killing March, a mayoral candidate who wanted to make Gotham City a better place. March gives Batman a package that will improve Gotham City and Bruce sets out to burn down the lair of the Court of Owls. Damian heads to the outskirts of Gotham City and beheads a Talon that was seeking to kill an army general and Batwing proceeds to maim a Talon that wanted to assassinate Lucius Fox.
Batgirl proceeds to meet a Talon named Mary, who when she sees Batgirl simply caresses her face. Batgirl takes out a piece of paper from Mary. Balloon bombs dropped by the Court of Owls also begin to explode in random locations. Batgirl then shoves Mary into a balloon bomb, killing her. However, Mary’s healing factor is barely keeping her alive, and Batgirl keeps her tethered to the Bat-Signal, which at the time had been sabotaged to reveal a huge owl. Batgirl then swaps the owl with the original bat.
The Outlaws capture Mr. Freeze and Red Hood ends up having a “heart to heart” with a Talon, who eventually decides that he wants to be in control the second time he is killed, and begs Red Hood to execute him.
The battle against the Owls begins to go the way of the Gotham citizens. Alton then wakes up, finally believing himself free from fear and everything that has bound him. Mr. Freeze, however, escapes and attempts to kill Bruce Wayne, but once again ends up being arrested, twice in one day. Selina and Spark initially think that they have killed the Talon, but later realize that the Talon is, in a way, immortal.
Efrain takes Selina’s whip and begins to mercilessly beat Spark and then strangle Selina’s lover with Selina without understanding. Selina decides to bargain with the Talon, offering her a complete set of daggers. Ephraim begins to listen but the Penguin shoots him in the head. Selina and Spark eventually decide not to steal the daggers that Penguin originally had in his possession and head to deposit the body of the claw, which they leave behind in the Bat-signal, with the Night of the Owls coming to an end.
We all know how Snyder and Capullo changed Batman during their run on the New 52 stories about the Dark Knight. Capullo’s amazing artwork complemented Snyder’s brilliant storytelling and these two genuinely changed much about how we perceive Batman and his adventures. While some stories focused on old elements from the Batman mythos, Snyder never hesitated to bring in something new and some of his novelties have already become an integral part of the Batman canon, which is almost a precedent when newer additions to the canon are concerned. One of such novelties is the mysterious Court of Owls, a secret organization that is said to have run Gotham City since its foundation. This was a brave expansion to the long-established mythology, but the Court of Owls quickly became part of the Batman canon, and the main storyline that gave us a look into the extent of the powers the organization has was the “Night of the Owls“. This in-universe crossover event is certainly one of the most important modern Batman stories that expands and somewhat redefines the well-established mythos and is not just a great read, but a seminal modern story that you have to read.
9. Batman: Zero Year
Writer(s): Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
Artist(s): Greg Capullo, Rafael Albuquerque
Titles: Batman #21-27, 29-33, Action Comics #25, Batgirl #25, Batman Annual #2, Batwing #25, Batwoman #25, Birds of Prey #25, Catwoman #25, Detective Comics #25, The Flash #25, Green Arrow #25, Green Lantern Corps #25, Nightwing #25, Red Hood and the Outlaws #25
Publication: June 2013 – July 2014
The story begins with Gotham City being destroyed by a flood, and Batman who had been declared dead. The first arc of the event, entitled “Secret City”, has its events five months before the flood, and begins with the return of Bruce Wayne to Gotham City, after a long time away and for being declared dead. He wears a disguise and fights against Red Hood One, and discovers that he has a lot to learn if he wants to fight the new generation of costumed criminals that plague Gotham.
Bruce meets with his maternal uncle, Philip Kane (Uncle Philip), but refuses to take control of Wayne Industries. In a flashback, Bruce’s father shows him a black sphere (a visual mapper) created to show a three-dimensional map of the interior of any location. Edward Nygma, Philip’s strategist, suggests that Philip kill his nephew, Bruce Wayne. After Philip refuses, Edward hires the Red Hood Gang to assassinate Bruce. Disguised once again, Bruce rescues Oswald Cobblepot from Red Hood One and takes a blood sample from the ringleader, but is unable to find out who it belongs to.
After having a brief discussion with Alfred, Bruce leaves and meets Philip, who against Bruce’s wishes, prepares a surprise welcome party for him. After Bruce manages to escape the media and all the spotlight, he ends up having an unexpected encounter with Nygma. After fleeing the villain’s riddles, he goes to his house, where he is attacked by the Red Hood Gang. The gang beats Bruce, and the leader tells him that the Waynes’ death changed his life forever. After being left on the brink of death, Bruce manages to reach Wayne Mansion, where Alfred Pennyworth treats his injuries. Using the black sphere, Bruce discovers the bat cave he fell in when he was a child. Bruce discovers his destiny and the sphere falls and breaks.
The second arc was titled “Dark City”, and it was about Bruce’s first months as Batman. It starts with Bruce, as Batman, preventing another Red Hood assault, and then begins to study Red Hood One’s real plan. Bruce reveals to the media that the Red Hood gang is composing within ACE Chemicals a radioactive meat-eating poison that they plan to blow up at various locations in Gotham, so the gang tries to kill him. Bruce goes to ACE Chemicals as Batman, and begins to fight the gang.
Philip, who has been marked and forced to join the gang, tries to shoot Red Hood One, but misses. Red Hood One shoots and kills Philip. Sergeant Jim Gordon manages to enter ACE Chemicals with SWAT officers intending to arrest Batman and Red Hood One, but the building is on fire. Red Hood One tries to escape in a helicopter, but Batman stops him by pulling him back to the building. Batman tries to capture Red Hood One, but the masked criminal jumps into a vat of chemicals. Bruce and Alfred study data about the gang, when Edward Nygma, the Riddler, turns off all the energy in the city and challenges Batman to turn it back on.
With the city in complete darkness and seeing the brutal storm René approaching, the police find an abnormal body with bones that are twisted and grown from the inside of the skin. Batman discovers that a scientist who worked with Lucius Fox had created a program that had similar effects. Bruce goes to visit Fox, but Fox injects Bruce with a toxin that makes him pass out, while he says that the program was also his, and that Doctor Death is coming and no one will be able to stop him. Bruce wakes up to see Fox being attacked by Dr. Death. Bruce and Fox face Dr. Death, who looks increasingly powerful (and deformed), the pair escapes help from Gordon and Fox explains that the substance he injected into Bruce was an experimental antidote against Dr. Death’s vaccine.
