The 19 Best Batman Graphic Novels: The Definitive List

Batman is one of the best superheroes ever. His comics are always best sellers, and he has received rave reviews in all sorts of media.

This article will provide a list that ranks the best Batman graphic novels in no particular order. The criteria for picking each book is based on its success with readers, critical acclaim, and how well it fits into an overarching timeline or theme.

First let’s start with the big list, which I have assembled here in a convenient round up. But if you really want to know my logic behind everything that I put here, be sure to read on. I’ve got summaries, rationales for my list placement, and detailed information about each title.

So let’s dive into it.

19. Batman R.I.P.

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Batman R.I.P. is a work by Grant Morrison which is about a group called the black glove, who set their sites against Batman. It’s their intention to break him, mentally and physically.

This graphic novel is best known for its design, writing and the way it ties into other Batman stories. It’s a really complex and layered comic that really delves into Batman psychology, which makes it one of the best items on this list.

This is best read as part of a collection of graphic novels about Batman. This one has an overarching theme that makes sense if you’re reading along with other Batman comics.

The best part of this graphic novel is that it’s the best place to start if you want to get into Grant Morrison’s writing or if you’re interested in some beautiful artwork by Tony Daniel.

18. The Court of Owls

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The Court of Owls is one of the landmark graphic novels in more recent years, and has already made its way into various aspects of television and film. It tells of a secret society, known as the court of owls, that has been manipulating events in Gotham for years. Batman comes against them during the course of the graphic novel, but they aren’t so easy to get rid of.

This best selling graphic novel comes from the creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.

The best part about this book would have to be its plot twists and turns, as well as the incredible artwork. Scott Snyder is at his best in this particular book, making it seem as if the court of owls has been there the entire time, even though they weren’t introduced until this book. It also sets up a number of Easter eggs, prepping for incredible payoff in the future.

17. Batman: Gotham Noir

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Batman: Gotham Noir is best known for its unique style of artwork, which gives it a noir feel. It comes from the creative team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, who are well known in the comics industry, and it was published in 2001.

This book actually takes place in 1949, with Jim Gordon as the main character. Though Batman is part of the title, he actually shows up very little. Mostly it’s about Gordon, and his relationships with his wife and daughter, which are threatened when he enters a relationship with Selina Kyle (also known as Catwoman).

This best selling graphic novel is best known for its dark tone, great writing and the way it ties in with other Batman stories.

The best part about this book is that you can read it without having much background knowledge or being really familiar with anything that comes before it. You don’t have to know much about Gotham city itself either, because they’re basically creating an alternate universe from scratch here. If you want an introduction into comics storytelling then check this one out!

16. Batman: Son of the Demon

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Batman: Son of the Demon is best known for its deep storyline and lasting impact on certain characters. It shows Batman going up against a new villain who has been putting together an army, as well as his relationship with Talia Al Ghul.

Not only is this a great graphic novel to learn about Batman, but it’s also a great graphic novel for Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia Al Ghul. A really delves into the relationship the Batman has with those two characters, and why they are more than just your typical Batman villains.

This best selling graphic novel was first published in 1987, coming from writer Mike W. Barr and artist Jerry Bingham.

Son of the Demon would best be read by those interested in seeing more about Bruce Wayne’s relationships, and discovering the origin of his son, who would eventually become an important figure in the bat family.

15. Gotham by Gaslight

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Gotham by Gaslight is best known for its unique take on the Batman mythos, as well as taking place in an alternate reality. It has nothing to do with any other stories set out before it or after it, and takes place roughly around the late 1800s.

This best selling graphic novel was first published in 1989 and comes from writers Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola. The latter would go on to create Hellboy!

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is best read if you’re interested in seeing a Victorian-era version of Batman who isn’t afraid to use guns. It also shows him going up against some famous characters like Jack the Ripper.

Not only is it a great graphic novel, but it also demonstrates how Batman is a more universal character, that doesn’t necessarily need to be confined to the pages of a modern day setting. This best selling graphic novel has definitely got to be best read by those who are interested in seeing how different interpretations of Batman can make for interesting stories.

14. Batman: Arkham Asylum

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Batman: Arkham Asylum best known for its unique premise and best selling status. It deals with the idea of Batman going to an asylum, one that’s full of many famous villains like Joker, Scarecrow and Two-Face!

The story involves Batman as he is lured into Arkham Asylum, by the Joker and other villains. The story would later go on to inspire the events of the Arkham Asylum video game.

This best selling graphic novel was first published in 1989 by writer Grant Morrison as well as artist Dave McKean. This was the first Batman story from author Grant Morrison, and it’s easy to see why he became such an important writer in the Batman sphere.

