One of humanities greatest holiday’s, Batman Day, is upon us once again. In honor of this joyous occasion, it’s officially Batman Week here at World’s Best Media! It’s that special time of year when we can all take the time to reflect on the greatness of The Dark Knight Detectve. Like Superman, people will still be telling stories about The Batman, in one form or another, hundreds of years from now (unless of course, mankind doesn’t wipe itself from the face of the Earth in the near future). Characters like Batman and Superman are our modern day gods. Like Achilles or Beowulf, these heroes resonate with people because they’re such primal archetypes.
Even more so than Superman, the tragic tale of a boy who witnesses the brutal murder of his parents, is a fear we can all relate to. The boy made a vow to rid his city of the evil that took their lives, and turned himself into a monster to do it. The tragedy of Batman is that his war can never be won and he knows it. That’s deep, primal stuff. The brillliant simplicity of Batman allows for endless stories and reinventions.
Batman isn’t only my favorite comics book character, he’s by far my favorite character in all of literature. The complex psychology of Bruce Wayne, the greatest group of villains ever assembled, the sprawling urban nightmare that is Gotham City, and a phenomenal supporting cast… it all comes together to form the unforgettable tapestry of The Batman mythology. So in honor of Batman Day, I decided to put together a list of my favorite modern Batman stories. This was harder than you might think, because there are literally hundreds of classic Batman tales. I left out the obvious ones like “The Big 3”: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, and The Killing Joke. Including those 3 classics on my list, seemed redundant and obvious, so I decided to focus on some great modern Batman stories. I was able to narrow it down to these amazing tales, that I encourage all of you to check out. Let’s dive in…
Batman: The Black Mirror
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jock & Francesco Francavilla
DC has a long history of “legacy heroes”. “Legacy heroes” are characters who take up the mantle of an iconic, classic superhero, when the original cannot or will not continue on. “Legacy heroes” are almost always characters who are close to the original incarnation of the superhero in question, usually a sidekick or a partner. For example, when the original Flash, Barry Allen, died in Crisis On Infinite Earths, his sidekick, Wally West AKA Kid Flash, inherited the role of The Scarlet Speedster. In fact, many fans believe Wally West surpassed his mentor to be the best version of The Flash in the history of DC Comics. Another good example, is when the entire Green Lantern Corp were wiped out (including Hal Jordan), artist Kyle Rayner was chosen to become the only living in Green Lantern in the universe. Eventually, he was instrumental in rebuilding the Corp. We tend tp not think of Batman as a character that ”passes on the mantle”. However, there has been some notable exceptions, like Dick Grayson, that were excellent and unique versions of The Dark Knight.
The Black Mirror took place at a time when, for reasons that are too complicated to get into, Bruce Wayne was MIA as Batman. Dick Grayson a.k.a. the original Robin a.k.a. Nightwing, reluctantly donned the Cape and Cowl to become the new Batman.
Like so many other excellent Batman tales, the story is just as much about Jim Gordon as it is Batman. The veteran Gotham police officer and the rookie Batman, must solve a grisly mystery that hits far too close to home for both men. With amazing art by Jock and Francesco Francavilla, it seems as if Gotham City itself is alive. A dark and hungry thing, ready to devour those that walk it’s streets. This was the breakout story that launched Scott Snyder’s career as one of the biggest creators in the industry. This isn’t the only time you’ll see Snyder’s name pop up on this list, because The Black Mirror was his first step on his journey to becoming one of the greatest Batman writers of all time.
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Tony Daniel
Grant Morrison is not only a personal favorite of mine, he’s also one of the best and most celebrated comic writers in the history of the medium. All-Star Superman, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On A Serious Earth, JLA, if you’ve ever read Morrison‘s work, it will come as no surprise that this is one hell of a weird, fucking Batman story. However, in this instance that’s a really good thing. Batman R.I.P. marks the end of ACT I of Morrison‘s epic Batman run. When I was reading this nightmarish and disturbing story for the first time, it genuinely felt like anything could happen, which is rare when you’re dealing with such a well-known character like Batman. The brilliance of Morrison‘s run, is how he mines some of the most ridiculous and wacked out Batman stories from the late-50’s, 60’s, and early 70’s, (that any other writer would just as soon forget) to tell a truly unique Batman tale. Some fantastic new villains, like demonic Dr. Hurt, and new spins on old dynamics, make this an unforgettable story about madness, evil, and the indomitable will of The Dark Knight.
Batman & Robin: Reborn
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quietly
Another fantastic story taking place during Dick Grayson’s tenure as The Caped Crusader. Grant Morrison’s ambitious, and entertaining Batman run, consisted of a broad, 3 Act structure. If Batman RIP was the end of Act I of Morrison‘s epic, then Batman and Robin: Reborn is the beginning of Act II. This story follows Dick as he struggles to fit into his new role as Batman. One The most compelling parts of the story, is the relationship between Dick and the new Robin, Damian Wayne, Bruce’s son. Reborn puts a fun new spin on the Batman and Robin dynamic. Normally, Batman is the dark, brooding one, with Robin as the bright, quipping, colorful, and lighthearted side of The Dynamic Duo. This story completely flips that dynamic on its head. This Batman smiles, tells jokes, and has fun. Damian’s Robin is arrogant, violent, and brutal. Basically the kid is a real pain in the ass
Regardless, he is, after all, Bruce Wayne‘s biological son. To Dick and Alfred, Bruce was family, so they both feel a responsibility to keep Damian on the right path. Both men know that Bruce would want them to watch over Damian, a task that certainly isn’t easy given Damian’s violent upbringing before he came to live with his father. But Dick and Alfred would never give up on the boy because of their love for Bruce. After all, Damian was raised in The League of Assassins, under the tutelage of Tallia and Ra’s Al Ghul. He could kill grown men by the time he was four years old. With Damian, The House’s of Wayne and Al Ghul would finally be united. Talia and Ra’s were grooming him to stride across the world as a modern-day Alexander The Great. Fortunately, Damian had more of his father in him than his mother and grandfather thought. Inspired by his father, Damian chose his own path, even if that meant being branded as an adversary to The House of Al Ghul.
I really enjoyed the dynamic between Dick, Damian, and Alfred in this story. One of my favorite subplots that evolves as the story goes on, is how Damien, who has nothing but disdain for Dick and Alfred, gradually comes to love and respect them both, arguably even more than he loves his father. Add in some gorgeous art by the legendary Frank Quietly (who’s one of my favorite comic book artists), the introduction of one of my favorite and most disturbing modern day Batman villains: the grotesque Professor Pyg, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a Batman comic book. This story is a new era for Batman and it all comes together to make this a must read.
Batman: The Court of Owls
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo
The Court of Owls marks the beginning of what would become, one of the greatest writer/artist teams in modern comics. Together, writer Scott Snyder and veteran artist Greg Capullo, would go on to create one of the best Batman runs in the long history of the character.
Gotham City is synonymous with The Dark Knight. He knows it’s broken streets and dark alleyways, as well as he knows his own reflection in the mirror. Gotham belongs to The Batman and he knows all it’s secrets. Or does he? After a series of bizarre murders, Batman is blindsided by the realization that a cunning and dangerous enemy has existed and operated right under his nose. This powerful adversary has had its claws in Gotham for hundreds of years, going all the way back to the founding of the city. Bruce Wayne might be the worlds greatest detective and the legendary Batman, but in his hubris, he forgot one of the most important lessons he learned in his years protecting the city: The second you think you know Gotham, is the moment it swallows you into the darkness.
What are your favorite Batman stories? Please let us know in the comments below or on social media!
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