Essential Reading: The best Batman comics to read before playing Arkham City

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Not everyone is that familiar with the caped crusader. Sure, we all know the origin. Young Bruce Wayne witnesses the murder of parents before his very eyes, and spends the next decade and a half honing his mind, body and spirit so that he can spend nights fighting crime and terrifying criminals, while dressed as a giant bat.

But over the decades, the character has evolved, to be more than just a regular vigilante. He’s become one of the most dangerous characters in the modern day comic universe, a remorseless tactician who will not budge on his war against crime.

So if you’re eager to learn more about some of the Dark Knights finest escapades, and the books that shaped him into the modern day detective and crime-fighter that he is today, sit back and enjoy the following feature.

Batman Year one

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By Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

This wasn’t just a great Batman tale, it was the story that set a precedent for his world and continues to influence him to this day. Grounded firmly in reality, this was the Batman tale that examined the motivations behind Bruce Wayne and his vigilante vision for Gotham City, while also fleshing out his supporting friend and police force ally James Gordon considerably.

Mazzucchelli’s iconic art also paved the way for a character that looked real, yet frightening, while the writing relied less on goofy cameos from other DC Universe characters, and kept the main antagonists to a city that had thoroughly corrupted its politicians and police force, with gangsters running around as they pleased behind the scenes.

DC even adapted the mini-series into an animated feature, which is due for official release soon, so if you don’t plan on reading the book, at least have a look at this more sombre take on the popular character.

Joker

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By Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo

When it comes to villains, Batman has plenty, but the Joker will always remain his deadliest foe. There have been numerous interpretations of the character over the years, from a comedic theme-based nuisance, to a deadly murderer whose personality can unpredictably shift from harmless to lethal, but this particular graphic novel showed how ugly the character really was, both inside and out.

While we hardly ever see Batman himself, there are plenty of members from his rogues gallery that make an appearance, all seen from the eyes of a low level mob enforcer by the name of Johnny Frost. These are terrifying criminals, real and ready to kill, while Lee Bermejo brings a photorealistic quality to the art that crackles and snaps with energy throughout the well-written plot.

Less a Batman story and more a tale of the Joker, this book shows exactly how dangerous a man that has gone completely off the edge of sanity can be.

Final Crisis

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By Grant Morrison, Carlos Pacheco and Doug Mahnke

One of the weirder and more convoluted mega-events put out by DC Comics, this epic storyline still reinforces one enduring idea about the Dark Knight, namely his relentless drive to fight crime in all its forms, from street thug to cosmic threat, even if it kills him in the process.

Knocked out and held prisoner by the New God, Darkseid, Batman and his allies are powerless to stop the villain from taking over the planet, as he enslaves the entire populace of the world, supplanting their free will with a twisted version of his own.

With Darkseids scientists attempting to make clones of the caped crusader, they all come across one startling revelation. None of them can handle the psychological stress that he endures on a daily basis, with all the clones choosing to rather commit suicide than live another minute in his boots.

The penultimate issue ends with an epic stand-off between a god and a man, but for a look into the psyche of Bruce Wayne, it shows just how far he is willing to go to do the right thing.

Batman: Hush

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By Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee

While the Frank Miller penned Year One set the stage for who Batman was, very few writers had taken the time to actually improve upon that personality, allowing for the character to stagnate and become predictable.

And then Hush was published, a storyline that pushed the Batman to new heights, pitting him against his entire rogues gallery over the course of a year. Unprepared for the onslaught of danger coming his way, this storyline involved numerous characters at a breakneck plot with left exposition in the dust for some well drawn action sequences.

Hush also set new precedents for the Batman universe and for his status quo amongst his allies and associates, with numerous follow up series building upon that story for years to come

Batman: Knightfall

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Various

Just why do your comic book friends smile and nod whenever they play Arkham Asylum, and hear Bane utter the lines “I will break you Batman!”, only for him to quickly retort, “No Bane, this time I break you!”.

Back in the early nineties, DC Comics embarked on an epic storyline for the caped crusader, that saw him pushed to his limit, broken, injured and having to pass his mantle on to a character that was in the end, a few screws loose.

The Bat may have been broken by the end of the first arc, but when the storyline was finally concluded, he was rebuilt to be better than ever., ready for the challenges he was to face in the coming years.

Batman: Arkham City

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By Paul Dini and Carlos D’Anda

What, you didn’t think that DC would ignore the opportunity to publish a limited issue series that tied directly in to the upcoming game, did you? With art from Carlos D’Anda, who was responsible for design and for drawing up the character files for both games from the Rocksteady games, as well as having Paul Dini back on script duties, this was a tie-in that was less mediocre and more enjoyable than the usual fluff that studios put out.

 

And there you have it, a quick look at some essential reading material if you want to start getting into the Batman world. There are plenty more great books out there, from the Black and White Editions, to the epic No Mans Land trade paperbacks, so let us know in the comments what some of your favourite bat-titles were.

Last Updated: October 20, 2011

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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