After the fight with Dr. Death, Bruce passes out and ends up hospitalized. At the hospital, new revelations are made about the past of Bruce and Gordon, which ends up generating a disagreement in the pair, and Bruce says that he does not trust him. While Gotham remains plunged into the chaos caused by the Riddler, Bruce as Batman sets out to search for Dr. Death’s next victim, but arrives too late, Doctor Death had already inoculated his vaccine in Deeds and Brooker.
The police find Batman at the crime scene and open fire, mistakenly believing that he is the killer. Although injured, Batman manages to escape, with the unusual help of James Gordon. Gordon makes revelations about his past to Batman, and Batman joins forces with the police and begins a partnership. In the Batcave, Batman manages to locate Helfern, Doctor Death, and discovers that he is preparing an apocalyptic mechanism. Then Batman goes to the Gotham Catacombs, a tourist attraction, and discovers that Dr. Death is being manipulated by Nygma, who is the real mind behind the entire operation.
Dr. Death and Riddler then flood the catacombs. Batman arrives with his airship to use the blocker for the Riddler’s device. When the airship explodes, Batman jumps to another airship, where a fight with Doctor Death begins. Gordon arrives at the Wayne Industries Tower and finds the Riddler, but is caught in one of his traps. Doctor Death and Batman have a brief fight, the villain disables the blocking device, and Batman then manages to subdue Dr. Death and destroy the interior of the airship; Dr. Death ends up dead in the explosion. The police are finally able to turn the power back on, giving the Riddler control of the city, the villain then blows up the dikes to flood the entire city. Batman then destroys the airship, but fails to prevent the city from flooding. Gotham is in a complicated situation, with no communication with the outside world and the population is left with no choice but to dance to the music.
The third and final arc was titled “Savage City”, and it was about Bruce’s efforts to save his city from the control of the Riddler. It starts with Bruce Wayne waking up at Duke’s residence. The young boy whose life he had saved informs him that the Riddler has taken control of Gotham. Alfred asks Bruce to return to Wayne Mansion through the escape tunnel over the house in Crime Alley, the site of his parents’ murder and his former headquarters, as it is one of the only ways to get out of Gotham now.
Meanwhile, the military sends special forces soldiers to Gotham to help Gordon restore peace. Day after day, Riddler appears on the screen to tell the people of Gotham that all he wants is a worthy opponent. The Riddler sees Gordon and the soldiers on the roof, then sends drones to stop them. Riddler tries to destroy the building, but Batman stops him. Batman, Gordon, Fox and the soldiers plan a way to stop the Riddler.
The next day, Riddler appears on the screen again to say that he will dedicate this “Year Zero” to the people of Gotham. Batman in a new costume arrives on a motorcycle and proposes a challenge to the Riddler in order to buy time for Fox to discover the villain’s location. The Riddle throws Batman into a lions den. Batman fights and tames the lions, giving Fox the time to find the Riddler’s hiding place. Batman, Gordon and Fox try to find the Riddler, but fall into a trap. Fox is wounded, but Batman arrives to save him.
The soldiers using their trackers call an air attack on Gotham, while Batman finally finds the Riddler and again the hero falls into a trap of the villain, thus beginning the final game between the two. Riddler challenges Batman to solve twelve of his puzzles that will allow him to take a step closer to him with each correct answer. Gordon and Fox find a way to stop the jets that come to destroy Gotham. Batman finally manages to catch the Riddler, stopping his game. Gordon creates a Bat-signal and succeeds in stopping the jets. The Riddler reveals that in order to save Gotham, Batman must link the city to a new heart that would bring everything back to life; and that it must stick to an electrode and receive a shock. Batman manages to restart Gotham at the risk of his own life. A month later, Gotham is back to normal, while Riddler is arrested at Arkham Asylum.
Another brilliant work from the creative mind of Scott Snyder, Zero Year was a demonstration of how Batman’s origin story can be rewritten, while at the same time not losing the touch of the original story. Snyder’s take on Batman was a very thorough one, and Zero Year is without a doubt another among the many examples why this guy was one of the best and most daring Batman writers in history. The story chronicles Batman’s early days in Gotham City and a new threat in the form of the Riddler, who started his career with a plan so bold and big that it almost erased Gotham as everyone knew Her. A brilliant story combined with Capullo’s majestic artwork, Zero Year is absolutely a recommendation and something every Batman fan has to read if he wants to have a full grasp of the evolution of the Dark Knight’s mythos.
10. Batman: Hush
Writer(s): Jeph Loeb
Artist(s): Jim Lee
Titles: Batman #608–619
Publication: October 2002 – September 2003
Batman rescues a rich boy kidnapped by Bane but during the fight, Catwoman appears and steals the suitcase with the ransom money. When chasing it, his grapple is mysteriously broken and Batman suffers a tremendous fall and fractures his skull. Batgirl is summoned to take him to Alfred Pennyworth who in turn receives instructions from the hero to contact an old childhood friend of his, Thomas Elliot, now a renowned neurosurgeon.
Recovered, Batman resumes investigations and finds that Catwoman was under the control of the Poison Ivy, who had fled to Metropolis. Batman and Catwoman go there and face Superman, also controlled by the cunning villain. Using various devices Batman survives the fight and manages to free Superman and stop Ivy.
Later, back in Gotham City, Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle, Leslie Thompkins and Dr. Elliot go to the opera to watch Pagliacci, when Harley Quinn appears to rob the audience. Upon chasing the villain, the doctor is apparently killed by the Joker. Batman is enraged and is about to kill the villain when retired Commissioner James Gordon appears to calm him down.
During Dr. Elliot’s funeral, Batman tells Dick Grayson that it was not the Joker who killed the doctor and that he suspects that a mysterious enemy is behind the recent actions of his former enemies. A man with bandages on his face appears at all crime scenes and is called “Hush”. Soon afterward, Batman prevents a robbery organized by the Riddler and investigates some traces that take him to Ra’s al Ghul.
Back in the city, Catwoman is attacked by the Huntress, who later reveals herself to be under the effect of the Scarecrow’s gas. Robin (Tim Drake), is captured by his predecessor, Jason Todd, who had been presumed dead since the “A Death in the Family” storyline. While fighting with Jason, Batman discovers that he is, in fact, his former enemy, Clayface, who had assumed the appearance of the late Jason Todd.
