Welcome to a special, Batman Day edition of Four-Color Bullet, the only comic book review column that comes with Bat-nipples.
So today is Batman’s 75th anniversary and is designated as Batman Day, and fine comic shops everywhere are giving away Batman Day swag. So when you’re done here, go get you some Bat-swag, Son!
Today, I’ll be listing Four-Color Bullet‘s Top 10 Batman Stories. Ready? Let’s get to it.
10) Battle for the Cowl
With Batman apparently dead, Gotham is on the brink of destruction. Someone masquerading as the Black Mask has blown up Arkham Asylum and organizes the city’s criminals into a cohesive unit. Nightwing and Robin aren’t enough to stem the tide, and someone needs to step up and take Batman’s place. It could be Dick, but he’s hesitant. And then there’s the matter of that new, ultra-violent Batman everyone’s hearing about …
This comes in at 10 for me, higher than it probably deserves. But it’s a great, action-packed, riveting, three-parter that focuses on how the Bat-family struggles with who’s worthy to wear the cowl. This may be some of the best work of Tony Daniel’s career.
9) Batman: Earth One: Year One
Geoff Johns and Gary Frank retell Batman’s origins for a modern audience. I’m a big fan of Gary Frank’s art from his time on Superman and this is just as gorgeous. And Johns is as much the storyteller here as anywhere else, doing that magic he’s done with Superman, Flash, and Green Lantern. Johns made Bruce the amateur superhero, showing us that he had many miles to go before he became the Batman we know and love.
8) Batman: Year One
Frank Miller’s re-imagining of Batman’s first year on the job, told with the same dark, gritty, storytelling he used with The Dark Knight Returns and years on Daredevil. It features the first appearance of Carmine Falcone, and is now an animated movie not to be missed.
7) Batman: R.I.P.
A solid Grant Morrison Batman tale focusing on Batman’s death. When it came out, you had to read Final Crisis to get what actually happened, which kind of stunk, but it was still a good story. And more of that sweet Tony Daniel art.
6) The Long Halloween
This early tale of Batman’s crimefighting career focuses on a serial killer named Holiday who picks Halloween to plague Gotham, using Batman’s rogues gallery to help him, sending Batman and Commissioner Gordon into a year-long hunt. This is a critically acclaimed story written by the multi-talented Jeph Loeb, and as suspenseful a Batman tale you’re likely to read.
5) Batman and Son
Another Grant Morrison gem, with the legendary Andy Kubert on pencils. This one deals with Bruce’s relationship with his biological son Damian and sets up future events. It’s probably not as high on other people’s lists, but it’s a good story. And I dig Andy Kubert.
4) Under the Hood
Batman is still reeling from the events of Identity Crisis, namely having his mind wiped by the rest of the Justice League after Sue Dibny’s rape. If that wasn’t enough, Stephanie Brown had just been killed in action. Now, Jason Todd is running around Gotham as Joker’s Red Hood alias. And he’s mad as hell. I wasn’t a big Jason Todd fan back in the day. The character was arrogant and a jerk, and now that he’s grown up, he’s even worse. This is Batman’s worst day ever, and the parts where the tough old bat has to confide in Superman were poignant and priceless.
3) Death of the Family
Not to be confused with Death In the Family, which saw the death of Robin II Jason Todd, this highly anticipated scary-as-crap crossover featured the first appearance of the New 52 Joker out to cure Batman of his need for help. By killing the Bat-family. Suspenseful at every turn and Joker is as terrifying as he’s ever been.
This story kicked off a year long arc by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, and was my first actual foray into Batman comics. Loeb sends out villain after villain to mess with our hero, including a Poison Ivy-controlled Superman with a suspenseful chase through Gotham’s sewers, and all before we even get to meet the mysterious new Hush. Added is a glimpse at Bruce’s childhood, and Jim Lee’s art is just amazing.
1) The Killing Joke
My favorite Batman story of all time. Alan Moore and Brian Bolland craft a tale that’s so shocking, heartbreaking, and terrifying that it sends ripples through the DC Universe for decades. Brian Bolland’s ability to capture facial expressions was like gold on this one. And Joker manages to prove that “all it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man to lunacy.”
And that concludes the Batman Day edition of Four-Color Bullet. We’ll be back on Thursday to keep you updated in this week’s comics reviews and news. Happy Batman Day!
Michael Brown is a comics nerd and a father who lives in small town Tennessee. When he’s not making his players mad in his “Shadowrun” RPG or experimenting with new and inventive uses of duct tape on his children, you can find him checking out the latest comics and movies for SCIFI.radio!