In the wonderful celebration that is Batman Day, we here at Archonia have a few special things planned! One of which is a top 10 Best Batman Stories list, completely subjectively created by Archonia’s biggest Batfan (Hello!), so don’t be a sourpuss if it doesn’t add up with yours and maybe just share your own version in the comments! I would love to see some of your favorite Batman stories!
Of course there are almost innumerable good to great Batman stories, from all different media, but this list will only take a look at my personal top 10 Batman stories. If we would include other media as well I am sure The Dark Knight Trilogy, one of the Batman Arkham Games and animated movies like Batman: Under The Red Hood would take at least a shot at the top ten as well.
So, without further ado, let’s begin with entries 10 -6
Heart of Hush by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen is a Batman story on a smaller scale. In a way it is almost a love story. While this is declared a tie in to Batman event “Batman RIP” both books only have ancillary contact points, so you can enjoy this book perfectly well on its own. Dini sets up bat villain Hush’s return, after he had been introduced years earlier in the “Hush” storyline. To be honest, I never was a huge fan of Hush either as a character or of the original Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee story, but with this book, Paul Dini gave the villain life. He reintroduced Hush as a far richer character, with deeper motivations and made him truly scary. We get a lot of backstory for his childhood, which sets up his rivalry with Bruce in new and interesting ways, while he uses Batman’s love for Selina Kyle (Catwoman) in the present to strike in a way at the bat that truly hurts him. Dustin Nguyen renders Gotham, its characters and some really disturbing horror-esque scenes in his amazing signature style that makes him on of if not MY absolute favorite Batman artist of all time. His art is dark, moody, a tiny bit cartoony and absolutely dynamic in the way his characters move and how he sets up action sequences. An absolute must read, especially for fans of the Batman/Catwoman love story.
Even with most great Batman stories being about Batman as a loner, I really always liked the Batman and Robin relationship. Especially the one between Bruce Wayne and his newest Robin/biological son Damian, who was brought up by Talia al Ghul as a mass murdering assassin, which just gives the whole Batman and Robin relationship a very cool new twist! The first time we ever saw Bruce and Damian together as B&R came at the start of the New 52 relaunch, with Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s Born to Kill storyline! Bruce and Damian try to work on their partnership as crimefighters as well as on their relationship as father and son, when a man out of Bruce’s past, now known as the assassin Nobody, enters their lifes. To get back at Bruce for something that happened years ago he tries to get to Damian by bringing out the 11 year olds murderous side again. Patrick Gleason draws an almost monolithic looking Batman/Bruce like no one else, which is highly contrasted by his absolutely tiny and cute looking (and almost manga-esque) Robin. His art plays with shadows and violence like a masterful composer of bone crushing action, while Tomasi’s writing gives us a very gruff Bruce and focuses on the father and son relationship of the pair. In fact, their whole run deserves to be placed in this top 10 list, because it only gets more gut wrenching, heartfelt and exhilarating from here on out! By far the most consistently great Batman run of the New 52, which was sadly overshadowed by the Snyder/Capullo main Batman book. Still, “Born to Kill” is an amazing read in it own right and I don’t think that anyone will stop reading this series after this first story.
Batman Nöel is something I never expected to see. A genuine Batman version of “A Christmas Carol that actually works. It works so great, actually, that it has become my go to re-read for Christmas Eve every year, since it came out.
Mega artist Lee Bermejo (who also did “Joker” with Brian Azzarello, which almost made the list too) does pull double duties on this book, as he also writes the story and dialogue. You have Batman as gruff Ebenezer Scrooge and Superman, Catwoman and the Joker as his own ghosts of christmas past, present and future. It is a pretty simple story, actually, and I have to admit that the story alone wouldn’t make it into my top 10 here, but as comics are a visual medium story only makes 50% of the experience. The other 50% are of course the art and, my god, how good does Batman: Nöel look. The answer: crazy good. You see that this wasn’t a monthly comic, but a stand alone graphic novel for which Lee Bermejo took his sweet time… and it absolutely paid off! So if you have a love for christmas and Batman, this one will be high on your own list as well.
Batman: Death of the Family is the first time modern Batman superstar writer Scott Snyder did use Bruce Wayne and the Joker in the same story. After Court of Owls, which was the first storyline Snyder and Capullo did on Batman, they decided to bring back the Joker… more scary and sick as ever before. Yes, this is the one were Joker wears his own cut off face as a mask over his exposed facial muscles.
Apart from that shocking image, this story has a lot going for it too. The writing by Snyder is amazing and he has the Joker’s voice down like only a few other people can match or exceed! The whole story is more like a horror comic, which meshes always really well with Batman for me. Joker is every bit Batman’s equal here, as he takes out a whole squad room of the GCPD in mere minutes! The character is almost used like a slasher villain from an 80s horror movie, while still being 100% Joker as we now him! It’s a great idea and it works really well, even with the more truly sick ideas the villain comes up with later in the story. As you will see later in this list… I really appreciate a scary Joker being used well. Greg Capullo’s art is super muscular and bold here, while still retaining the horror vibe he was know for back when he draw the Spawn universe. It is a mixture of superheroics and horrorshow and fits the writing perfectly.
Batman: Broken City, is a crime noir Batman story by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (the team that brought us the Vertigo noir masterpiece 100 Bullets). Almost pure crime noir, just infused with Batman characters. After having a lot of horror influenced Batman stories on this list, it was absolutely time for this gem.
Broken City is about a murder mistery about a dead girls body being found in a landfill and a double murder of a young boys parents in an alley. Batman chases down leads like Killer Croc, who gets a pimp like re-imagening here. The action is hard boiled and brutal realised by Risso’s play with shadows, thugs and sexy ladies, while his Batman is an absolute monster of a man. It looks very moody and dark, all very noir appropriate. The writing by Azzarello channels his voice from 100 Bullets, with the street wise dialogue he does like nobody else. The story doesn’t take a very positive route, which again fits with the overall mood of it and everybody is shady or crooked here.
“Forget it, Bruce. It’s Gotham.”