Batman discovers that his computer has been breached and confronts his technician, Harold, who had not appeared in the stories since the No Man’s Land arc. Harold admits that someone had treated his disfigured condition in exchange for planting that device, but he is shot and killed by Hush before he can name the mastermind.
Then, Batman discovers the identity of the mysterious man with the bandages – it is, in fact, Thomas Elliot – and during the fight, a “reborn” Harvey Dent appears and shoots Hush. In the end, Batman manages to unravel the whole mystery and discover who the author of the plan that had threatened him for months was. However, with the Hush mystery solved, a new question arises to torment the Dark Knight – Jason Todd’s grave is empty and his enemies refused to reveal what had happened to the boy’s body.
In the final scene, Batman and the Catwoman decide to end the romantic relationship, until “someday”. The consequences of this narrative were further explored in other stories, most notably Batman: Under the Hood, as well as in other Hush-related stories such as “Heart of Hush”, “House of Hush” and “Hush Money”.
Jeph Loeb had already been a well-known Batman writer, as his Long Halloween series was published before Hush. With Hush, Loeb just reaffirmed his storytelling skills and he crafted a new, original story that is today considered to be one of the best Batman stories ever written. The introduction of Tommy Elliot, a.k.a. Hush, to the main continuity was a great addition to the Batman lore, as Elliot’s brilliantly written backstory fit in perfectly with what we had already known about Batman. Hush was, in a way, the anti-Batman and Loeb, who had already proven himself to be a great mystery writer (The Long Halloween and Dark Victory both included a sinister, mysterious serial murderer), managed to create a story that was both acceptable for the fans and the critics, but that was also a brilliant stand-alone crime narrative that challenged Batman and his investigative skills. Hush, as an original character, was also great and had both depth and incited fear in the readers due to his psychopathic nature, which is why we love the Hush storyline so much and consider it to be one of the greatest Batman stories ever told.
11. Batman R.I.P.
Writer(s): Grant Morrison
Artist(s): Tony S. Daniel
Titles: Batman #667-669, 672-686, 701-702, Detective Comics #846–853, Nightwing vol. 2, #147–153, Batman and the Outsiders #11–14, Special 1, Robin vol. 2, #175–183
Publication: May – November 2008
Two seemingly mad cops dressed up as Batman are wreaking havoc on the streets. One of them, equipped with a gun, shot the Joker in the face, disfiguring him; the other, reinforced by the Venom used by Bane (his costume looks more like that of the criminal, in fact), killed several prostitutes and reduced Batman himself to death. During a dream, Damian Wayne called them two “ghosts” and prophesied the arrival of a third who would mark the end of the Dark Knight. That day arrives.
A man in a more terrifying, demonic Batman alternate costume breaks into the police station with a flamethrower in a confused way. Bruce intervenes by escaping from a date with his new girlfriend Jezebel Jet, but the criminal is not surprised and hits him in the chest with an explosive bullet. The armor saves him, but the violent impact causes him a cardiac arrest. During his unconsciousness Bruce has visions. He sees himself projected into a parallel reality in which a young himself, in his first year as Batman, has persecuted his parents’ killer, Joe Chill, to the point of driving him to suicide (this is inspired, like other ideas of Morrison in this saga, to a history of the Golden Age).
Visions of him are guided by a bizarre version of himself with a monstrous creature on his back (symbol of his subconscious and the trauma that will affect him forever). But above all he remembers an experiment he had undergone: a psychologist called Simon Hurt had convinced him to force himself into a forced isolation of ten days under the influence of psychotropic hallucinogens. This would have helped Batman to better understand the intricacies of the madness that pushes certain of his enemies (in particular the Joker) to act without any apparent logic, in an unpredictable way, and would have helped Dr. Hurt to have the in-depth psychological profile of the man with the most powerful mind in the world. The army collaborated in this experiment.
When he wakes up, Batman is tied up in the laboratory where he once underwent that experiment and in front of him is his imitator. He tortures him severely and in the meantime talks about Dr. Hurt’s experiment. He and his two predecessors were cops transformed into “Batmen” by Hurt. The psychological profile obtained was to be used by Hurt to shape new Dark Knights with the same mental abilities as the original, who, in the drawings of the army and police, would have to replace him if he were dead. The subjects were three policemen, all motivated by a strong trauma.
In particular, the third one and the most dangerous one, was traumatized by the murder of his family, killed by Satanists hired by Hurt to instill hatred in his heart. But these abilities were only induced in the psyche of the cops, abilities that would only be reactivated through a key word that would stop hypnosis. The monstrous nature of these experiments led to their suppression and their existence remained a secret among Gotham policemen who wanted to protect their comrades undergoing treatment (a secret they continue to jealously conceal making James Gordon’s investigations difficult).
Taking advantage of his tormentor’s distraction, Batman breaks free and confronts him. However, the criminal manages to escape and warns Batman: the Black Glove is about to reach him. To distract himself, Bruce accepts a romantic dinner with his new girlfriend. He and Jezebel seem to be in tune, but she realizes that he’s not showing her the real me of her. Unfortunately, the dinner is interrupted by a B-list criminal who kidnaps the girl and refers to the Black Glove.
Bruce is furious and violently attacks the criminal by interrogating him. Jezebel sees Bruce fighting and immediately realizes: Bruce Wayne is Batman. On the other side of the world Talia al Ghul is training Damian Wayne, son of her and Bruce. Rumors of her come to her about an organization called the Black Glove that wants to kill her loved one. This cannot be allowed and she immediately sets off on her way to Gotham.
Bringing together a number of concepts and characters explored by Grant Morrison during his cycle as a Batman writer, the story emphasizes the attacks of the mysterious Doctor Simon Hurt and the Black Glove, the criminal organization dedicated to corrupting the virtuous and destroying Batman and all that he stands for. Using a mixture of both physical and psychological attacks, the Black Gauntlet tests Batman’s resolve, forcing him to temporarily adopt, on the advice of the Bat-Myth, the identity of Zur-En-Arrh’s Batman, a personality constructed by Bruce himself to keep Batman in a fighting position in case he is driven to insanity or his memory is erased.