Arkham Asylum does best when read if you’re interested in seeing how a lot of these villains interact together within this setting. Not only do we see them deal with each other but also Batman himself. It’s an interesting dichotomy.

This best selling graphic novel is definitely best read by anyone looking to see where some great stories stem from!

13. Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

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Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader best known for its unique take on Bruce Wayne’s death. It deals with themes of depression and grief as well. The story involves the deceased Batman looking on from the afterlife as others pay their respects, and reminisce about Batman’s life.

This best selling graphic novel was first published in 2009 by writer Neil Gaiman (a giant in the publishing industry) and artist Andy Kubert!

It was written as a follow-up to the graphic novel Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, which was written by Alan Moore. Between the two, I can’t think of better comic book writers to tackle two of the most iconic comic book characters. And while this post isn’t about Superman, I would recommend that one as well, read alongside this one.

12. Dark Knights: Metal

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Dark Knights: Metal best known as being one of the most successful comic book series from DC in recent times. The story involves Batman fighting his way through a massive horde of dark multiverse characters, and trying to save Gotham City as well as the world!

This best selling graphic novel was first published in 2017, and is one of the most influential recent comics in the Batman mythos. It has given us several new villains that have quickly become iconic, including the Batman Who Laughs.

It best works when read if you’re a fan of seeing Batman fight a large number of villains simultaneously, all while making use of his vast arsenal of weapons and gadgets to best them in combat. It’s one best read by anyone who loves the idea of big scale battles with lots going on! It’s also great if you like the multiverse.

11. Batman: Gothic

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Batman: Gothic is best known for its use of gothic horror elements, it deals with themes like corruption as well as many other serious topics including loss, revenge and more!

The story gives us a glimpse of Bruce Wayne’s life before his parents were murdered, which tie into a series of other murders in the present day, during Batman’s early days as the titular character.

It does a good job of highlighting the things that Batman is best at, such as detective work. But it’s also a horror story and a thriller, themes that author Grant Morrison is absolutely great at.

I’d recommend it to anyone who wants an early glimpse into Batman lore that isn’t often explored!

10. Joker

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We all know that Batman wouldn’t be much without his biggest nemesis, the Joker. This graphic novel is really all about him. Batman doesn’t take center stage as he does in most of his titles.

Instead this one really tries to get it to the head of the clown Prince of crime, to show how he thinks, and what makes him tick.

It was originally written by Brian Azzarello, with artwork by Lee Bermejo. The artwork alone is stunning, with a gritty realism that really brings the character to life.

It best works when read if you want to see the Joker as his best, without Batman getting in the way. It’s also great for fans of gritty crime stories with a lot of depth!

9. Batman and Dracula: Red Rain

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You might not know that there is actually an alternate universe where Batman is a vampire. We get that story in Batman and Dracula: Red Rain.

In this story, he’s a little bit like Blade from Marvel comics. He fights vampires, but is also a vampire himself, trying really hard not to break his “one rule” to use his vampiric urges against another human.

The series was written by Doug Moench, best known for his work on The Black Knight and Moon Knight, and featured artwork by Kelley Jones, best known for his work on The Sandman and Batman.

It best works if you want to see Batman fight vampires while keeping true to both sides of himself. It’s also great for fans who like supernatural twists on classic characters!

8. Batman: The Black Mirror

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Batman: The Black Mirror is best known for its exploration of the relationship between Batman and Gotham City, as well as what it means to be a hero.

The story involves Dick Grayson, best known as being the first Robin and Nightwing. It also features James Gordon Jr., the son of the James Gordon that we all know and love, as the main villain. In this instance, Dick Grayson is replacing Batman after his disappearance, and a lot of time is spent fleshing out the relationship between him and Commissioner Gordon.

Overall, it’s a great read and a unique spin on a Batman story, one that doesn’t involve Batman at all.

I’d recommend it to anyone who likes the idea of Dick Grayson as the main character, or who wants to see how Gotham City reacts when Batman is gone.

7. Batman: Year One

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If you’ve read a lot of Batman comics, chances are you’ve at least heard of Batman: Year One. It’s one of the best comics in Batman’s history, starting from the very beginning of his journey as the Batman.

This book came out shortly after the crisis on infinite earths event that reset the timeline, and brought all continuities into one. This was therefore a great time to examine the origin story of the major characters like Batman.

The story has influenced many stories to follow, and is largely credited as the main source of inspiration when adapting Batman’s origin to film or television, or to other mediums. Most follow certain events from Batman: Year One in their adaptation.

I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a glimpse at the best version of Batman’s origin story, and is interested in how he became more than just a man.

