We’re in the final countdown before Matt Reeves‘ The Batman hits theaters and before you dive into your popcorn and enter into a dark theater for three hours, why not brush up on some literature? The dark knight is certainly one of DC’s most successful superheroes, spawning multiple films, television shows, animated series, and of course thousands of comics. From the plethora of tales, we’ve selected nine that you simply must revisit (or read for the first time!). Some are notable for their connection to the film, as Reeves has noted that he has drawn inspiration from multiple comics, others simply embody the ambiance and aesthetic of the world’s greatest detective. If any of them pique your interest, the titles are available to read on DC Universe Infinite right now!

The Long Halloween (1996)

Long Halloween
Credit: DC Comics

Written by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Tim Sale, colored by Gregory Wright, lettered by Comicraft and Richard Starkings

An absolute classic when it comes to the dark knight and a story that both Matt Reeves and Christopher Nolan pulled direct inspiration from for their films. While Nolan leaned into the storyline with Harvey Dent, specifically the alliance that Batman, Jim Gordon, and Dent form to fight crime, Reeves is clearly mining from the mob storyline. With Carmine Falcone and Selina Kyle playing a large part in The Batman it’s worth revisiting this classic to brush up on the source material. On top of it all, Batman chases a serial killer named the Holiday Killer, a similar circumstance to what the dark knight will face in the upcoming film with the Riddler on the loose. — Therese Lacson

Gotham Central #19-22 “Unresolved” (2004)

Gotham Central
Credit: DC Comics

Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudino, colored by Lee Loughridge, lettered by Clem Robbins

If you truly want to see the villains of Gotham wreak havoc in the real-world, Gotham Central offers one of the best comics to do so. Beyond being the perfect pulp take, a true crime book from the perspective of the detectives who have to outsmart supervillains, its resulting treatment of Batman’s Rogues Gallery as serious operatic characters no matter who is without peer. The “Unresolved” story arc is about Mad Hatter, not Riddler, (though mob ties Penguin shows up a few times to get assaulted by isn’t-he-retired Harvey Bullock), but I can think of no better story to show how just far into darkness you can go with seemingly ridiculous characters. Mind control, murder, and a twisted moral code. This series can be a traumatizing blunt force (the Mr. Freeze sundering in the first issue, the Joker sniper arc, “Keystone Kops” by co-writer Greg Rucka) but also has a lot of heart. The drama, the triumph, the loss, it’s all real, too. — Arpad Okay

Catwoman: The Dark End of the Street (2004)

Catwoman Dark End of the Street
Credit: DC Comics

Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, inked by Cameron StewartMike AllredDarwyn Cooke, colored by Matt Hollingsworth

While recency bias would certainly also put Cliff Chiang‘s Catwoman: Lonely City on this list, Catwoman: The Dark End of the Street is perhaps a more fitting title for this list. After the apparent death of Catwoman, Selina Kyle reutrns in a new costume and hunts down a serial killer who is preying on sex workers. Compelled by her friend Holly Robinson, she heads for the rooftops to seek out justice. The infamous burglar of Gotham City gets her own noir mystery to solve all while living in the grey between hero and villain (who could really ever call Selina Kyle a villain?). While The Batman does not feature any prominent Catwoman story as inspiration, perhaps the potential success of the series will offer Zoë Kravtiz her own story as Selina? — Therese Lacson

Batman #404-407 “Year One” (1987)

Batman year One
Credit: DC Comics

Written by Frank Miller, illustrated by David Mazzuchelli, colored by Richmond Lewis, lettered by Todd Klein

Despite its aged faults, “Year One” still deserves its status as a GOAT-tier Batman story. It also remains the quintessential retelling of his origin; despite largely being the basis for 2005’s Batman Begins, it was again cited by Matt Reeves as an inspiration for The Batman. The art may be its most enduring feature; David Mazzuchelli is a master of the comics form, and I always find something new to appreciate about his understated visual storytelling. It also captures what we love so damn much about Batman, including his flair for the dramatic, his willingness to do what’s right no matter how foolish or difficult it may seem, and his love of smoke bombs. Plus, it might still be the best take on Jim Gordon, the only good cop in Gotham City, as he forges an uneasy alliance with Batman, the only good billionaire. Whether you’re a seasoned Batman reader or new to comics altogether, “Year One” is a must-(re)read. — Gregory Paul Silber

Batman #1-11 “The Court of Owls” (2011-2012)

Batman Court of Owls
Credit: DC Comics

Written by Scott Snyder, penciled by Greg Capullo, inked by Jonathan Glapio, colored by FCO Plascencia, lettered by Richard Starkings

