With Batman Day once again around the corner, comic book and superhero fans will be celebrating one of the most beloved characters in the genre, but there are plenty of fantastic entry points for newcomers. The Dark Knight has over 80 years’ worth of publication history under DC Comics, meaning that many talented writers and artists have added meaningfully to the brooding hero’s mythos.
Comic books, as a medium, can be admittedly intimidating to dive into for the uninitiated, but Batman, thankfully, has no shortage of accessible stories. From the iconic origin story Year One to contemporary hits like The Court of Owls, there are many Batman comics friendly to new readers.
10 Year One
Batman has one of DC Comics’ greatest origin stories, and legendary writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli’s Year One is the easiest starting point. Following the consequential brand-wide reboot from Crisis on Infinite Earths, Year One is a modernized retelling of Batman’s beginnings as Bruce Wayne struggles to find the means to tackle Gotham’s organized crime.
As an origin story, Year One is, naturally, an ideal starting point for new readers both in terms of accessibility and themes. This comic book arc is an engrossing and concise crime-noir tale that lays the foundations for what Batman would become symbolically, as well as portraying systemic corruption as Gotham’s first major antagonist.
9 The Man Who Laughs
The Clown Prince of Crime is infamously Batman’s most brutal foe, and Ed Brubaker, Doug Mahnke, and David Baron’s The Man Who Laughs is the perfect introduction to the Joker. Effectively a modern-day remake of the Joker’s first appearance, it revolves around the villain mysteriously targeting a string of Gotham’s most affluent.
The Man Who Laughs is the villain’s first appearance and first bout with the Caped Crusader canonically, making it an ideal way to see the roots of this duo’s vitriolic dynamic. On top of being a thrilling and suitably grim modernization of Joker’s debut, The Man Who Laughs is a quick, yet no less impactful read thanks to its one-shot format.
8 The Court Of Owls
The New 52 inspired one of the most celebrated Batman runs of the 21st century, with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo opening strong with The Court of Owls. Bruce is challenged in uniquely sinister ways, as he gradually begins to unravel the so-called myth of the Court into an ages-long conspiracy.
The Court of Owls, despite not being an origin story, works well as a storyline for new readers, as it introduces a refreshingly original villainous group that tastefully plays on elements of the Black Glove before it. While there’s an established Bat-Family, everything and everyone is introduced organically, leaving readers immersed in a haunting story that subverts the notion that Batman knows Gotham inside and out.
7 The Long Halloween
Often cited as one of the best Batman comics in general, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween is a must-read crime drama. Following the exploits of a Dark Detective two years into his career, he, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Dent desperately chase the shadows of the elusive Holiday killer while a gang war erupts in Gotham’s streets.
The Long Halloween is even better coming off Year One‘s continuity, as it’s dripping with a neo-noir atmosphere that chronicles the beginning of the end of organized crime. It’s arguably the definitive Batman detective thriller and a simultaneously tragic account of the fall of Harvey Dent and the rise of Two-Face.
6 Zero Year
While origin stories might feel played out in the modern era, Snyder and Capullo penned a worthy new rendition in Zero Year. Set within the rebooted New 52 timeline, a fledgling Dark Knight is forced to deal with overthrowing the Riddler’s dystopian rule over Gotham City.
Though it’s the fourth — and technically fifth — story arc in the duo’s run, Zero Year can be enjoyed outside the rest of the run, creatively meshing Batman’s origins with the cataclysmic premise of No Man’s Land that saw the city cut off from the world. It’s a bold new interpretation of Bruce’s beginnings, forcing him into adopting guerrilla warfare tactics while humanizing his vulnerability.
5 Earth One
The Earth One comics were DC’s attempt at a fresh entry point for new readers, and while their release dates were handled sluggishly, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s series was a welcome alternate universe. Set in the titular canon, an unrefined and headstrong Bruce takes on the Batman mantle to uncover the truth behind his parents’ murders.
Aside from the origin story format being ideal for new fans, Earth One is a satisfying “cinematic” take on Batman in comics. It’s commonplace in live-action movies, but a grounded Christopher Nolan-like approach to Dark Knight storytelling in the source medium is refreshing in its own way. Likewise, it’s an easy way to satisfy fans who were exposed to Batman through The Dark Knight Trilogy.
4 The Killing Joke
Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke is a milestone in the hero’s history and for its depiction of the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime orchestrates his escape from Arkham Asylum and inflicts torture on the Gordon family to prove a grim point.
While The Killing Joke undoubtedly features controversial elements, the story is acclaimed as one of the most impactful Batman/Joker comics. As bleak as it is, the story culminates in a satisfying deconstruction of Joker’s nihilistic motives and fascinating insight into his warped relationship with Batman. Similar to The Man Who Laughs, this one-shot comic is a concise and darkly captivating read that doesn’t require much preamble, especially with its ambiguous approach to the Joker’s backstory.
3 The Imposter
DC Black Label is home to some of the most inventive alternate-timeline Batman comics, with Mattson Tomlin, Andrea Sorrentino, and Jordie Bellaire’s The Imposter being a recent standout. The miniseries follows a young version of the hero faced with an imposter killing people on the streets and tainting the mantle’s image.
A tantalizingly moody atmosphere completed by Sorrentino’s pencils and Bellaire’s colors, The Imposter leans heavily into neo-noir tones that fans of Matt Reeves’ The Batmanwill be right at home with. Thematically fitting since it’s written by The Batman Part II‘s co-writer, The Imposter is a captivating character profile of this take on Bruce Wayne that comfortably works as a standalone tale.
2 Birth Of The Demon
Dennis O’Neil is credited with resuscitating Batman’s comics, and the late writer also created one of the hero’s most fearsome adversaries in Ra’s al Ghul. While the villain was created in the ’70s, the ’90s one-shot Birth of the Demon details Ra’s al Ghul’s origins while the World’s Greatest Detective tries to destroy his rejuvenating Lazarus Pits in the present.
The near-immortal antagonist is an imposing challenge to Batman physically and mentally, and Birth of the Demon is a seamless way of recounting Ra’s’ past while telling an engaging present-day tale. Complemented by Norm Brefogle’s striking art, this one-shot is a succinct way for new readers to understand this villain’s significance to Batman’s mythos.
After his iconic works with Tim Sale, Jeph Loeb returned with superstar artist and current DC Comics CCO Jim Lee for the Hush arc. This storyline centers around Batman scrambling to uncover the mastermind targeting Bruce Wayne and everyone close to him.
Ironically, Hush is packed with the Dark Knight’s lore between his supporting cast and enemies, but it’s one of the most accessible comics all the same. Every character and vital piece of history is introduced clearly and naturally as the plot unfolds. Though not as enveloping as Loeb’s other detective capers, Hush‘s stylish art and Hollywood blockbuster approach to Batman’s mythos make this a wildly entertaining mystery thriller.
Batman Day is around the corner, and there are several excellent DC comics for new readers to delve into the Dark Knight and Bat-Family mythos. Read More