He is then taken to the Arkham Asylum to fight the Joker. Almost defeated, Batman is buried alive by the Black Glove, a group that also includes Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, Jezebel Jet, who betrayed him. With the help of Robin and Nightwing, Batman manages to subvert the situation. In the final confrontation with Doctor Hurt, Batman is apparently the victim of a disaster caused by the explosion of the helicopter he was in. The story ends with Batman’s fate and Doctor Hurt’s true identity still shrouded in mystery. Hurt revealed that he was Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father. Batman was convinced that Doctor Hurt was actually Mangrove Pierce, a crazed actor. A multiple number of clues scattered throughout Morrison’s cycle lead to the conclusion that Doctor Hurt is actually the Devil.
Grant Morrison’s Batman R.I.P. is one of his most important stories during his tenure as the main Batman writer. Despite the fact that some consider the story a bit repetitive, due to Morrison reusing some old plot elements, most people consider it to be a daring and intriguing story that certainly deserves to be collected as one of the most important modern Batman stories. What contributes to this is the fact that it was a best-seller and that there have been talks about an animated adaptation of the story, which is why we definitely recommend it for your collection.
12. Batman: Under the Red Hood
Writer(s): Judd Winick
Artist(s): Doug Mahnke, Eric Battle, Shane Davis
Titles: Batman #635-641, 645-650, Batman Annual #25
Publication: November 2004 – February 2006
A flashback to Batman’s early years (after Dick Grayson’s retirement as Robin) shows a young Jason Todd attempting to steal the wheels of the Batmobile. Following this, he becomes the new Robin. From there, the story features the gangster Black Mask, who controls most of Gotham City’s criminal underworld. His assistant details recent criminal activities foiled by a person known only as Red Hood.
Immediately, Red Hood appears and destroys the top floor of Black Mask’s fortress with a long-range explosive. After this, Black Mask teams up with other supervillains to fight Red Hood. When Batman arrives, he and Red Hood defeat the villains hired by Black Mask, but Red Hood’s deadly tactics lead to Batman and Red Hood ending up on bad terms. After the fight, more flashbacks by Alfred Pennyworth ensue. Later, Alfred receives a package with a lock of green hair and a note from Jason requesting that Batman meet him. In the next scene, Black Mask summons all of his main associates to a meeting and murders them under the gaze of Red Hood.
Once this act is complete, the Black Mask and Red Hood engage in combat, which ends when Batman arrives just in time to see Red Hood stabbed through the heart with his own knife. When Black Mask removes Red Hood’s helmet, he sees that he is not Jason Todd, to which Batman rebels hard enough to be detected by Black Mask. The two chat for a moment, then Batman catches Black Mask and flees to Jason’s agreed upon point to meet him.
Jason has kidnapped the Joker and given him a savage beating, only to be thwarted by the villain’s maniacal laughter. When Jason tells the Joker that he sees through the latter’s insane act, the Joker for once falls into grim silence. He then enters Batman. The next fight is brief, and is interrupted by a bomb that is dropped on Blüdhaven, where Dick Grayson now fights crime as Nightwing. So, Jason reveals the place where he has hidden the Joker. Jason throws a gun at Batman and takes one for himself. With the Joker as a human shield, Jason aims his gun at the Joker’s head and tells Batman that he must kill Jason, or let Jason kill the Joker on a count of three.
At the last half second, Batman drops the gun and throws a Batarang at Jason’s shoulder. The Joker then activates the explosives wired throughout the entire building. The scene cuts to Jason’s miraculous resurrection. Following this, he is institutionalized, escapes and returns to live on the streets. Ra’s al Ghul, with the help of his daughter Talia, kidnaps Jason and keeps him in care for a year. Ra’s tells his daughter that he is going to send Jason away. He then takes the short trip to his Well of Lazarus. An angry Talia pushes Jason into the well as well, unleashing and empowering a new, stronger and more violent creature. Talia then sneaks him off the property and gives him a bag of money, a computer, and clippings of Batman, the Joker, and Red Hood. Jason tries to reconnect with Batman, but his former mentor fights and defeats him. He proceeds to reveal the empire he has built for himself while deciding to don an old Joker cloak: the Red Hood.
“Under the Red Hood”, although not a direct sequel, is a tie-in to the famous “A Death in the Family” storyline that we’ve already mentioned in this article. This story ultimately retconned Jason Todd’s death in the best possible way, simultaneously reintroducing the character to the main narrative continuity and exploring Batman’s shattered psyche. “Under the Red Hood” deals with the consequences of a famous event, its implications and further explores not just Batman’s relationship to his friends and family, but also his moral code. If you add the positive reviews, you have a truly great Batman story that you must read. Why is it good as a starter story? Well, although it happens later in Batman’s career, “Under the Red Hood” is an important part of Batman’s mythos and a story that is a great introduction to a lot of the basic elements that one must know if he wants to fully explore Batman’s world.
13. Batman: Cataclysm
Writer(s): Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, Doug Moench, Dennis O’Neil, Devin K. Grayson, Kelley Puckett, Klaus Janson, Chris Renaud, Rick Burchett
Artist(s): Jim Aparo, Henry Flint, Mark Buckingham, Scott McDaniel, Klaus Janson, Graham Nolan, Jim Balent, Staz Johnson, Eduardo Barreto, Alex Maleev, Marcos Martin, Rick Burchett, Chris Renaud, Dave Taylor, Jason Johnson
Titles: Azrael #40, Batman #553-559, The Batman Chronicles #12, 14, Batman: Arkham Asylum – Tales of Madness #1, Batman: Blackgate – Isle of Men #1, Batman/Huntress/Spoiler: Blunt Trauma #1, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #73-79, Catwoman (vol. 2) #56-57, Detective Comics #719-722, 724-726, Nightwing (vol. 2) #19-20, Robin (vol. 2) #52-54
Publication: January – March 1998
Seismologist Dr. Jolene Relazzo believes the Gotham area will be hit by a major earthquake as her machines start recording tremors near the city. Oracle (Barbara Gordon) loses connection with the Batcave at 7:03 am. While giving her report, a 7.6 earthquake hits Gotham City. Batman is swept away by the rising waters of the underground river, and Alfred falls into the cave when Wayne Manor collapses. Oracle heads to Gotham Police Headquarters to find his father and rally the troops.
