10 Batman graphic novels to gear up for The Dark Knight Rises
With the worldwide release of The Dark Knight Rises only 10 days away, we’ve put together 10 Batman graphic novels that will get you geared up for the epic conclusion to the Dark Knight legend. While it isn’t necessary to read them to prepare for the film, it will certainly help you appreciate the characters better and get you in the state of Bat-excitement that’s got the fanboy community in a tizzy.
Let the countdown begin!
10. Batman: Black and White
Imagine a motley crew of writers and artists come together to each try their hand at their own take on the Dark Knight. Some in places that exist, some outside the Batman universe, each story takes the caped crusader to a new strange space, soaked in dark humour and filled with shadowy characters. All rendered in black and white. Non canon, yet an absolute delight.
9. A Death in the Family
One of the most provocative graphic novels in the Batman story arc, this one has Joker beating Jason Todd, the second Robin to death. Reflecting the unadulterated violence of the seventies, the cover of Batman cradling a bleeding Robin dressed in red and green is still iconic and terrifying even today.
8. The Man Who Laughs
A new face in Gotham is bent on taking out the city’s rich and famous. With no real motive, we see Joker for the very first time doing what he loves the most: killing for the sheer joy of it. Even as Nolan’s Joker toys with our minds, asking us if he looks like a guy with a plan, The Man Who Laughs reveals a far more sinister, strategizing and deceitful villain than anyone Batman has ever faced.
7. Batman: Knightfall
After DC killed off Superman, they wanted Batman to meet a challenge that would bring him fact-to-face with his mortality. That challenge comes in the form of the bouldering, bone-crushing, back-breaking hulk, known simply as Bane. Fuelled by Venom, a steroid-like substance, Bane is both, brain and brawn. Intelligent and crafty, he is Batman’s equal in every way. And the only one to crush both, his body and spirit.
The big-budget action-thriller of comic books, Hush unleashes a new villain upon Batman. Someone with deep connections to Bruce Wayne’s past and enough clout to manipulate his rogue gallery into working as his puppets. Jim Lee’s stunning art gives Batman his edgy look, while portraying Gotham for the flawed city it truly is.
5. The Long Halloween
Less superhero, more gangster-noir, The Long Halloween is probably the most ambitious story arc in the Batman mythology. One of the inspirations for The Dark Knight, it tells the story of a killer who knocks off mob family members on holidays. The Long Halloween is rich in texture and layers as it brings together opposite sides of the law, witnesses the downfall of common crooks and the rise of Gotham’s super-criminals.
4. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth
Certainly the most radical visual treatment given to any graphic novel, Arkham Asylum puts Batman in conflict with the things that make him what he is. Told through a visual narrative that’s rich in symbolism and disturbing, surreal underpinnings, the Dark Knight must enter the asylum run amok on All Fools’ Day to set it right. The story is much about the madness that lies within all of us than what we see outside.
3. The Dark Knight Returns
Bring Batman back from his campy stories to his dark roots, Frank Miller’s graphic novel set a new standard for comic book artists everywhere. Set many years after Batman’s retirement, a new threat looms over Gotham that forces Bruce Wayne to don the cowl again. Batman isn’t above intense violence as he pulls no punches in his epic fight with Joker and the ultimate showdown with Superman who now works as an agent of the American government.
2. The Killing Joke
One of my personal favourites, The Killing Joke attempts to do something only a handful of writers have tried. Creating a plausible story for the Joker’s origin. Joker’s mysterious past is one of the many reasons why he is such a force to reckon with. Crafting a story that sheds light on his life and sadness before his accident, and on how all it takes is one bad day to send a good man on a downward spiral to madness, all in contrast to his sadistic joys, The Killing Joke is myth-making at its very best.
1. Batman : Year One
Every superhero needs a fitting origin story. Frank Miller and Dave Mazzuchelli’s Year One does more than just give Bruce Wayne a purpose. It grounds his story, as well as that of James Gordon in a gritty, seedy Gotham City than needs both of them to clean it up. Batman’s tender side as the child who will always be grieving the loss of his parents is beautifully depicted. His obsession to fight crime, his mistakes along the way and his ultimate rise as the hero that the city deserves is captured through a crisp narrative that’s both engaging and compelling. No wonder Chris Nolan relied heavily on it as source material for Batman Begins.
Justice League of America: Tower Of Babel
While this isn’t your usual Batman story, it’s proof enough that Batman’s got plans for every situation, including members of JLA going rogue. When these contingency plans are stolen and used to take down his friends, we see the real master-strategist that Batman truly is.
Think we missed out on a few incredible Batman stories? Let us know in the comments section below.