Ten best Batman comic books for new and returning readers

Christopher Baggett
Batman as depicted by DC Comics

Before Batman makes his inevitable return to the big screen, these stories are the best comics to show readers, new and old, what makes the character so great. 

With 80 years of stories, there are a ton of iconic Batman comic books. Many of them have inspired some of your favorite movies, and many of them will go unknown to fans as they become forgotten over time, even with services like DC Universe Infinite making them more available than ever.

There are a handful of Batman stories that are considered iconic, though, and have inspired multiple films about The Dark Knight. If you’re looking to get started or are a lapsed fan looking to get back into the character, these books make excellent starting points. 


Whether you started reading in the Silver Age or have never touched a comic in your life, these are the best Batman comics to start with.

The Killing Joke

It’s hard to recommend The Killing Joke in 2024, but at the same time, it’s hard to deny it’s important legacy. 

The Killing Joke
As controversial as it is beloved, The Killing Joke is an incredible exploration of Batman and Joker’s relationship.

The way The Killing Joke handles Barbara Gordon, in particular, has caused it to age incredibly poorly. Even Alan Moore himself has spoken out about the decision to paralyze her in this story, calling it’s treatment of Barbara “too nasty, too physically violent.”

If you can look past that, you’ll get an incredible showdown between Batman and Joker. The Killing Joke is filled with nuance and detail, and Moore’s depiction of the meeting of these two titans is something unforgettable.

Batman: Year One

In much the same way that Frank Miller redefined Daredevil with Born Again, he gave us the ultimate modern Batman with 1987’s Year One. The story, written by Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, examines the earliest days of Batman while minimizing the fantastical elements of the character. 

Batman Year One
The theatricality of Batman is on full display in the moody and haunting Batman: Year One.

If you know anything about Batman, it probably came from Year One. While it did have some influence on Batman ‘89 and Batman: The Animated Series, it most heavily influenced Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. 

Batman: Year One may be nearly 40 years old now, but it still exudes a timelessness thanks to the noir leanings and straightforward narrative that Miller and Mazzucchelli weave through the story. It’s a rare instance of a relatable and vulnerable Batman, and it makes the perfect starting point for a new reader. 

Batman: Rebirth

For a more modern take on Batman, there is no better place to start than the Batman: Rebirth era. For completionist sake, the easiest way to identify this is the one-shot Batman: Rebirth #1 and issues 1-85 of the 2016 Batman ongoing.

Batman Rebirth City of Bane
Much of King’s acclaimed Batman run focuses on the duality of Batman’s mission and Bruce Wayne’s hope.

This sounds like a lot, but it is one long narrative. The story, written by current Wonder Woman scribe Tom King, focuses a lot on Batman and the seeming perpetuity of his war on crime. Throw in an epic, drawn-out war with Bane and Bruce having to contend with his father from the Flashpoint timeline, and you have some truly memorable moments. 

It’s not a perfect run, as many fans will tell you. The long-simmering Batman and Catwoman romance teased a beautiful conclusion that was derailed, while many readers took issue with pacing and certain story elements. But if you’re looking to dive deep into modern Batman, the Rebirth era (and the accompanying Detective Comics run) is the way to go. 

No Man’s Land

No Man’s Land came out of seemingly nowhere. A massive earthquake rocks Gotham, leveling most of the city and sending an already harried population scrambling to survive. 

No Man's Land
Batman faces a destroyed Gotham City and impossible odds in No Man’s Land

With the criminal element emboldened and the government deciding to instead declare Gotham City beyond saving, Batman and the Bat-family must find a way to restore order as the city struggles to rebuild, all while Batman himself finds much of the technology that aids him destroyed. 

No Man’s Land today is a modern classic, having served as at least partial inspiration for Matt Reeves’ The Batman. But living through this arc, a tense month-to-month battle for survival where even the Justice League wasn’t able to help, is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. 


The sinister Bane wants to rule Gotham, but first he must contend with Batman. So he releases every inmate from Arkham Asylum, wears down Batman physically and mentally. Then, when Batman is at his absolute weakest, he breaks his back. 

Bane breaks Batman
Knightfall saw Bane break Batman’s back, leading to a new, more violent Batman stepping up.

With Bruce acknowledging his Batman career is seemingly done, he chooses a new heir to the mantle of the Bat: Jean-Paul Valley, the traumatized agent of the Order of St. Dumas, better known as Azrael, the Avenging Angel. 

