I was recently asked about the order in which I would recommend reading the Batman comics. I knew this was one of those guys that likes to quiz women on their comic knowledge in order to prove they do not deserve to be wearing whatever nerdy shirt they have on…but I ended up putting a lot of thought into it. I came up with this preferred reading list, but I must stress that this is really just my own personal opinion.
Batman was first published over 76 years ago, so there really isn’t an official reading over. Over the years, several different authors have contributed to the series, and have added their own unique takes to it. The following is the order I feel gives the best overview of the story and the history. Feel free to weigh in with your own opinions, of course!
The General Reading Order
I would first recommend starting with Batman: Year One, by Frank Miller. This gives a solid background into how Bruce Wayne transitioned into being Batman. I would follow those with The Killing Joke and Death in the Family, since those cover what happens to the family, and how everything affects Bruce.
From there, I would go down this line:
Batman: The Man Who Laughs: This tells the story of Batman’s first encounter with the Joker.
The Long Halloween: This intricate murder mystery really illustrates Batman’s detective skills, as well as dives into the origins of Two-Face.
Batman: Knight Fall: Really covers the mortality of Batman, and who he is behind the mask. This should be followed up with Knight’s Quest and Knight’s End.
Arkham Asylum: Focuses on Arkham Asylum, which holds some pretty intense characters.
The Dark Knight Returns: This Frank Miller comic has one of the most epic story lines of all time, and is one every Batman fan should read. Ten years after an aging Bruce retires, Gotham City has sunk into an even deeper darkness. After fighting the Joker and Two-Face for the final time, Batman goes against his former ally, Superman. This comic is responsible for the launch of the Batman movies.
Gotham by Gaslight: Victorian era Batman hunts down Jack the Ripper.
Batman: Hush: Explores Batman’s one serious relationship, the one with Selina Kyle (Catwoman).
The Court of the Owls: Covers the battle against an incredibly old organization called The Court of Owls, which secretly controls Gotham.
Grant Morrison Reading Order
Yet another option is to go with the Grant Morrison run of Batman. He references a lot of other comics, so it will make you well-read when it comes to most of the significant parts. Start with The Black Casebook, old Batman comics referenced by Morrison, and then go through this reading list:
1) Batman and Son (Batman 655-658, 663-666)
2) The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul
3) The Black Glove (Batman 667-669, 672 –675)
4) Heart of Hush (Batman #846-#850)
5) Batman RIP (Batman 676-678)
6) Robin (175-176)
7) Batman RIP (Batman 679-681)
8) Outsiders (11-13)
9) Nightwing (147-150)
10) Last Rites – Last Days of Gotham (Detective Comics 851, Batman 684)
11) RIP Missing Chapter (Batman 701)
12) Final Crisis (1-5)
13) Last Rites – Batman (Batman 682-683)
14) Final Crisis (6-7)
15) RIP Missing Chapter (Batman 702)
16) Whatever happened to the Caped Crusader (Batman 686, Detective Comics 853)
17) Last Rites – Nightwing (151-153)
18) Last Rites – Faces of Evil Epilogue (Detective Comics 852, Batman 685)
19) Robin (183)
20) Battle for the Cowl
21) Batman Reborn (Batman 687)
22) Batman and Robin (1-12)
23) The Return of Bruce Wayne (1-4)
24) The Road Home Prequel (Batman 703)
25) Time and the Batman (Batman 700)
26) Batman and Robin (13-14)
27) The Return of Bruce Wayne (5-6)
28) Batman and Robin (15-16)
29) The Road Home
30) Batman: The Return
31) Batman, Inc (1)
32) Batman and Robin (17-25)
33) Batman, Inc (2-8)
34) Batman, Inc – Leviathan Strikes!