Our Where To Start Reading Batman guide lists several books, each in the character’s fictional chronological order despite it’s publication date – so the first book is at the beginning of Batman’s career and we go from there. Each book was specifically picked as a good individual starting point; so feel free to start at the beginning, in the middle, or towards the end if you want to get caught up quickly. And if you have any more suggestions or questions just leave a comment.
Year One 1987
Following the 1985 mega event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC rebooted many of its titles, Year One was the Batman reboot. With the success Frank Miller had received from The Dark Knight Returns just the year before he was tasked with retelling Batman’s origin. This is the modern day definite origin and starting point for all things Batman. Even today, stories are built around and pull from Miller’s 4-issue run. Also unique to Year One, it is the only Frank Miller Batman work that lives in both DC continuity and the continuity Frank Miller wrote for his other Bat-works (Dark Knight Returns, Strikes Again, and All Star Batman and Robin). Not only is Year One considered one of, if not the best Batman comic, it’s regraded by some as one of the finest ever.
What to read next | Batman: The Man Who Laughs
The Long Halloween & Dark Victory 1996 & 1999
Written to take place anywhere between six months to a-year-and-a-half after Year One the 13-issue limited series, The Long Halloween, is most notable for showing the transition of Batman’s rogues gallery starting with mobsters (specifically the Falcone family) to the more familiar villains, along with the origin story of Two-Face – who for the majority of the tale is strictly District Attorney Harvey Dent. For all intents and purposes this is Year Two. Dark Victory is it’s direct sequel, with the same creative team and finishing the story from Long Halloween along while introducing Dick Grayson.
What to read next | Batman: The Gauntlet and Robin: Year One
The Killing Joke 1988
The Killing Joke is a 1988 Alan Moore one-shot graphic novel whose story continues to affect Batman’s mythos even today. Although it plays a significant role in the Batman and DC continuity elements of it’s story are debatable, including exactly where in Batman’s career it takes place (it’s placement here is our best guess) along with a the origin for the Joker (although Alan Moore’s origin is recounted in other stories later on, in other words this is a possible origin story.). Regardless of it’s debatable elements though it remains one of the more impactful events in Batman, Joker, and Barbara Gordon’s careers and is a must read for any Batman fan.
What to read next | Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
Death in the Family 1988
Death in the Family is one of the most significant stories in all of Batman’s many years of publication. Not only would the death of Jason Todd go down as one of mainstream comics biggest and most shocking moments but Jason Todd would go on to be nearly more famous and influential dead than when alive. His death would motivate and haunt Batman for years, playing it’s role in the character becoming the darker and more gritty Batman we know today. It’s style is a little dated compared to more modern comics but the creative team is legendary amongst long time fans and if you read Batman long enough, the death of Jason Todd will eventually come up.
What to read next | Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying & Robin: A Hero Reborn
Knightfall Part 1-3 1993
Knightfall is not only important to Batman’s fictional career but also a milestone in his publication career, one of the first Batman (and not the last) large-scale crossover “events” that would spark a trend and begin the Modern Age of comic books. Published shortly after The Death Of Superman, Knightfall volumes 1-3 collect the breaking of Batman’s back by Bane, the introduction of Jean-Paul Valley as Batman (formerly Azrael) and Bruce’s return to the mantle. The story elements in the “Knightfall” event are not only substantial themselves but also had short term and long term affects that can still be felt today.
What to read next | Batman: Prodigal
Cataclysm & No Man’s Land Vol. 1-5 1999
A massive earthquake strikes Gotham and most the city is destroyed; Cataclysm catalogs the rescue efforts and chaos immediately after the quake while No Man’s Land is the 2-year saga in which the government declares Gotham a “No Man’s Land,” cutting off any access in and out of the city. Several notable events and character introductions happened during this span including Cassandra Cain (Batgirl), Luthor’s rise to president, Harley Quinn, and much more. As Batman events go this is arguably the longest running and most epic.
What to read next | Batman: Evolution – New Gotham Vol. 1 & 2
Hush was the return of Long Halloween and Dark Victory author Jeph Loeb and legendary artist Jim Lee’s first work at DC after leaving Image, most notably though it is one of the most popular and mainstream Batman arcs in the modern era. The collected edition continues to be reprinted in various ways and it’s story is revisited in the comics frequently. It introduces the villain Hush, reemphasizing the romance between Catwoman and Batman, plays a significant role in the return of Jason Todd, and allowed for Jim Lee to artistically explore the Batman universe. Just how much each Bat-fan loves the story is subjective but it’s popularity and effects on the character (both in and out of the fictional stories) can’t be denied.
What to read next | Batman: War Drums & Batman: War Games Vol. 1-3
Identity Crisis 2004
Although not specifically a Batman book, the story isn’t even about Batman really, Identity Crisis (along with paving the path for Infinite Crisis, 52, and Final Crisis) would shake up the entire DC Universe and play an even more significant role in the life of Batman and the entire Batman family. It’s easily one of the most important non-Batman books that directly affects Batman. And don’t let “Crisis” in the title worry you, it’s a stand alone mystery thriller that only sets the stage for the more continuity-driven “Crisis” events. It’s also a great way to get to know characters outside of the Batman family.
What to read next | The OMAC Project
Batman and Son 2006
In 2006, starting with Batman #655, Grant Morrison took over the writing duties for the main Batman title and his run on the character continues even today, it’s one of the longest runs in modern comics and his first arc is collected in Batman and Son. The book quickly introduces Batman to his child with Talia Al Ghul (Damian, who he didn’t know exsisted) along with foreshadowing and introducing the many themes and events that continued to unfold throughout Morrison’s run. Were actually in the works of a “Where to Start: Grant Morrison’s Batman” article, so keep an eye out.
What to read next | Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul
(The New 52) Batman Vol. 1: The Court Of Owls 2012
In September 2011 DC relaunched their entire line of comics, 52 titles got a new #1. While the majority of the universe’s continuity was completely rebooted certain pockets were left alone, Batman and his supporting cast were one of those pockets, still got a new #1 though. And since then writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have crafted arguably the most successful book of the relaunch and set the stage for a Batman shakeup worthy of the hype. The first six issues collected in this volume not only offer a great jumping on point for new and veteran fans alike but also sets the stage for the crossover event, The Night of the Owls, which will feed the Batman mythos with new characters and ideas for quite some time. This is the best place to start if your wanting to get caught up quickly.
What to read next | Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls is scheduled for a March 2012 release, until then catch up through the single issues.
The Dark Knight Returns 1986
Regarded by many as the greatest Batman story of all time, Frank Miller’s 4-issue Batman arc shows us what might become of Bruce Wayne, who is 55 years old at the time of the story, comes out of retirement and back into the costume. Not only is the story considered a masterpiece within most of the comic book community but it’s also one of the many works that helped shape the modern “gritty” and “dark” Batman were more familiar with today; while Batman had been trending away from the more campy or silly stories and settings in the comics this book was an early full on jump into the deep end of the gritty noir/crime genre. And although strictly out of continuity it offers an interesting future for Batman and his supporting cast which is hinted at every so often in regular continuity.
What to read next | The Dark Knight Strikes Again
If you have any questions or suggestions leave a comment and we’ll try to help you out. Until then, happy reading!