It doesn’t go well. Jean-Paul’s traumas are enhanced by The System, a mental programming that makes him into a violent, unhinged Dark Knight. Donning a new suit of armor and wicked metal talons, his Batman is a nightmare to behold. Fans loved it, though, with Knightfall and its ensuing counterparts – Knightsquest and Knightsend – being some of the most memorable Batman stories ever told.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold – The Winning Card

Tom King makes his second appearance on this list, this time alongside frequent collaborator Mitch Gerads. While King may have defined the modern Batman in Rebirth, the superstar duo of King & Gerads have left their mark on one of the oldest and most well-known Batman tales. 

Brave and the Bold: Winning Card
Brave and the Bold’s update on Batman and Joker’s first meeting basks in a terrifying atmosphere.

Brave and the Bold is an anthology series featuring The Authority, Wild Dog, and more, but the main attraction for many fans is The Winning Card. The serialized tale hearkens back to the early days of Batman and his earliest encounter with The Joker, retelling and expanding upon the classic tale from Batman #1. 

There’s a mood and tone here that is impossible to deny. The King and Gerards partnership has already defined modern classics with The Vision, Strange Adventures, and Human Target. The Winning Card feels like the natural evolution of those stories, and it’s a shame it’s likely being lost on many readers due to its serialized nature. Brave and The Bold, on its own, is an excellent anthology series, but The Winning Card is more than enough to justify giving this series a read. 

The Dark Knight Returns

It feels weird to suggest The Dark Knight Returns to new readers. There’s a bizarre legacy surrounding this one now, thanks to its influence on the greater pop culture of Batman and the controversy and reaction to its various spin-offs and sequels. 

The Dark Knight Returns mud fight
The Dark Knight Returns did away with the camp image of Batman, reviving him as a terrifying figure of vengeance.

But you cannot deny how important The Dark Knight Returns is, not just to Batman but to comics as a medium. The story is so iconic that it salvaged Batman from decades of being some of a pop culture joke following the camp of the ‘60s. Batman was always a dark and foreboding figure, but The Dark Knight Returns made him a gothic creature of the night once again. 

If you’re a fan of the darker Batman of the Burton films or want to see where Snyder got the inspiration for Batman and Superman’s epic brawl, this is the one to read. 

Arkham Asylum – A Serious House on Serious Earth

The inmates of Arkham have called Batman to the Asylum on April Fool’s Day. It sounds like there are hostages, but instead, he finds something shocking. 

Batman: Arkham Asylum
Arkham Asylum showed first hand the horrors the inmates faced.

Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth is a landmark story about the horrors of the dilapidated Asylum. Grant Morrison and Dave McKean craft a truly unsettling world for a story that will stay with you in words and visuals for years. 

Much of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth’s tones and concepts did eventually make their way to other media, influencing Rocksteady’s acclaimed Batman: Arkham series. 


It’s 2002, and you’ve got a banner year of Batman comics. Acclaimed writer Jeph Loeb is ready to write the main Batman book. Sensational artist Jim Lee, renowned for being the definitive force behind ‘90s X-Men books, is handling Batman art chores for the first time. What do you do?

Batman Hush Superman
Hush is an all-star line-up of Batman creatives and characters.

The answer was Batman: Hush, a 12-part event that let Jim Lee draw every major Batman character and villain all in one go. This is an absolute roller coaster of a story with some of the best art and pacing the Batman books ever got (and it gave us a hell of a Superman, too). 

Narratively, Hush sets up a lot of stories the Batman titles would explore in the following years, including the return of Jason Todd and the deepening Batman/Catwoman relationship. But Hush still stands tall as an iconic Batman story thanks to its Who’s Who characters and nonstop action.

The Long Halloween

It’s hard to imagine a more definitive, thorough take on Batman than Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s depiction in The Long Halloween, long hailed as one of the best comics ever, Batman or otherwise. This year-long series follows Batman at the end of his first year as a crimefighter, exploring his relationship with Harvey Dent and the Gotham PD on the trail of the vicious Holiday Killer. 

Batman; The Long Halloween
The early relationship between Batman, Gordon and Dent forms a lot of Long Halloween’s tension.

The Long Halloween explores Batman’s rogues gallery in frightening detail, showcasing some of his earliest encounters with villains. It also focuses on the human side, revealing new depths to Bruce Wayne and his relationship with characters like Harvey Dent and Dick Grayson. 

Most importantly, though, the story lets Batman be a detective first and foremost. There are no world-ending aliens or massive superhero crossovers here. For fans who want to see a Batman working to solve a crime and track down a killer, The Long Halloween is the ideal modern Batman. 

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