Batman: one of DC’s most iconic superheroes, and he doesn’t even have superpowers! So much material has been created involving Batman, from his brutal beginnings, to his lighthearted stages, to the grittier Batman most of us are familiar with. So I thought I’d take a look at some of the best Batman graphic novels. These novels show the different aspects of Batman that we know and love.
Note #1: These graphic novels aren’t in any particular ranking order. They’re all great stories of Batman, and while I personally like some better than others, I decided to not rank them.
Note #2: I will be using the terms “graphic novel” and “comic” interchangeably.
Batman Year One by Frank Miller
This graphic novel shows Batman as he’s just starting out as a vigilante. It’s interesting to see him make rookie mistakes and deal with crooks as he struggles to find what works and what doesn’t in vigilantism.
This story also focuses on some other key characters, such as Jim Gordon, and Selina Kyle. It provides interesting looks into their characters, and how they interact with Batman. These elements combined with the always wonderful Frank Miller art style make this comic a great read!
A Death in the Family by Jim Stalin and Jim Aparo
This is the graphic novel that did the unthinkable; it killed off Robin. While many readers didn’t really like the 2nd Robin, Jason Todd, his death was met with mixed reactions. The image of Batman holding his dead partner is a very powerful one and has become iconic over the years.
This graphic novel is an older one, but it’s still relevant today, especially since it set the tone for many Batman stories that followed. It also showed some of the Joker’s brutality, mainly that he wasn’t afraid to beat a kid half to death and then blow him up.
KnightFall By Various Artists and Writers
This comic is the one that the movie The Dark Knight Rises is loosely based off. In this story, Bane escapes Arkham, gets Batman’s other villains to gang up on him, and then delivers the final blow by breaking Batman’s back over his knee. The rest of the comic follows Batman’s recovery and his replacement, Jean-Paul Valley, as he descends into madness.
What’s intriguing about this comic is that it shows Batman to be vulnerable, something we’re not that familiar with. It’s a brutal story that displays Batman at his weakest and his most broken. It also shows why Batman needs his moral code.
Batman: Black and White by Various Artists and Writers
Take several talented comic artists, have them each write a short story about Batman, and that’s Black and White. This graphic novel is great because it looks at Batman from several different facets from funny, tragic, or just plain strange. Black and White shows Batman as how many different people see him and have seen him throughout the decades.
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.
This one is one of my personal favorites. Taking place 20 years after Bruce Wayne retires as Batman, Gotham has taken a turn for the worse and Bruce is drawn back to the cape and cowl once again.
While some may not like the chaotic, gritty style of this comic, it’s still a very intriguing story, both epic and strange. This is also the comic that settles the question of who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman. The Dark Knight Returns is the story that revamped Batman and his popularity with readers. The dark tone also helped define the Batman that many of us are familiar with today.
Batman: Gotham By Gaslight by Brian Augustyn & Mike Mignola
Imagine Batman during the Victorian Era, and that pretty much describes this comic. This is a great murder mystery story which also looks at the origins of Batman if it had happened a couple hundred years earlier. Fun and entertaining, Gotham By Gaslight gives us a look at how Batman would handle criminals during Victorian times.
The Killing Joke by Alan Moore & Brian Bolland
This graphic novel is another one of my favorites. The Killing Joke is all about Batman’s most iconic villain: the Joker. The story focuses on the Joker, both his past and his efforts to prove that all it takes is one bad day to make anyone succumb to madness.
This comic is dark, disturbing, and poignant as it dives into the psyche of the Joker. You can’t help but feel some sympathy towards him while still being horrified by his brutal actions.
The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder, Jock & Francesco Francavilla
This story is unique since it stars Dick Grayson under the cowl. It shows Dick’s own take on the Batman and his growing bond with Commissioner James Gordon.
The story is notable for taking two different stories and styles and putting them together with a crazy plot twist. It results in a story with a fairly dark mystery and an interesting villain.
A Lonely Place of Dying by Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Jim Aparo & Tom Grummett
This comic focuses on Tim Drake, the third Robin, who often doesn’t get enough love in my opinion. The story shows Tim’s origins, his motivations for becoming Robin, and simply a better look into his character.
If you love the 3rd Robin, or want to get to know him better, this is a good comic to start with. It also gives a great answer to the question of “Why does Batman need Robin?”
Batman: Year 100 by Paul Pope
While Gotham by Gaslight takes place in the past, Batman: Year 100 takes place in the future, with the cape and cowl having been passed down to Batman’s successors. In this comic, the title of the Batman becomes a type of legacy.
What’s unique about this story is that it moves away from the Bruce Wayne version of Batman, which creates a story that’s new, fresh, and exciting. If you’re looking for something a little different from Batman, definitely check out this comic.
Each of these graphic novels gives us unique and classic looks at the famous Dark Knight. No matter which one you pick up, you will be drawn into a great story where Batman will always fight to protect others and uphold justice. So grab a graphic novel and have fun!
As always, check out our Batman timeline for a more comprehensive list of Batman graphic novels in chronological order.