So you’ve decided to pick up your first Batman comic book have you? You’ve definitely got some catching up to do. But don’t worry, we here at Horror Geek Life have got you covered with our list of the 10 essential Batman comic books you have to read. So sit back, relax, and prepare to spend some money because you simply can’t call yourself a Bat-Fan without getting your hands on these.

10. Batman: Year One (Miller & Mazzucchelli, 1987)

For anyone looking to dip a toe into the DCU for the first time, there’s no better place to star than with Frank Miller’s iconic 1987 series Batman: Year One. As far as plot goes, Year One does exactly what it says on the tin – it revisits Bruce Wayne’s first year as his cape and cowl wearing alter ego, going toe-to-toe with the criminal underbelly of Gotham City, way before there was ever a Joker or a Bane to contend with. Year One also examines the formative years of Jim Gordon’s career within the Gotham City Police Department – or G.C.P.D. – and how the two heroes of Gotham came together for the good of the city.

Batman: Year One is now 31 years old but is still one of the most important texts in the history of the Dark Knight series. Written by the aforementioned Miller (Sin City, 300), with illustrations by David Mazzucchelli (Daredevil), it remains a blueprint for how the Batman character should be written and ranks in the number 2 spot on IGN’s list of the greatest graphic novels of all time.

9. Batman: Hush (Loeb & Lee, 2002)

When Hush landed on the shelves of my local comic book store back in 2002, it is fair to say I was a lapsed Batman fan. A lot of the 1990’s era had struggled to impress, especially after such a wave of gripping story arcs back in the 1980’s. It didn’t take long for the buzz of Hush to peak my interest though, and after a single issue, I was back on board.

Written by Jeph Loeb, with art by Jim Lee, Hush is perhaps one of the most controversial entries on the list. Some fans – myself included – hold it in high esteem as the arc that resurrected the Batman character, whereas others call it overrated and scoff at the way it “bulldozed over years of continuity” and made the fateful error of “bringing the dead back to life,” which admittedly is a huge bugbear for many of us comic book fans.

The plot is too difficult to explain without revealing some of the excellent plot twists, but believe me when I tell you, you have to read Hush. Here you’ll experience a who’s who of Batman villains, from The Joker to Killer Croc, as well as a Superman under the spell of Poison Ivy, and it’s all so beautifully etched onto the pages by Lee that you’ll wonder how you ever called yourself a fan of the Batman before it.

8. Batman: Knightfall Trilogy (Various, 1993-94)

If you’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises, then you may already be familiar with the premise of the Knightfall saga. Just like the movie, the comic focuses largely on the rise of Bane, a hooded villain who seemingly appears from nowhere, and his quest to destroy Batman – a task he accomplishes quickly and with ease, breaking Bruce Wayne’s spine in the process, and sending him into a pit of despair as Gotham crumbles around him.

7. Batman: The Killing Joke (Moore & Bolland, 1988)

The Killing Joke is perhaps grumpy old Alan Moore’s greatest achievement (other than his beard, obvs). It has everything a fan could ask for and ranks as arguably the greatest showdown between Batman and The Joker ever committed to paper. It is often imitated, but never duplicated, and is as controversial as it is influential.

At a time when comics were still seen as a medium for children, along came Alan Moore, and his notions of sexual divergence and murder, and shattered that illusion, giving the adult in the house their own reason to embrace the darkness seeping back into Gotham City.

6. The Dark Knight Returns (Miller & Janson, 1986)

Love him or loathe him, Frank Miller knew how to put together a Batman comic back in the day. A year before we were gifted Year One, Miller teamed up with Klaus Janson to write what is largely believed to be the Holy Grail of comic books – The Dark Knight Returns.

Set in a distant future, where Batman is broken down and retired, and the world has gone to shit. Still reeling from the death of Jason Todd in A Death in the Family, Bruce Wayne finds himself forced back out onto the streets to fight for the soul of Gotham City as it becomes overrun with criminal gangs and familiar foes.

This is not the Batman you grew up watching in the movies. He is a beaten down, overweight, a shadow of his former self, hated by the people he’s trying to save, and seen as nothing more than a nuisance by the enemies that once feared him. Miller is such a great storyteller that once you read The Dark Knight Returns you’ll find it hard to ever pick up another Batman comic book and not compare it to this one.

5. Batman: The Man Who Laughs (Brubaker & Mahnke, 2005)

If you’ve ever been curious about the first ever meeting of Batman and The Joker, then look no further than Ed Brubaker’s one-shot classic that recreates the Joker’s original appearance from way back in Batman #1 dated 1940.

4. Death of the Family (Snyder & Capullo, 2012-13)

Death of the Family is one of the few modern era Batman stories that really peaked my interest, and with good reason. This is the now famous story arc in which The Joker has his face removed, and then later reattached (badly), as he runs amuck once more through the streets of Gotham. The image of the ever-grinning goon wearing his own, rotting face as a mask is one of the creepiest images in the history of comics and brings Joker kicking and screaming into the modern era.

3. Batman: The Long Halloween (Loeb & Sale, 1996-7)

Set over the course of a year, The Long Halloween is the ultimate Batman story in that it offers readers a little slice of everything there is to love about the man who became a bat … man. Loeb and Sale created a meticulous detective story, filled with tons of our favorite rogues, and the classic backdrop of Batman’s tumultuous relationship with the GCPD. Not until Hush did anyone come close to matching the mystery of this incredible whodunnit.

2. Batman: A Death in the Family (Starlin & DeCarlo, 1988-89)

How do you solve a problem like having an incredibly unpopular character cast in the role of Robin, Batman’s much-loved sidekick? Simple, have The Joker beat him to death with a crowbar!

A Death in the Family is DC at it’s dark best and hats off to them for killing off such a key character in such a brutal and final way. Well, we say final way…

1. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (Morrison & McKean, 1989)

Batman received a punk rock makeover, courtesy of the unique artistry of Dave McKean, in Grant Morrison’s iconic graphic novel.

The story itself is set in the infamous prison and sees the inmates literally running the asylum, as a bloodthirsty riot breaks out. Of course, it’s up to our favorite Chiroptera obsessed billionaire to venture deep into the bowels of the building to restore order, but the further he delves the more of Arkham’s horrible past is dredged up and its a past even the Batman might not survive.

This is easily Morrison’s greatest Batman novella, and the definitive take on the mythos of Arkham Asylum, the only building strong enough to contain the myriad of demented souls from DC’s notorious Rogues Gallery. For this reason alone, it is a must read entry in the annals of Gotham’s greatest hero.

Love Batman? See how well you know the Caped Crusader…

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