The Batman comics every type of superhero fan should read
The one thing every great Batman writer agrees on is that the DC hero is versatile. “You can do the comedy Batman,” Grant Morrison said in 2013, “You can do the camp, Batman. You can do the super-serious, dark, existential Batman. You can do the adventure, Batman. You can do the detective Batman. You can do the street crime, Batman. You can do the fantasy, Batman. You can do the superhero, Batman. The character bends and can do it all.”
And if Batman works in any story, there must be a Batman story for every person. As Polygon’s Batman expert, I wanted to prove the theory.
Maybe there’s even a book in here … for you.
A much more human Batman
Tasha Robinson: OK, Susana, I admit I’m mostly a sucker for an iconic creature-of-the-night Batman.
Susana: Tasha, what a gift you’ve given me! Right out of the gate, I can recommend one of my favorite Batman series ever, the elusive Batman: Gotham Knights (2000).
Gotham Knights came on to the scene in an era where there were several concurrent series of which Batman was nominally the lead, each with its bat-flavor. Batman was for the mainline “plot” of Gotham City. Detective Comics was for detective stories and often featured a short backup feature to honor the title’s venerable origins. Legends of the Dark Knight were for stories set in the past or outside of traditional canon. Gotham Knights were a book about Batman’s interpersonal relationships.
They have still never been put in a collection but are available in the single-issue format on Comixology and DC Universe Infinite — and what are you here for if not the intense cuts, right? Read Batman: Gotham Knights #32-#45. #32 is, in my opinion, the perfect single-issue Batman story ever made, and the rest of this selection spools out and knits together several ongoing threads, culminating in an issue in which Gotham’s social services investigate Bruce Wayne for child abuse.
A Batman mystery with, like, the actual mystery
Matt Patches: Dear Susana, I was ultimately let down by the promise of The Batman. Everyone said this was the movie where “The World’s Greatest Detective” got to flex his sleuth muscles.
In Last Arkham, Batman is particular that serial slasher Victor Zsasz is committing a string of murders. The art here is snappy, the plot twisty, the humor on point, and there’s a cameo from just about every Batman villain who could appear and Nightwing and Robin, who Batman didn’t bother to tell that he was putting himself in Arkham on purpose. Whoops!
The Batman who kisses
Petrana Radulovic: Hi Susana. I enjoyed Catwoman and Batman’s dynamic in the new movie.
Susana: Petrana, after some determination, I think you should read Batman: The Rebirth Part 3, published initially as Batman (2016) #33-44 and Batman Annual (2016) #2. It collects a whole slew of comics featuring Batman and Catwoman in the period of Tom King’s Batman run after they got engaged but before she left him at the altar.
But with his Batman series, Tom King asks, “What happens to Batman if you make him happy?”
We get to see King’s version of the beginning of the Bat/Cat romance and Old Bruce and Selina at its end. We see Bruce’s family (including his baby momma) react to their engagement. Batman and Catwoman go on a double date with Superman and Lois Lane. They save Poison Ivy from herself by reuniting her with Harley Quinn. It’s good smoochy stuff.
Nicole Clark: I know there is a Spiders-Ma.What other superheroes exist as a version of many creatures in a trenchcoat? Are there other comics where I can enjoy this weird twist?
Susana: Nicole, I spent a long time trying to think of a contained story about Man-Bat, the Batman villain who is a literal batman, that was worthy of recommending, but I couldn’t, so I’m going to go with the spirit of the request more than the letter. I could recommend the Batm
I wouldn’t say it’s focused on Batman’s tech. Artist Jim Lee loves to draw cars, high-tech surgery bays, special belt compartments, a new bat-para trooping suit, and a new bat-plane and Batman’s HUD display. This will scratch that itch.
A Batfamily adventure
Pete Volk: Hi, Susana. I’ve always enjoyed Batman stories that sprawl out into the larger Batfamily. Solo Batman stories can be fun, but I’m itching for something that involves the whole crew. Can you give me something good with many different Bat- and bird people working together to solve a mystery? An additional note: I have a soft spot for Nightwing.
Susana: Pete, drop what you are doing and read Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive! No joke, this arc made me stop waiting for the trade and start visiting a comic shop weekly because I had to find out what happened next. It is also maybe the best-contained introduction to the Bat-family and its web of drama.
Then Batman makes a quintessentially Batman decision: If being Bruce Wayne is a liability, he’ll stop being Bruce Wayne. He disappears from prison and resumes vigilante-ing. His family, trying to clear his name, hate this.
For one of those crossovers where the story is spread across multiple ongoing series from different creative teams, Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive is a shockingly well-coordinated symphony of family drama, played by a pack of exemplary writers and artists. It’s a rare story that says, “It is exhausting to know Batman personally, and he needs to do better.” I love it to death, and I think you will, too.