The Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, the world’s greatest detective… the gosh darn Batman. Along with Superman and Spider-Man, Gotham’s famous protector is quite likely the greatest superhero in the whole world. He’s also one of the most influential. It’s not surprising that people want to delve into the source material. Who wouldn’t want to know more about Bruce Wayne, his war on crime, and all the great stories that have defined him as a character?
We are going to give you a list of the seven best Batman storylines that, according to us, have defined the character throughout the years. These stories have inspired the character, and we hope this blog inspires you to read these comics.
The Long Halloween
This is one of those stories that take us to Batman’s early days as a crime fighter. With the help of Jim Gordon as a police officer and Harvey Dent as DA, The Dark Knight is trying to stop a murderer that only kills on holidays. The Long Halloween focuses on the crisis of criminal organization in Gotham and the rise of several villains that would become some of his classic enemies.
Jeph Loeb was at the top of his game in the mid-90s. In The Long Halloween, he provides a fascinating take on Batman that we don’t see very often, while also keeping the spirit of the character. There is a lot of mystery here, and Tim Sale’s unique artwork provides a more gothic and darker feel to the story as a whole.
Under the Red Hood
The death of Jason Todd, the second Robin, at the hands of the Joker during the A Death in the Family storyline in the late 80s was a decisive point in Bruce Wayne’s life. It’s likely the biggest failure of his whole career as the Caped Crusader. In Under the Red Hood, Jason Todd comes back to life as a grown man and dons a new vigilante identity to take control of Gotham. His reappearance makes Batman come face to face with the actions of his past.
Writer Judd Winnick makes a tremendous effort to make Jason’s return not only coherent but also impactful and emotional. Todd’s death is a crucial moment in Batman’s history and Under the Red Hood challenges Batman’s ideology regarding criminals. Bringing Jason back to life was always going to be difficult, but Judd does a great job.
Some of DC’s finest writers and artists got together to work on the Batman titles in the early 90s. They had a plan to refresh the character, so that is how Knightfall came to life.
Batman finds himself burnt out after so many years fighting crime non-stop. When a new villain named Bane starts mayhem at Arkham, he forces our hero to fight against many of his greatest foes one by one. When he reaches Bane, he is too weak to face him. Bane breaks his back and leaves him out of commission. This puts Gotham under Bane’s rule.
Bruce gives the cowl to a recent new ally, Jean Paul Valley, and he adopts a new custom that has a lot of 90s influences. Jean Paul becomes a much more brutal vigilante than Bruce after he defeats Bane. Our hero heals his back, takes this time to revamp himself, and then makes a grand comeback against Jean Paul, who doesn’t want to give back the mantle.
Knightfall is not only a great story with many different ups and downs, but also a storyline that showcases Batman’s place in an era of darker heroes. It shows how his core values are still valid in this day and age.
Robin: Year One
Okay, we admit it: this isn’t a Batman story per se, but it’s about one of the most important characters of his life, Dick Grayson — the first Robin. It’s an important story to help understand Bruce’s role as a surrogate father.
Basically, writer Chuck Dixon presents and answers the question that many people have asked throughout the years: why would Batman put in danger the life of a kid to fight crime? Dixon, quite likely the most important writer of the Bat-family in the last thirty years or so, tackles the topic without hesitation. Robin: Year One is a great example of Bruce and Dick’s relationship, plus it helps us deeply understand their characters.
The Killing Joke
Legendary writer Alan Moore is known for taking stories to their limits, and he does exactly that with The Killing Joke. That, along with A Death in the Family of the same time period, redefined Batman’s rivalry with the Joker. Both took the Clown Prince of Crime to far greater (and darker) heights.
Quite likely Batman’s darkest story so far, The Killing Joke shows us what happens when the Dark Knight’s no-killing rule is pushed to the limits. It shows how the Joker came to be as a criminal, which allows us to have a more in-depth insight into what makes both of them tick as mortal enemies.
There are many great scenes, and we invite you to read this comic because it’s definitely one of the best Batman storylines.
Batman: Year One
Few writers can claim to have the level of influence on such a seminal character the way Frank Miller does. Perhaps, without his input, the Caped Crusader would not have enjoyed so much success and development in the last thirty years or so. And Batman: Year One is one of Miller’s crowning achievements as a writer.
This story takes us to the beginning of Batman’s war on crime and Gordon’s early days working in the then-corrupt police department of Gotham. Batman: Year One shows us the many struggles that come with the rising crime wave of the city. David Mazzucchelli’s artwork is breathtaking and provides that gritty element that a story of this nature requires.
There are many origin stories for Batman these days, but Year: One is definitely the best of the bunch and one of the best stories in DC’s vast history.
The Dark Knight Returns
We just have to come out and say it: The Dark Knight Returns is the definitive Batman story. It’s the one that revitalized the character for a whole new generation. And it introduces a darker, older, and introspective Caped Crusader.
Bruce Wayne has been retired for many years now, immersing himself in a hole of depression and alcoholism. While Gotham falls deeper and deeper into the hands of a new, deadlier wave of criminals known as The Mutants, he remains gone. Eventually, he dons the cowl and purges Gotham, resulting in the return of old foes. He becomes an enemy of the state, including against Superman himself.
Frank Miller took on Batman when his comics were in commercial decline. Miller wrote a story that dug deeper in the protagonist’s mind, adding a rougher approach and a darker feel to who Batman is as a character. You cannot think of Batman nowadays without the input of Miller and The Dark Knight Returns. Thus The Dark Knight Returns became the definitive Batman storyline.
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