Shortly after the earthquake, it appears that the buildings owned by Wayne are the only ones left standing with little structural damage. Bruce Wayne had ensured that all of his buildings were safe when earthquakes whose force is less than 8.5 strike. However, having been unable to protect his own home from earthquakes without exposing Batman’s secret, Wayne Mansion and the Batcave are destroyed. With all exits blocked, Batman dons a wetsuit and promises Alfred that he’ll be back soon.
Barbara Gordon rallies the police and Inspector Harvey Bullock reunites with Commissioner Gordon. At 8:52 p.m., the first aftershock struck. Dick Grayson (Nightwing) learns about the earthquake on television at his workplace. He leaps up, grabs a boat, and heads for his old home. Taken aback by the destruction of the city of Gotham, he begins to help the victims trapped under the collapse of the freeway as soon as he arrives ashore.
Azrael and Nomoz arrive in Gotham by helicopter to deliver Bane to the GCPD. After the earthquake, Bane escapes. Azrael chases him and captures him, after he has killed two people in a bank. Helena Bertinelli is in the metro when the earthquake hits. She quickly changes into a Huntress and begins to bring the survivors to safety. Batman resurfaces in Gotham Harbor and is horrified when he sees the city he loves ablaze.
Catwoman was stealing a pair of night vision binoculars for an upcoming job when the store was destroyed by the earthquake. After seeing a young girl die in her arms, she begins to bring the survivors to safety. She later tracks down Poison Ivy and prevents him from spreading a super fertilizer in Gotham City’s water supply. Robin (Tim Drake) was out of town during the earthquake. On his return, his flight was diverted to Blüdhaven.
He sees the city of Gotham in flames from the plane9. He steals a motorbike and heads for his house. The earthquake and the ensuing tidal wave hit Blackgate Penitentiary hard. The island and many cells are flooded, and the prisoners escape. A land bridge is formed connecting the island to the city. Batman, having just resurfaced in Gotham Harbor, realizes what is going on and heads for the prison. He calmed the riot of prisoners, although many were killed and several more escaped over the land bridge. Aftershocks destroy the natural bridge as helicopters from S.W.A.T. arrive. Batman joins the mainland and begins helping victims
If you ever thought of reading the above-mentioned No Man’s Land storyline, Cataclysm is bound to come up as a necessary tie-in read. This prelude to one of Batman’s greatest stores is a brilliant story in itself and we absolutely recommend it as a must-read for all Batman fans. Stylistically, the story is very similar to No Man’s Land and since it ties into that narrative, we think it is important for you to read if you want to complete the story.
14. Batman: Contagion
Titles: Azrael #15-16, Batman #529-532, The Batman Chronicles #4, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #48-49, Catwoman (vol. 2) #31-32, Detective Comics #695-696, Robin (vol. 2) #27-28
Publication: March – April 1996
Batman receives a videotape from Azrael warning him that the Sacred Order of St. Dumas is sending a plague to Gotham City. He cannot get help from the GCPD as the corrupt Mayor Armand Krol replaced Jim Gordon with the incompetent Andrew Howe. Batman infiltrates a US military base and discovers that it is a deadly strain of Ebola known as the “Apocalypse Virus” or “The Clench”. The virus kills within 12 hours while mutating the victim until their eyes bleed. The carrier is Daniel Maris, an agent of the Order of St. Dumas who does not know he has been infected.
Maris is president of Babylon Towers, Gotham’s most exclusive luxury apartment building, and they decide to protect themselves from the plague that he says is coming. Husbands begin to die, and Gotham’s billionaires find they locked themselves in with the plague. He reveals that there had been an earlier plague in Greenland and that a survivor named Kendall Stuart could be used to create an antidote.
Catwoman and the Penguin are hired to find Stuart, while Batman sends Robin to look for him in Toronto. The virus begins to spread among the freed servants of Babylon. The army is dispatched and Gotham is quarantined. Robin meets Catwoman and reluctantly teams up with her even though she’s only there for the money. They are attacked by Penguin’s mercenary tracker, but Azrael storms in to rescue them.
Kendall Stuart’s hut is occupied by the Order of St. Dumas, who want to make sure there is no antidote. Stuart is shot and Robin returns to Gotham with a blood sample. Azrael and Catwoman learn of the existence of two other survivors and team up with Tracker to find them. They are chasing after a gangster named Fong in San Francisco, but he believes he is immortal and commits suicide.
Batman tries to make an antidote with Stuart’s blood. Poison Ivy is freed from Arkham so the heroes can take her to Babylon and she tries to extort money from dying billionaires. GCPD hardcover officers Bock, Harvey Bullock, and Renee Montoya conspire to replace Howe with Gordon. Robin helps Nightwing and Huntress fight off the rioters, and he becomes infected when a sick attacker spits in his face.
Poison Ivy begins to control the infected person’s mind to make his bidding after realizing that the antidote is not working. Gordon takes over the GCPD, leads it through the streets, and slaughters the looters. Batman enters Babylon to stop Poison Ivy and Gordon follows him to help him. The two share a heart-to-heart relationship for the first time since Bruce’s replacement during Knightquest and Prodigal.
Nightwing takes Robin to the Batcave, where Alfred can cure his illness. Batman and Gordon escape the burning Babylon with Ivy on a makeshift zip line. Krol is infected and the governor quarantines Gotham using martial law. Batman and Nightwing go through a National Guard blockade and are followed by tanks as they return to Wayne Manor. Hitman helps the army destroy a biological weapon called the Thrax.
The Slayer fights and cannot save one of her dying disciples. Alfred attempts to treat Robin, who upon his death experiences vivid hallucinations in his family members. Catwoman finds the last survivor, an Inuit student named Leanore We in Miami. They arrive in Gotham and see that Babylon is being destroyed, which means that Catwoman cannot get her money.
Catwoman gives Batman Leanore, but he explains that the survivor’s blood is useless and Gotham is doomed. Azrael is investigating the virus with Brian Bryan and Sister Lilhy. They realize that “Ebola Gulf A” is a weapon called “Sin Cleanser” by the Order of Saint-Dumas. Brother Rollo realizes that one of his subordinates released the virus and asks Brother Zoo to execute the man for high treason. Lilhy finds a cure while Azrael protects her home from Biis and other Dumas agents sent to kill him.
