Recommend some Batman

Now that Arkham Asylum is finished, I’m kind of jonesing for some more Batman action. I’ve read the standard Batman canon as far as the usual best of goes (DKR, Greatest Ever Told, Killing Joke, Death in the Family, etc.), but I’m looking for stuff that’s good from the last 5-10 years or so released in TPB form. One-shots, Elseworlds stuff, regular series stuff, whatever. Batman solo or team-up stories that feature Batman being awesome (think Morrison-era JLA) are fair game. I just want some quality Dark Knight action that I haven’t already read.

Already on the shelf are:

DKR, DKSA, Knightfall/Knightsend, Prodigal, Contagion, Legacy, Cataclysm, No Man’s Land, Hush, Long Halloween, Dark Victory, the Dini run of Detective, Killing Joke, Man Who Laughs, Joker, Year One and most of the Batman-centric Elseworlds books.

Any ideas for additions to the library?

I really liked Matt Wagner’s two Batman books (Batman and the Monster Men and Batman and the Mad Monk), which are a sort of continuation of Year One intended to bring some of the supernatural elements from early comics into the modern ones. I also liked his book Faces, but I think it’s harder to find.

Paul Pope did a sci-fi take on Batman called Year 100 that, if you like Pope’s art, which shockingly some people don’t, is stunning. It was even going to be anthologised in one of the Year’s Best Comics books, but there was some problem with rights.

Finally, Grant Morrison’s recent Batman run was, I thought, generally great, with The Black Glove being the real high point. (Caveat here: I’m a Morrison fan, and I liked Batman: R.I.P., so feel free to mock my tastes mercilessly.) His new ongoing Batman and Robin series has been excellent too, but so far it’s only up to the second issue.

Gotham Central. Always liked these kind of “from the street level” stories.

I liked the Andy Diggle run from Batman Confidential, which was the first 5 or so of those. He pits Batman against Lex Luthor.

And there’s Red Son, but just because the hat is awesome.

Surprised that Son of the Demon isn’t on your list, Matt. Unless you’re counting it as an Elseworlds story. It’s a classic Barr Batman story that wasn’t really meant to be an Elseworlds story, but ended up being considered so for nearly twenty years before Grant Morrison decided ‘well, okay, that happened’. It’s probably the best R’as al Ghul story ever written. It’s been said that sales of Son of the Demon were responsible for putting DC on top for the first time in fifteen years.

I just picked up Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader”, which he has been working on for quite a while. There’s a hardcover “deluxe edition” that includes a couple other Batman comics Gaiman has written.

It’s fine, especially if you like Gaiman’s style of mythology-wankery. One of the bonus comics is better than the main attraction though, in my opinion. It’s all very Gaiman-y though.

Does that reference Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow in any way other than the title?

Nah, there’s no other connection. Mainly I think DC wanted that title so they could issue “Whatever Happened” hardbacks for the Gaiman-written Batman and the Moore-written Superman simultaneously.

It is a “Final Batman story” the way Man of Tomorrow was a “Final Superman story”.

But because of Gaiman’s particular predilections (and arguably the nature of the characters), the story comes out completely differently (ie, no army of villains besieging the BatCave).

I’ll second those recommendations: puts a bit more of an old-school pulp spin on Bats than the mainline titles.

The graphic novel of Arkham Asylum (didn’t want it confused with the game) is very good.

Or if you want very, very bad Batman, find Batman/Spawn and/or Spawn/Batman. Both are horrible; the one with McFarlane worst of all.

Oh, I bought and read the Spawn/Batman books back when they came out. Even back then in the middle of the Image craze, I don’t remember anyone thinking they were worth the paper they were printed on.

I’ll give Son of the Demon and Year 100 a shot. Those have intrigued me from bookstore shelves before. Keep the suggestions going, though, I read fast. And probably other people will be wanting some Batman recommendations after they finish the game, too.

Many years ago, Wizard magazine was asked “Which one burns faster: Batman/Spawn or Spawn/Batman” and their response was “We don’t know, but we’re going to have fun finding out!”

Looking back, I realize that the Miller/McFarlane one was a direct precursor to how much DKSA would suck.

