Saturday, October 08, 2011

What to Read Next: Batman

So you read some of the new 52 books. You liked some of the new 52 books. Now you want to know what to read next. Tracking down comics by the same author is always a safe bet, but I want to give readers some suggestions that are a little more unexpected. This will be the first in a series of posts that provides recommendations for fans of all of DC's relaunch titles. Today, let's go over the Batman books.

Batman #1 was my favorite of the Batman titles, and one of my favorite relaunch books in general. Before following any of these recommendations, you should look up Scott Snyder's other Batman tales. His Detective Comics run, which will be collected as Batman: The Black Mirror, has a lot in common with the story he's spinning here. Gates of Gotham, a miniseries he wrote with Kyle Higgins, is a great introduction to the extended Batfamily, and provides some Gotham history that may be relevant in future Batman issues. But if you've read those and are looking for something new, here's what I'd suggest:

Ongoing: The Green Wake, published by Image Comics. 

The Green Wake is a smart, fascinating detective story that demands to be read over and over again. Green Wake, the town the series takes its name from, is small in comparison to Gotham, but it's every bit as sinister. Much like in Batman #1, the town feels like a character in the story, and writer Kurtis Wiebe does a terrific job bringing it to life. Fans of Greg Capullo should really appreciate the work of artist Riley Rossmo. Rossmo fills every panel with emotion and atmosphere, and takes an already compelling story to the next level. The series' first storyline just concluded, and now is the perfect time to get into the series. You can check out the first issue for free here.

Concluded:  Batman: Gothic

Gothic is an oft forgotten Batman story, but it's one of my favorites. Originally published as part of the Legends of the Dark Knight series, the series sheds a fascinating light on Bruce Wayne's childhood, and takes full advantage of the Gotham setting. Unlike Batman #1, Gothic features strong supernatural elements, but the book feels very grounded in reality in spite of that. To me, it's one of the best looks at Batman's motivations we've ever gotten, and reading it will really show you just how far the character has come. Grant Morrison told this tale back in 1990, long before the start of his bat epic, but you can see seeds of his ideas here. His Batman is every bit the badass detective we know and love, but manages to feel very human and vulnerable in spite of that. Klaus Janson's art work is reminiscent of Neal Adams Batman art from the 1970's. It's simplistic in comparison the level of detail in Capullo's pages, but it still adds plenty of mood to the story. Because this comic is so old, it's easy to get on the cheap, and can usually be snagged for around $10 on Amazon.

Anyone who dug the first issue of Batman and Robin should do themselves a favor and check out the series' first 3 volumes. The dynamic between Dick Grayson and Damian is terrific, and there are some big payoffs to the series various mysteries. If you're interested in where Damian came from, you'll want to read Batman and Son, or the book's Wikipedia page. You can also get some backstory from the 1987 book Son of the Demon, but there are some pretty glaring continuity differences. And if you're looking for something a little more unusual, than check out:

Ongoing: Invincible, published by Image Comics

Frequently compared to Dragonball Z, Invincible gives readers a look at what being the son of a superhero might be like. On the surface, the series seems much more lighthearted than Batman and Robin is, but the series takes a darker turn pretty quickly. The comic is written by Robert Kirkman, who is best known for his work on The Walking Dead. The series blends over the top superheroic action with moments that feel very true to life, and Kirkman always injects his comic with plenty of humor. Artist Cory Walker has a slightly cartoony style that fits well with the tone of the series, and does a great job with the book's action scenes. Invincible has been running since 2003, which may be intimidating to new readers, but the book's early volume can be obtained cheaply and easily. You can check out a fully voiced, motion comic version of series for free here.

Concluded: Batman: Dark Victory

Dark Victory features Dick Grayson, not Damian Wayne, but there's no book that will give you a better understanding of why Batman needs a Robin. While Dark Victory is a mystery tale, it's a character study at heart, and shows of Batman's weak points in a way few series are willing to do. For me, this is probably the best work Jeph Loeb has done, and I wish he'd write more stories like this one. Like many of Loeb's Batman tales, it utilizes a large chunk of Batman's rogues gallery, and it's a great way to brush up on the basics. Tim Sale is an enormous talent, and it's a crime that he's illustrated so few comics. He has a noir-esque style that suits Batman beautifully, and some of his splash pages are really stunning. I've heard several people say that reading this changed their opinion of Robin, and I hope it can do the same for you. Before reading Dark Victory, I'd recommend reading Frank Miller's Batman: Year One and The Long Halloween, another Loeb and Sale collaboration. 

