For those of you still lamenting the end of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy with the release of The Dark Knight Rises over two weeks ago and were considering picking up some Batman comic books to get your Dark Knight fix, but don’t know where to start—relax. I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of 5 essential Batman collections right off my own bookshelf that are accessible to both Batman novices and experts alike.
Let’s dig in:
1. The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
Written by Frank Miller and illustrated by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley
A fifty-five year old Batman comes out of retirement after ten years to save a besieged Gotham City from a ruthless street gang called the Mutants, and endure final confrontations with old enemies Two-Face and the Joker.
2. War on Crime (1999)
Written by Paul Dini and illustrated by Alex Ross
Batman questions the series of fortunate circumstances that allowed him to take on a crusade against crime after encountering an inner city boy, who watched his parents get gunned down just as Bruce Wayne did as a young boy.
3. Year One (1987)
Written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli and Richmond Lewis
A modern interpretation of how Bruce Wayne developed his masked crime fighting persona – The Batman – and the formation of Batman’s special alliance with a young Lieutenant James Gordon. This classic story was the primary source material for Batman Begins.
4. The Long Halloween (1996)
Written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale
Batman hunts for a serial killer who strikes every month on a calendar holiday and is subsequently nicknamed “Holiday.” Set in the early years of Batman’s career, this story also exquisitely details District Attorney Harvey Dent’s transformation into the tragic villain – Two-Face. Christopher Nolan cites The Long Halloween as the strongest influence for The Dark Knight.
5. Ego (2000)
Written and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke
Bruce Wayne wrestles with the dark being that lives within his soul – The Batman! This often overlooked story brilliantly examines Bruce Wayne’s struggle with the inner demon he relies on to combat crime.
There are more titles that could be added to this list, but I find these five stories each to be accessibly enthralling and thought-provoking works that equally represent what makes Batman’s mythology more enduring than all other superheroes.
While the film franchise regroups for the inevitable reboot, read and enjoy all that the volumes of Batman literature has to offer.