Azrael fights through the military barricade and delivers the cure which has a 100% success rate. It turns out that when Azrael stormed the gates, Brian simply faxed the agent to every hospital and the city was saved. Krol is removed from his post and replaced by Marion Grange, who removes Howe and reinstates Gordon. Robin briefly teams up with Catwoman to defeat the rioters and then returns happily to her parents.
As far as interesting stories go, “Contagion” is certainly one of the better ones out there. Although it mimics Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of Red Death” to a degree, “Contagion” is a stand-alone story about a plague coming to Gotham City and the heroes’ struggle to battle it and return life to normal. Sounds familiar? And while several years from now, when the current pandemic will have gone into history books, this might not be so stunning, now, “Contagion” is definitely a piece to have and to read, which is why we strongly recommend it.
15. Joker War
Writer(s): James Tynion IV
Artist(s): Jorge Jimenez, Greg Capullo
Titles: Batman #95-100, Detective Comics #1022-1027, Nightwing #70-75, Batgirl #47-50, Catwoman #25-26, Red Hood: Outlaw #48, Batman: The Joker War Zone #1, Harley Quinn (vol. 3) #75
Publication: September – December 2020
When the clown Prince of Crime takes on Detective Dark Knight one last time. The Joker never wanted to win – he never wanted his fight with Batman to end. But now his motivation has changed.
As The Joker’s plan to assemble an army materializes, the only person who can save Batman from the brink of true madness is Harley Quinn. And while all this is happening, the villains of Gotham City are waiting out the carnage Joker has unleashed–and Catwoman assembles an army of her own!
This narrative also depicts the Joker’s confrontation with Batgirl; his dealings with the amnesiac Nightwing; and a turf war between Gotham City’s many thugs! Also, the infamous Clownhunters make their debut, the villain Ghost Maker makes a cameo and we also see an epic fight between Harley Quinn and Punchline!
And while Tynion’s “Joker War” might not be as epic as Snyder’s Endgame, the fact is that yet another epic clash between the Clown Prince of Crime and the Dark Knight did not go unnoticed. With the Joker launching yet another large-scale plan to destroy life on Gotham as we know it, Batman and his family, especially Nightwing and Batgirl, have to – with the help of some unlikely allies, like Harley Quinn – give it their all to stop Joker’s plans and restore order in Gotham. Tynion’s story is a thrilling and exciting narrative that certainly deserves your attention, and it is without a doubt one of the better modern-day Batman narratives.
16. Batman Eternal
Writer(s): Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, Tim Seeley, Kyle Higgins
Artist(s): Jason Fabok, Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs, Andy Clarke, Trevor McCarthy, Emanuel Simeoni, Guillem March, Riccardo Burchiellim, Ian Bertram, Mikel Janin, Guillermo Ortego, Jorge Lucas, R. M. Guéra, Javier Garronm Meghan Hetrick, Simon Coleby, Fernando Pasarin, Matt Ryan, Fernando Blanco, Andrea Mutti, Ramon Perez, Juan José Ryp, Joe Quinones, David Lafuente, Aco, Javi Fernandez, Alessandro Vitti, Juan Ferreyra, Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Paulo Siqueira
Titles: Batman Eternal #1-52
Publication: April 2014 – April 2015
In the near future the entire city of Gotham City is on fire and Bruce Wayne is strapped to the Bat-signal. Nearby the superhero, a stranger reminds him of the beginning of the story, when Commissioner James Gordon accidentally killed 123 people in the city’s subway and he was immediately arrested by his colleagues Jack Forbes and Jason Bard. The story examines the events that led to this chaotic scene, where Batman and his whole family had to fight a plethora of villains and a sinister plot to destroy the very foundations of modern Gotham, revealing that the real mastermind was the sinister Lincoln March.
As far as in-continuity side stories go, Batman Eternal is the best that the New 52 imprint has to offer. Written by several great writers and illustrated by a plethora of influential artists, Batman Eternal brings us a series-wide side story featuring Batman and a plethora of his supervillains. Batman Eternal is thrilling, it has a great story with brilliant characters, an actual threat and tangible implications, which is why we absolutely recommend it for all Batman fans, as it is a collaboration worth reading.
17. Batman & Robin: Eternal
Writer(s): James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder, Tim Seeley, Steve Orlando, Genevieve Valentine, Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Ed Brisson
Artist(s): Tony S. Daniel, Paul Pelletier, Scot Eaton, Alvaro Martinez, Roge Antonio, Fernando Blanco, Fernando Pasarin, Christian Duce, Andrea Mutti, Marcio Takara
Titles: Batman and Robin Eternal #1-26
Publication: October 2015 – March 2016
Dick Grayson, on a mission for Spyral, teams up with Tim Drake (Red Robin) and Jason Todd (Red Hood) to stop a cyborg cyclist. He is later attacked by a group of children and his own landlord, both of whom claim to be acting on behalf of a person called “Mother”. As he runs away, he meets an almost silent young woman who also says a word – “Mother” but instead of trying to kill him, she purposely holds back and gives him a bat flashdrive with a confession from Batman as well as a list of names.
The recording identifies the young woman as Cassandra Cain. Harper Row, bitter that Batman’s apparent death by the Joker has robbed her of the chance to be Batman’s partner, is attacked by a mysterious foe called Orphan. Cassandra Cain saves her and then pursues Orphan. Dick meets Harper and her roommate Stephanie Brown (Spoiler) and takes them to the Batcave for medical treatment and meeting Tim and Jason.
Dick’s boss, Spyral’s matron Helena Bertinlli, discovers that Mother’s agents will attack Bruce Wayne at a party. Dick rushes to save Bruce and is encountered by members of the We Are Robin gang (including Duke Thomas) and Batgirl. You save Bruce from dozens of ax-wielding assassins, and Dick follows suit as Tim, Jason, and Stephanie deal with the disappearance of an injured Harper and the mysterious Cassandra.
Dick’s boss is apparently the mother of Tim’s witness protection program, which leads to a split between the Robins – Tim and Jason investigate one lead, Dick another. Dick, Harper and Cass go to Prague, where Mother is waiting for them. She urges Dick to join her, but he declines her offer and instead fights with his ballet agents alongside Harper and Cass. After her victory, Harper accidentally triggers something in Cass, who runs away.