I'm not the biggest fan of Tony Daniel's Batman stories, but if you like them, there's plenty for you to enjoy. He began writing the series back in 2009, and a collection featuring some of his work titled Batman: Life After Death comes out later this month. Daniel is also writing another of the 52 books, The Savage Hawkman. Fans of his artwork can check out stories like Batman R.I.P. or Battle for the Cowl. If you're looking for something beyond that, try:

Ongoing: Severed, published by Image Comics

Severed, penned by Batman scribe Scott Snyder, is a great read for anyone who wants something creepy and mysterious. The series, which Snyder describes as "historical horror", is primarily set at the turn of the century, and features a truly terrifying villain. He's not The Joker, but he's every bit as unsettling. We see just enough of him to be afraid, but he's in the shadows enough to leave us wanting more. This is the sort of comic that can appeal to people in a lot of different ways. It's a beautifully constructed comic, but relies enough on old school horror movie cliches to make this fun for someone who wants a lighter, but still scary read. Readers who loved the intensity of the Detective Comics cliffhanger should love some of the mysteries that are teased at here. With every issue, Snyder's left me wanting more, and I'm so excited to see how the story pays off. The art from Attilla Futaki is absolutely stunning, and should appeal to many who enjoy Daniel's artstyle. Severed's third issue was just released, and it should take no time for readers to catch up. It's the sort of comic that really sinks its teeth into you.

Concluded: Hush

Tony Daniel's art style is pretty heavily influenced by Jim Lee's, and Hush is some of Lee's best work. This title is one of the most frequently recommended Batman books, and for good reason. Not only does it introduce readers to many members of the Batfamily and Batman's rogues gallery, it's also chock full of fanboy bait. From Batman fighting a mind controlled Superman to villain team-ups, the comic is full of the sort of moments that many readers can't wait to see. Everything people like about Jim Lee's art is on display here, but he also experiments with his style in a very cool way. His watercolor work is stunning, and injects a lot of emotion into the scenes that make use of it. The violence here seems tame in comparison to what we've seen in Detective Comics, but it's still packed full of action. Because Hush is such a popular book, you've got a good chance of finding this one at your local library.

David Finch was telling Batman stories in The Dark Knight before the reboot, and grabbing those issues should be the first stop of anyone who liked this. The earlier Dark Knight issues had a bit of a supernatural bent, but they feature the same David Finch artwork that people know and love. Anyone looking for more of his art should check out his work on Moon Knight and the Ultimatum miniseries. The other Batman stuff he's illustrated isn't super accessible to newer readers, but that doesn't mean they can't appreciate his spreads in Batman: The Return. If you're looking for a story not drawn by David Finch, I'd recommend:

Ongoing: Damaged, published by Radical Comics

Damaged is the tale of two brothers whose lives took very different paths. One of them is among the San Francisco PD's finest, while the other is a vigilante who borrows more from the Punisher than Batman. Written by David Lapham, Michael Schwarz, and John Schwarz, this story lets you see the sort of law versus viglante conflict you may have enjoyed in The Dark Knight's first issue, and has some pretty compelling elements for fans of both hardboiled detective stories and horror fiction. The artwork from Leonardo Manco is a little too static for my tastes, but it's beautifully rendered, and I think David Finch fans will really appreciate it. The art is detailed enough to justify several repeat readthroughs, and the book's team of colorists do a terrific job showing it off. For a better look at Damaged, check out this preview.

Concluded: Batman: Black and White

You'd be hard pressed to find a better showcase for Batman artwork than Batman: Black and White. A collection of short Batman tales, every page features stunningly detailed black and white art. Several artists who influenced Finch, including Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri, worked on this title, and every artist who contributed did a terrific job. There's no shortage of good stories here either. My personal favorite is A Black and White World, a Batman and Joker tale written by Neil Gaiman. Good Evening Midnight, Bent Twigs, and Monsters in the Closet are also gems. Because the tales told here are so short, this is perfect for reading on the bus or in between classes. Fans of motion comics may want to check this out on Amazon Video.

That's it for the Batman titles! Check back in a few days for the rest of the Batfamily.

By Marceline with 1 comment


As someone who's been into comic a couple years, this is the kind of post I love to see in comic blogs. I know where to find the New 52, but here are older comics that I've missed and don't even know about. Keep up the good work.

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