It’s this kind of thing that makes me glad that the worst comic* I’ve ever owned is Wolverine: Enemy of the State. I’m so ashamed to own it that I don’t keep it on my main bookshelves, nor my spare bedroom bookshelves but have it locked safely in my hall closet. Though I keep seeing references to a comic called Batman/Predator by Dave Gibbons and become lost in the dichotomy of “It’s by one of the creators of Watchmen” / “It’s called Batman/Predator”, so Wolverine may soon gain some company.

Another decent, lesser known Batman book is Strange Apparitions by Steve Englehart. I was reminded of it by someone saying Son of the Demon was the book that put DC ahead of Marvel for a while - I’d heard the same thing about Strange Apparitions. It’s perhaps most notable for the Joker-fish story.

I loved Gotham Central too (The Brubaker books more than Rucka’s, I think), but they’re only tangentially about Batman, so I wasn’t sure about recommending them.

(I’m well aware, by the way, that this is my second post and I’m coming off as incredibly nerdy. To expiate all this, I’d like to point out that in the unlikely event someone makes a good Superman game, and someone subsequently asks for Superman comic recommendations, the only thing of which I will be able to think will be All-Star Superman.)

*collection, at least. I’ve read some dreadful single issues that were recommended to me by putative friends.

This is going to seem like it’s coming out of left field Matt, but have you ever read the first Batman vs Predator? I think it may have been the first crossover comic Dark Horse did with a completely different brand, and despite the fact that it would eventually lead to the shittiness of Superman/Aliens and Judge Dredd vs Aliens and Superman and Batman vs Aliens vs Predator, it’s actually a pretty good read. It’s written by Dave Gibbons and features art from Andy Kubert at the top of his game. It holds up surprisingly well, especially considering that ‘vs Predator’ is hardly considered a sign of quality.

Just don’t read the second or third series. They get progressively worse.

I was going to make some recommendations, but I just gave that book a decent review over on GoodReads, so perhaps I’d best not.

I mean it does what comics are supposed to do, right?

Anyway, if you haven’t been reading Morrison’s recent run from the start I highly recommend it. Definitely works on its own, and references a bunch of different points in the history:
Batman and Son
The Ressurection of Ra’s Al Ghul
The Black Glove
Batman: R.I.P.

It’s Morrison, so it goes mad from time to time, but he’s learned to plug his craziness back into the main plot, so it works.

Mad Love is also awesome.

Regarding Enemy of the State: a friend of mine absolutely loves it and is a big fan of Mark Millar, so I’m well aware that, at least going by sales figures, my distaste for his work generally and that book in particular puts me squarely in the minority. Millar’s alleged strengths and weaknesses are pretty well-known; he’s not a writer whose work really rewards or supports detailed analysis, so I’m just going to give my objection to Enermy of the State and move on. You actually nailed it on the head when you said “it does what comics are supposed to do”. Quite simply, to me it’s a very fan-service book - “Hey,” Millar asks, “what would happen if Wolverine fought like, Electra and, um, the Fantastic Four, and Daredevil, maybe?” - written by a rabid Wolverine fan - “Duh,” Millar answers, “Wolverine’d beat them all, dummy.”

To be more precise, it’s the Platonic ideal of the comic people imagine when you tell them you read comics and they wrinkle their nose at you.

Or to be even more precise, I’m sorry. I loved Morrison’s Batman run too, so at least we agree there? Thanks for recommending Mad Love, by the way. I’d never heard of it before and have now ordered it from Amazon.

I haven’t read the Resurrection of R’as Al Ghul because from what I understood, Morrison had only one issue in the whole series. Is it actually worth reading?

Dude, that’s not even the best one. The best one is "What would happen if Wolverine fought a shark?"

I for one really dig Millar’s stuff when he’s in full superhero mode. I guess he hates doing it or something, but Enemy Of The State is the kind of big, goofy fun that more superhero books should aspire towards.

Fair enough, I like that kind of thing too. I’m a big fan of Ellis’ Nextwave and some of Matt Fraction’s stuff.

And the second half is kind goofy.

I picked it up out of the library, so perhaps that makes me more disposed to be kind to it.

I haven’t read the Resurrection of R’as Al Ghul because from what I understood, Morrison had only one issue in the whole series. Is it actually worth reading?

Yeah, I didn’t read anything Morrison didn’t write, so I didn’t realize that he only has one issue in the collection.