Jason and Tim follow the electronic signal that coincided with Bruce’s attack and find Bane trying to reclaim his former land from the mysterious Sacred Order of St. Dumas. Along with the villain, Jason and Tim encounter Azrael, also known as Jean-Paul Valley, apparently another child of Mother who was sold to the Order as an angel of death against their enemies. Tim suffers from the effects of Azrael’s mental attack, and Jason brings him to safety.
Dick and Harper follow in the Orphan’s footsteps to identify David Cain, but are surprised to find the Sculptor, Cain’s other half in Mother’s inner circle. The Sculptor possesses powerful telepathic powers that Mother uses to sculpt children traumatized by Cain’s violence. With these powers, the Sculptor shows Harper Cassandra’s training, deprived of language so that she must read movement and body cues, and forced to kill a woman in a dark alley.
Dick breaks the mind-meld when the Sculptor shows Harper Batman’s meetings and deals with Mother, but the Sculptor only shows Dick her own orphaning and abduction by Mother, as well as a few hints of what Batman did in her service, before she disappears and reveals the entire encounter was her projection.
Because of the Sculptor’s warning, Dick and Harper know that Mother has murdered all of her old children and rush to their training center, the kindergarten, where they find Cassandra, who stands against her father. Inspired by her encounter with Batman, Cassandra paints the bat with blood as a mask on her face, and Dick, Harper and Cass fight their way past the orphan together to escape the base’s nuclear self-destruction and join Spyral’s headquarters. plan their next steps.
Batman and Robin Eternal is a sequel to Batman Eternal and although it never had the scope of the original story, it’s still a great narrative. It also featured a collaboration between different writers and artists, each one of them brining something original to the narrative. Batman and Robin Eternal is a decent sequel and definitely one you should read, but do not expect the same level of quality as in Batman Eternal.
18. Batman: Night of the Monster Men
Writer(s): Steve Orlando, Tom King, Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV
Artist(s): Riley Rossmo, Roge Antonio, Andy MacDonald
Titles: Batman (vol. 3) #6-7, Nightwing (vol. 4) #5-6, Detective Comics #941-942
Publication: November – December 2016
Although he does not seem to know Batman’s identity, Hugo Strange is now determined to prove his superiority by attacking Gotham with a group of “Monster Men” created from the corpses of his former patients as a representation of what Strange considered to be the greatest mistake of Batman’s perception: his ego, his grief, his manipulative nature, his childhood and basic fear that ultimately led Batman to a showdown at Strange’s office penthouse headquarters.
Strange wears what is known as a “suicide suit” – a near-replica of the capless and hoodless suit that is supposed to explode if its wearer is subjected to a physical attack – provided Batman has no choice but to hand the hood over to him as the “real” Batman because he cannot take his own life. Nightwing is able to defeat the final monster – an amalgamation of the previous ones – by literally jumping in to inject it with a prepared antidote, while Batman tricked Strange by placing his ally Clayface with an airtight seal on the penthouse prior to confrontation covered.
Strange, delusional, and deoxygenated, passes out while Batman is still standing. Nightwing believes Strange failed to realize that Batman’s mistakes actually motivated him to protect Gotham.
“Night of the Monster Men” is both a piece of history and a strong start for the DC Rebirth imprint, although it’s really the only noteworthy crossover event from the imprint itself. Namely, this story heavily relies on two earlier stories that likewise featured Hugo Strange and his “Monster Men”, although this reinterpretation of the latter saw them being far more sinister. What is especially good about this story is the fact that it reintroduced Hugo Strange to modern readers in a great way.
19. Batman: Bloom
Writer(s): Scott Snyder
Artist(s): Greg Capullo, Sean Murphy, Danny Miki, FCO Plascencia
Titles: Batman (vol.2 ) #46-50, Detective Comics (vol. 2) #27
Publication: January – May 2016
Bruce Wayne has an almost perfect life. He is in love with an amazing woman and works with her every day at one of Gotham’s youth centers helping children in the city he loves. His memory has been blotchy since he nearly died in Joker’s last attack, but he still believes he’s the happiest he has ever been.
And yet, he is sometimes drawn to another life. In the negative space of his vanished past lies a half-remembered story, filled with violence and darkness, but also greatness. The Batman calls out to Bruce, but when he returns to his past, what will become of the perfect and happy life that he has built? With the help of Jim Gordon, the current Batman, Bruce Wayne has to confront his past and present selves, but also the creepy new metahuman villain, Mr. Bloom, who has been terrorizing Gotham for some time. Almost nothing is known about Bloom, except the fact that he is a truly threatening figure that wishes to destroy Gotham City.
Bloom was an interesting story. It wasn’t, perhaps, Snyder’s best work with Batman, but it was certainly interesting enough to land a spot on this list. Why? Primarily because it introduced a creepy new villain, Mr. Bloom, whose mysterious and enigmatic backstory provided for even more horror whenever he appeared. Bloom is the centerpiece of this story and without him, this issue certainly wouldn’t be on this list, but since he was there – we just had to recommend it.
20. The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul
Writer(s): Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan, Fabian Nicieza, Paul Dini
Artist(s): Tony S. Daniel, Freddie E. Williams II, Don Kramer, Ryan Benjamin
Titles: Batman Annual #26, Robin Annual (Volume 4) #7, Batman #670-671, Robin (Volume 4) #168-169, Nightwing (Volume 2) #138-139, Detective Comics #838-840
Publication: October 2007 – March 2008
White Ghost, one of the loyal companions of the late Ra’s al Ghul, asks Talia to teach his son Damian about the life of his grandfather. Nearby, Batman investigates the disappearance of two young biologists. Talia relates the exploits of his father to his son: when he was only a young boy, he worked for an old man from whom he learned medicine and married his daughter, Sora.
Together, they do research that leads them to discover the secret of immortality. To have money, Ra’s decides to heal a prince with water from Lazarus’ well on which he is doing his research. But the prince goes mad, kills Sora: Ra’s is heartbroken and his soul is forever corrupted. He becomes a bloodthirsty clan chief who is nicknamed “the demon head”. A few decades later, Ra’s participated in the Battle of Waterloo alongside Wellington. He is accompanied by the White Ghost.
He wants to counter Napoleon to steal his mistress. After having listened, in spite of himself, to all these tales, Damian is brought to White Ghost for the ceremony. The latter wants to transfer the spirit of Ra’s into the body of his grandson, a fact that Talia does not know. Batman’s investigation leads him to come across men who seem to age more slowly and moths whose life expectancy seems to have increased 60 times. He goes up the bed of a river in which he finds the bodies of two young biologists and at the end of which he finds a Lazarus Pit.
