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Your Batman Reading Order: How to Catch Up on The Dark Knight

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Chris M. Arnone

Senior Contributor

The son of a librarian, Chris M. Arnone's love of books was as inevitable as gravity. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri - Kansas City. His novel, The Hermes Protocol, was published by Castle Bridge Media in 2023 and the next book in that series is due out in winter 2024. His work can also be found in Adelaide Literary Magazine and FEED Lit Mag. You can find him writing more books, poetry, and acting in Kansas City. You can also follow him on social media (Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, website).

With recent excitement and some dismay over the upcoming film The Batman, it seems everyone wants a piece of The Dark Knight’s lore. While there are movies and TV shows abound, Batman has been around since he was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939. Eighty-one years is a lot of reading, but you don’t need to read it all to understand Batman. Here’s your Batman reading order to catch you up.

New Beginnings Reading Order

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

No, you don’t need to start with Detective Comics #27 to understand the modern Batman. DC Comics published Year One in 1987, and it’s the definitive origin story for Batman. This book is so important, its influences are obvious in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and the pilot for Batman: The Animated Series. This is where every Batman reading order begins.

A Family Affair Reading Order

Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

As much as I love Batman and his colorful rogues gallery, my favorite stories are ones like The Long Halloween, focusing more on realistic criminals and personal dilemmas. This book centers heavily on Harvey Dent and his fall from heroic prosecutor to Two-Face. It also deals with a serial killer, organized crime, and the relationship between Batman and Alfred Pennyworth, his long-time butler and father figure.

The 1990s and 2000s Reading Order

Batman: Knightfall

As a kid who came into comics in the early 1990s, Knightfall was all anyone was talking about. The story crossed through all the Batman titles, bringing their collective writers and artists into the same narrative for a full year. In Knightfall, a new villain named Bane arrives, who terrorizes Gotham and eventually breaks Batman’s back. Bruce then appoints Jean-Paul Valley, formerly known as Azrael, to take up the cape and cowl as the new Batman.

Damian and Death Reading Order

Batman and Son by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert

Because you can never have enough Robins, DC Comics brought in Grant Morrison to introduce Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul (that Bruce totally didn’t know about). The dynamic between Damian and Bruce is unlike any other Batman/Robin dynamic, with Bruce having to train the homicidal assassin tendencies out of his only child.

The New 52 Reading Order

Batman: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

DC Comics likes its reboots. They like to toss aside the trappings and blessings of continuity to start fresh. The New 52 was one of these reboots, and it included a prolific run on Batman from Snyder and Capullo. The Court of Owls is introduced here as an old shadow organization pulling the strings of Gotham City, and Batman is having none of it.

Rebirth Reading Order

Batman: I Am Gotham by Tom King and David Finch

I said DC Comics likes their reboots, right? 2016’s Rebirth was the most recent of these reboots, though the Batman titles didn’t feel the changes quite as much as some other titles. King and Finch took over Batman with a new #1 and introduced a pair of new superheroes to Gotham, ushering in the current volume of Batman.

Notable Elseworlds

The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

Elseworlds was a term DC Comics applied to non-canonical, usually alternative-reality stories, now called DC Black Label. The Dark Knight Returns is one of the most famous Batman stories ever, in which a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to defend Gotham City from a new, hyperviolent gang called The Mutants. It’s dark, gritty, and pushes back against all the camp that came before it.

Of course in 81 years of storytelling, there are books I’ve left out. There are 48 years of stories between that first appearance of Batman and Batman: Year One. If you’re looking to start reading Batman for the first time or just trying to catch up, you’ll certainly find what you need in this Batman reading order.