For a modern, accessible Batman story that isn’t another origin, the Court has judged this one of your best bets. The Court of Owls – a spooky cult in Gotham’s underground operating so secretly that even Batman just recently found out about them – is easily one of the best 21st-century additions to Batman’s rogues’ gallery. Considering that the titular arc in which they first appeared was cited as an inspiration for The Batman, hopefully, we’ll see them on the big screen soon. In the meantime, you can learn everything you need to know about them from this storyline. It makes excellent use of writer Scott Snyder’s background as a horror writer, plus artist Greg Capullo’s inventive visual language (check out that dizzyingly experimental 5th issue!) marking the beginning of a consistent creative partnership that continues over a decade later. The “Night of the Owls” event had some solid crossovers too if you’re so inclined, especially Nightwing. — Gregory Paul Silber

Batman: Ego and Other Tails (2007)

Batman Ego
Credit: DC Comics

By Darwyn Cooke featuring Paul Grist, Bill Wray, and Tim Sale, with Matt Hollingsworth, Dave Stewart, Jonathan Babcock, and Rich Parker

In this collection of comics, pin-ups, and covers (originally published between 2000 and 2004), writer and artist Cooke’s vision of Batman and Catwoman are spotlighted. In the title story, Bruce Wayne has a psychotic break and encounters an apparently physical manifestation of “the Bat,” forcing the man beneath the cowl to face the reasoning behind the traits that define him in the public imagination. Then, in the longest story in the book, Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score, we see Selina pull tough guy Stark out of retirement for one last heist… at the expense of one Frank Falcone. This story features a shifting perspective that gives Selina, Stark, and Detective Slam Bradley each the chance to narrate the story. Rounding out the collection are a few additional short comics that focus on various aspects of Batman’s psyche, including one written by Grist and illustrated by Cooke that concludes with the Dark Knight tripping his face off on a Gotham City rooftop. — Avery Kaplan

Batman #21-33 “Zero Year” (2013-2014)

Batman Zero Year
Credit: DC Comics

Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, penciled by Greg Capullo and Rafael Albuquerque, inked by Danny Miki, colored by FCO Plascencia and Dave McCraig, lettered by Nick J. Napolitano

There was a lot of skepticism surrounding “Zero Year” when it was announced. How could Batman’s New 52 origin story hold a candle to “Year One”? By going in a radically different direction. Just a quick glance at FCO Plascencia’s colors, with those hot pink Gotham skies, is enough to see that Snyder, Capullo, et al aren’t interested in retreading territory previous stories of young Batman have already covered, and “Zero Year” is better for it. There’s no shortage of dark and gritty Batman origins if that’s what you’re looking for — “Zero Year” is not that, and that’s why it’s so special. This is the one where Batman rides a dirtbike with exposed biceps and wrestles a lion. It’s bold, badass, and surprising, with moments of laugh-out-loud humor for good measure. It’s also easily one of the best modern Riddler stories, so don’t be surprised if Paul Dano’s version takes some cues. — Gregory Paul Silber

The Batman Adventures #1 “Penguin’s Big Score” (1992)

Batman Adventures Penguin
Credit: DC Comics

Written by Kelley Puckett, penciled by Ty Templeton, inked by Rick Burchett, colored by Rick Taylor, lettered by Tim Harkins

You can read my review of the reprint for more on what makes this debut issue, and the entire Batman Adventures series so great, but let’s talk about it in the context of the Penguin’s appearance in the upcoming film, as portrayed by Colin Farrell. First of all, “Penguin’s Big Score” might still be the best Penguin story in the 30 years since it was published. There’s been a curious lack of comics centering Oswald Cobblepot in the past few decades, which is weird considering how great of a foil he can be to Bruce Wayne when written well. I suspect the film will lean into that relationship. Plus, it would be fun if Farrell’s (fat suit-enhanced) Penguin shares the penchant for malapropism that writer Kelley Puckett gave him. That language quirk goes a long way in characterizing Cobblepot as someone who’s too deluded to realize that as much as he fancies himself a cultured aristocrat, all his money can’t change the fact that he’s just as much the boneheaded crook as his henchmen. — Gregory Paul Silber

Batman: Hush (2002)

Batman Hush
Credit: DC Comics

Written by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Jim Lee, inked by Scott Williams, lettered by Richard Starkings, coloring by Alex Sinclair

Featuring a whole slew of Batman’s rogues’ gallery, the primary reason Hush deserves a spot on this list is for the mystery at the heart of the series and Batman and Catwoman’s romantic potential. While it’s obvious from the trailers in The Batman that we will see Bruce and Selina dancing around each other in the movie, Hush takes it to a whole new level. The will-they-won’t-they dynamic reaches new heights while Batman is haunted by a mysterious figure named Hush. Although it’s obvious the film will feature Riddler and Penguin as the main enemies, when looking into Bruce Wayne’s family and his past, it’s good not to forget one Thomas Elliot and his relationship with the Waynes. Therese Lacson


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