6. Batman: A Death in the Family

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Though an older comic, A Death in the Family is best known for its infamous death of a major character. This was something that had never happened before, and has only happened very rarely since.

The story involves the Joker as he captures Jason Todd, the new Robin, and it’s up to Batman to save him. Unfortunately Batman is too late, and Robin is killed.

This outcome was decided by a poll of failings, who didn’t actually like Jason Todd as a Robin at the time. And while Jason Todd would eventually become a fan favorite character when he was brought back as the Red Hood, for a long time this was the end of that character.

I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a good example of the best Joker stories, as well as how Batman deals with the real tragedy.

5. Batman: Knightfall

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There’s an iconic image of the villain Bane, holding Batman above his head, then bringing him down crashing onto his knee. This was a climactic moment in the Batman mythos, the moment when Batman’s back was broken, the moment that he lost.

Bane has often been credited as one of the few villains to actually beat that man, though that is an oversimplification. Nevertheless nightfall is one of the most important comics in the history of Batman graphic novels, for this very reason.

It’s best known for the way it changed Batman forever, and how Bane would change from an enforcer to one of his best rogues.

I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to see a great example of what makes good stories with villain protagonists, or for anyone who wants to see Batman fail.

4. Batman: The Long Halloween

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Another great book, the Long Halloween is best known for how it changed Batman’s world. It was one of the longest comics in history published monthly with no month off, and unlike most graphic novels on this list it wasn’t a simple story but actually told several stories at once.

This meant that there were different plot lines running concurrently throughout the graphic novel as a whole. On the one hand was a character who was murdering people only on holidays, and on the other hand is the story of Harvey Dent, the DA officer who would eventually become Two-Face.

A lot of the elements of this classic graphic novel would eventually be used in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night, and has even been adapted into an animated movie. It’s one of the most influential graphic novels related to Batman, as he gave us one of his most iconic villains, but is also a great story in its own right.

3. Batman: Hush

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The best Batman graphic novels are not just about Batman, however. Hush is only best known for its treatment of one major villain but it’s also another great example of how to tell a good story with heroes and villains as opposing parties who have different goals.

Batman must find out what these goals are before he can stop them, or else his life will never be the same again. This was part of an ongoing series that had begun years earlier in 1999, so there were already several other issues that could tie into this particular tale. It’s both a fantastic adventure story that set the stage for a number of important moments in the Batman mythos, most importantly the return of Jason Todd.

It was originally written by Jeph Loeb, with art by the venerable Jim Lee. It’s definitely a must read if you’re looking for the most important stories in Batman’s timeline.

2. Batman: The Killing Joke

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Okay, now we’re getting into the deep stuff.

The Killing Joke is best known for its exploration of the Joker and his relationship with Batman. It shows us why he became what he was, as well as how it ties into Batgirl in some very important ways that would be explored later on. If you want to know more about this classic then check out the classic written by comic book legend Alan Moore himself!

Fair warning, this is one of the darkest stories that has ever been produced about the Dark Knight, and features some adult content, but it is undeniably one of the most important and best written books about Batman, and about the Joker. It is also a pivotal moment for the character of Batgirl, and her father Jim Gordon.

1. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

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Of all of the items on this list, if I could recommend only one, I would recommend The Dark Knight Returns. This is the comic that really put Batman on the map. Before this he was simply a KP crusader, and most people thought of him as the Adam West Batman from the 60s.

This changed all of that, and it remains one of the most important Batman comics to this day. It’s best known for how it changed the character of Batman. He wasn’t this nice guy in tights who always managed to come out on top anymore, he was a gritty vigilante with serious problems, and struggles that would only get worse as time went on.

It takes place in the future, when Batman is older, and when the world has become a little totalitarian. It shows how he brutally deals with these problems, and features a confrontation with none other than Superman. If you want to know why anyone would pick Batman over Superman in a fight, read this comic. You’ll learn why.

And best of all? It features one of the best comic book fights ever written! Check out The Dark Knight Returns today if you’re looking for an amazing read with lots of action, but also some very deep themes about what makes someone into who they are later on in life.

The Dark Knight Returns is considered by many people as the greatest Batman graphic novel ever made, though there are plenty other great ones on this list too. If you want my recommendation, check them all out!

Which is Your Favorite?

Of all of the items on this list, which is your favorite? Are there any that you haven’t read that you would like to start? If so, be sure to leave it your answer in the comments. I would also like to know if you love a particular story that is not on this list.

I hope that this blog post has been helpful to anyone looking for some great stories about Batman! There are dozens of other great ones out there, but these are definitely among my favorites. If I had to recommend just a few though? That would be The Killing Joke, The Dark Knight Returns, and Batman: Year One.

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