White Ghost and two of his men are lifeless. Damian does not want to serve as a receptacle for his grandfather’s spirit and, with his mother’s help, got rid of his attackers and fled. When he regains consciousness, White Specter attacks Batman but ends up in a Lazarus Pit. Damian Wayne, walking in the streets of the city of the island of Cheung Cho (in China), is apostrophized by an old man who makes him drink poisoned tea. In his delirium, Damian finds himself in a cemetery where he is attacked by specters. Damian isn’t afraid of any of them.
The last specter he has to face is Robin / Tim Drake the third adopted son of his father, Bruce. In Hong Kong, I Ching, attacked by soldiers from the League of Assassins in search of the secret of the way to Nanda Parbat (fictional town located in the Hindu Kush), is rescued by Batman. The surviving ninjas return to report to the Sensei who has decided to take the reins of the League of Assassins.
Talia enlists the services of Tiger Moth, Dragonfly, and Silken Spider to rob a bunch of wealthy people at a gala. Batman gets rid of it quickly. Meanwhile, Talia receives a visit from the resurrected Ra’s al Ghul in Sam Tang’s body which deteriorates very quickly. Damian, who sports the Robin costume, returns home and finds his mother and grandfather. He joined his father in his fight and opposes his grandfather, gets rid of the ninjas and then runs away. Damian flees and decides to join Wayne Mansion to ask his father to protect him from Ra’s al Ghul who wants to use his body to resuscitate.
At the mansion, he meets Robin to whom he asks for help but their conversation turns badly and the teenagers clash. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Batman frees Talia from her father. In Tibet, the Sensei receives the first artifacts which will enable him to find his way back to Nanda Parbat. He enlisted the services of Merlyn Archer and his minions to make it happen. At Wayne Mansion, the fight continues despite Alfred’s intervention to separate them. However, outside the threat is much greater: dozens of ninjas are there to seize Damian.
Nightwing is contacted by Batman to lend a hand to Robin and Damian at the mansion. He stumbles upon Halisidote, Dragonfly and Araneid sent by Talia to protect Damian. In Tibet, Batman and Talia are pursuing Ra’s al Ghul, and in Singapore, the Sensei’s men continue to collect the artifacts. While Nightwing rescues the three envoys of Talia hit by poisoned arrows, Robin and Damian are captured by the ninjas. Damian and Robin are brought to Ra’s who tries to bribe Robin into joining his cause. Batman and Talia, on their way to Ra’s lair, are joined by I Ching.
Tiger Moth, Dragonfly, and Silken Spider are brought to Arkham Asylum because the poison has driven them mad. Nightwing and Alfred land at Gonggar Airport and are greeted by Ubu. Batman, I Ching and Talia are in Ra’s lair who asks Batman to choose between Damian, his son, and Robin, his adopted son because he needs a new body. The Sensei arrives at Nanda Parbat. Batman offers Ra’s to bring him to Nanda Parbat so he can immerse himself in the Fountain of Life. Once there, they have no trouble getting rid of Merlyn Archer and her mercenaries.
At the fountain, the Sensei and Ra’s come face to face and Batman discovers that they are father and son. The Sensei has decided to take back in hand the League of Assassins which he says is in ruins through the fault of Talia and her sister. The Sensei kills Ra’s who in a last rattle asks Batman to stop him. A titanic fight ensues. Batman, almost defeated sends the Sensei into the fountain which ignites but is dragged with him. A monk leans over and puts his hand on the remains of Ra’s which grabs his body. White Specter and his ninjas overpower Damian, Talia and Robin but the latter break free and fight them.
I Ching has their backs covered. Robin doubts because Ra’s proposal has clouded his mind. Robin joins White Ghost to accept Ra’s proposal, but Ra’s rejects him. White Ghost challenges Robin to dive into the Lazarus Pit in order to prove he’s ready to join the League. I Ching joins the young man, highlights the conflict that inhabits him and lets him choose with full conscience. Nightwing decides to intervene.
Ra’s offers Batman to be his friend which he refuses. While Robin and Nightwing clash, Damian takes on the appearance of a ninja to leave with White Ghost and his troop who will join Ra’s al Ghul in Nanda Parbat. The fight between Robin and Nightwing is interrupted by I Ching. Robin decides to stay with his allies. Nightwing, Alfred, Robin and Talia also leave for Nanda Parbat where Ra’s is in the process of appropriating Damian’s body. Batman intervenes and saves his son from his grandfather. The father and son must then face the hordes of ninjas in the pay of Ra’s al Ghul.
Fortunately, Nightwing, Robin and Alfred arrive. Talia wants to protect her son and they both leave. We learn that White Ghost is the son of Ra’s Al Ghul who never had anything but contempt for this albino. White Ghost offers his father his body so that he can finally be resuscitated. Ra’s, having no other choice, accepts, letting him believe it’s an honor, and joins the front line to fight Batman. The violence and the desecration of the temple force the priests to call their goddess Rama Kushna who, by his will, puts an end to the fighting. Batman, Alfred, Robin and Nightwing flee the temple.
Batman hunts down a new enemy, Hammond Carter known as “The Globe,” who steals everything that relates to mapping. While he has just put out of harm’s way the bandit, Ra’s Al Ghul under his new face of albino, makes his entry. He comes to retrieve the globe that belongs to him. Ra’s tells Batman that he has decided to settle in Gotham. Batman, who assumes White Ghost’s soul dictates part of Ra’s deeds, easily overpowers him and brings him, hyper-sedated, to Arkham under the false identity of Terry Gene Kase in order to get rid of him for good.
We conclude our list with The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, another crossover story written during Grant Morrison’s tenure, but which involved several other collaborators, as the story spanned over several titles. The story is a notable chapter in the history of the Batman mythos as it involves the return of Ra’s al Ghul, one of the Dark Knight’s biggest foes, and gives a lot of backstory to Damian Wayne, Batman’s son with Ra’s’ daughter, Talia al Ghul. Morrison once again demonstrated his unique and special vision in devising this story, which might not be one of the most popular ones, but is certainly one of the most entertaining ones during his era.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!