Right now, it’s a pretty good time to be a Batman fan. The Christopher Nolan movies were easily the three best superhero films ever made, and the comics are providing material for future adaptations with two runs by the most acclaimed writers in the history of the series: Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder. Morrison started on Batman, before launching Batman & Robin and then finishing it all off with Batman Inc. Snyder had a brief run on Detective Comics before taking over Batman.
It’s all interrelated, so as is the case with recent Daredevil comics, it’s probably best to read it in order. There are also some notable works by other writers set in this status quo that could be worth checking out.
Morrison started his run with the Batman & Son arc from Batman #555-558. He took a brief intermission, returning to the series with Batman #563. He stayed on the book for about twenty issues after that. He was involved in one big crossover at the time, the Resurrection of Ras Al Ghul storyline, which was featured in Batman #670-671, Robin #168-169. Nightwing #138-139 and Detective Comics #838-840.
His plot threads came together in Batman: RIP, a six parter in which Batman got involved in mindgames against an intentionally mysterious criminal mastermind. Batman: RIP tied together with the Final Crisis crossover in which it seemed that Batman had met his demise. So, it may be worth checking out Final Crisis, since this would be referenced later. Neil Gaiman wrote a two-part story “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” about the death of Batman, featuring Andy Kubert’s return to the series, which is also quite good as a homage to the character’s lengthy history.
With Bruce Wayne gone, Morrison kicked off a new status quo in Batman & Robin, with Dick Grayson as the new Batman, and Damian Wayne as the new Robin. This lasted for about fifteen issues before the mini-series Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne revealed what Bruce had been up to. That culminated in the Batman: The Return one-shot.
The best of the satellite books at the this time was probably Red Robin, detailing former Robin Tim Drake’s quest to find the real Batman. So that’s also worth hunting down.
This led to a new status quo in which Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne were both Batmen. Morrison’s first volume of Batman Inc. showed what Bruce Wayne was up to. Scott Snyder made his debut on Detective Comics with the Dick Grayson Batman, introducing a villain with ties to Commissioner Gordon.
During the new 52 relaunch, the impact on the Batman comics was minimal. Scott Snyder took over Batman with the Court of Owls storyline from Batman #1-11, and the Joker’s revenge in “Return of the Family.”
A noteworthy satellite title was the relaunched Batman & Robin by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, exploring the now literal father-son relationship of Batman and the new Robin. The best stories are probably the first eight-part arc with the return of Henry Ducard’s son, as well as the 2013 annual, in which the ten year old Damian Wayne briefly tries his hand as the dark knight
Morrison tied up his Batman run with the second volume of Batman Inc, which started with the Leviathan Strikes one-shot. Something bad happened. The consequences were explored in Scott Snyder’s Batman.
The current arc of Snyder’s Batman is a bit of a prequel, dealing with events from Bruce Wayne’s first year back in Gotham City.
It’s an accessible introduction to the series, although it probably is a little bit better if you’re familiar with the set-up.
Some of these stories appear in the Complex.Com list of the best Batman tales.
- 17. “The Court of the Owls/Night of the Owls” (Batman #1-11, 2011-2012)
- 13. “Batman Reborn” (Batman & Robin #1-6, 2009-2010)
- 12. “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” (Batman #686, Detective Comics #853, 2009)
If you’re interesting in this in single-issue form the rundown is…
- Batman #655-658, 663-683, 686, 700-703
- Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6
- The Return of Batman
- Detective Comics #853, 871-881
- Batman (New 52) #0, 1-present
- Batman & Robin (New 52) #1-8, Annual 1
- Batman Inc. (New 52) #1-13
If you’re looking for the trade paperbacks the order is….
- Batman and Son
- Batman: The Black Glove
- Batman: RIP
- Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?
- Batman and Robin Volume 1
- Batman and Robin Volume 2
- Batman and Robin Volume 3
- Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne
- Batman: Time and the Batman
- Red Robin: The Grail
- Red Robin: Collision
- Batman Incorporated
- Batman: The Black Mirror
- Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
- Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls
- Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family
- Batman & Robin Vol. 1: Born To Kill
- Batman Inc. Vol. 1: Demon Star
- Batman Inc. Vol. 2: Gotham’s Most Wanted
Obviously, there were more Batman stories published during this period, and some are quite good. But I suspect that this list is already imposing enough for anyone somewhat new to the mythos.
For some excellent commentary, check out Kevin Smith’s two-part interview with Grant Morrison for the Fat Man on Batman podcast.
I would have to disagree that the Nolan films were great. One of them was and that was thanks to the late Heath Ledger.