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The 25 Best Batman Graphic Novels of All Time

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DC Comics

On a weekly basis, I write about my love for investing and collecting comic books right here for ONE37pm. I truly love it. I love the commerce of buying an undervalued book and selling it to its forever home at a profit. But that isn't all comics are about and it isn't the main reason I love comics. 

I love to read comics. I was never much of a reader, but graphic novels and collected editions turned me into one. I am very visual and seeing the images depicted in the panels lets my imagination run wild with the stories. Graphic Novels have seen a rise in respect at both the book store level as well as in academia. People are beginning to realize graphic novels are more than just "funny books". 

Also, graphic novels often collect multiple monthly comics which would be expensive to acquire singularly for reading purposes and would involve the reader risking damage to the books. So graphic novels are an amazing way to read the stories that are shaping generations without plopping down big bucks. 

Furthermore, when it comes to a character like Batman, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Batman currently is over his #1000th issue and that can be daunting to new readers. So with that in mind, ONE37pm and I present to you the Best 25 Batman graphic novels you have to read, ranked.

25. Dark Knights: Metal

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DC Comics

This modern Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo classic seemed like a big swing, introducing new evil versions of DC super heroes. Batman is in full Detective mode in this one and the series gave us the debut of The Batman Who Laughs. 

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24. Gotham Central

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DC Comics

This novel actually isn't really about Batman so much as it is about the city he calls home and the police force he regularly bails out. The story really focuses on Jim Gordon and was the inspiration for the Gotham TV show and the upcoming GCPD show. 

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23. Batman: Cult

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DC Comics

This is a really unique Batman story for a few reasons. First, we don't see traditional Batman villains as the main foe, but instead a vicious cult. This book also features fan-favorite Robin with Jason Todd in the role, which is only the case in very few stories before Jason becomes The Red Hood. 

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22. Gotham by Gaslight

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DC Comics

Batman stories tend to give us a little bit of everything. There are honestly Batman stories that would fall under probably a half dozen or more different genres. This story features a noir Detective Batman—a super hero Humphrey Bogart. This is also one of the many stories on this list to inspire an animated feature. 

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21. Batman: Venom

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DC Comics

This isn't an Eddie Brock crossover, but rather a story about Batman fighting against a new super drug that gives its users super strength and causes madness. Venom is the drug Bane takes to go from a normal human to a monster among men. 

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20. Batman: Tales of the Demon

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DC Comics

In this sequel to the Son of the Demon story, we continue the nuanced relationship between Batman and League of Assassins leader Ras Al Ghoul.

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19. Batman Black and White

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DC Comics

Some Batman stories are about the plot, some are about the villains, and some are on this list because of the art. This one falls into the last category as this modern Batman series features art done 100% in Black and White. The series really hits a home run in detailing and you will find yourself turning the pages slowly and admiring the art.

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18. Batman R.I.P.

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DC Comics

This 2008 Grant Morrison madness sees Batman face off against the Black Glove gang. This run of comics was maybe as popular for its covers (done by industry legend Alex Ross_ as it is for the awesome story Morrison unfolds. This story also sees the ascension of Dick Grayson's Nightwing character taken to new heights, temporarily taking the Bat mantle.

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17. Batman: Son of the Demon

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DC Comics

With the sequel to this storyline already landing on the list, you know we had to include the original. Ras Al Ghoul is one of Batman's most formidable villains and this story line really introduces a new reader to the character and his relationship with Batman. We see the effect a father figure can have on Batman. So much of the groundwork for later stories with Talia and Damian is laid here in this classic arc. 

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16. Batman and Robin

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DC Comics

This is one of my favorite graphic novels in all of comics as it features a character I am extremely bullish on front and center; that is, of course, Batman's son Damian Wayne. This story really is a proper intro to Damian after he debuted and is all about his foray into being his father's not so enthusiastic sidekick. 

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15. Death of the Family

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DC Comics

Another follow up, this one came amidst the Snyder and Capullo new 52 run and gave us the return of Batman's greatest villain: The Joker. The story crosses over into every Bat-Family title and—while not as iconic as the original story it was inspired by—it's required reading for Batman fans. 

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14. Batman: Knightfall

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DC Comics

Batman vs Bane! This classic matchup is one that has been depicted several times in live action, animated form and in the pages of the comics, but it originates right here. While not the first Bane appearance, this story Arc features possibility his most important with the iconic back-breaking scene, in which Bane breaks Bruce Wayne's back. 

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13. Dark Victory

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DC Comics

This story has a little bit of everything from mystery to murder. The sequel to the popular Long Halloween story, this murder mystery features a new villain and some familiar foes as Batman tries to stop a serial killer from devastating Gotham. 

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12. The Man Who Laughs

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DC Comics

This story is the follow up to the popular Year One story we will cover later and tells the origin of the first meeting of Batman and his arch nemesis the Joker. The title is an homage to the classic film by the same title, which the character the Joker takes inspiration from. 

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11. Joker

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DC Comics

This Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo classic is less about Batman and more about the man that keeps Batman up at night: the Joker. The story uses a third party to really illustrate the thinking and morality of the clown prince of Gotham and is a great self-contained story to read for anyone who can't get enough Joker. 

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10. Batman Adventures: Mad Love

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DC Comics

You really can't take a hard look at the totality of Batman graphic novels on the market and not acknowledge the impact of the Batman Adventures series. The comic that was inspired by the Bruce Timm and Paul Dini animated show was a big hit with kid collectors in the 1990s and has found relevance years later as those kids grew up and became the buying public. 

Furthermore, the Batman Adventures series features the debut and development of one of modern comics most popular characters in Harley Quinn. 

This story is a great intro for someone trying to get into Harley or who connected with Margot Robbie's character on the big screen and wants to know more about the origins of this character. The story delves into the "mad love" between the Joker and Harley as well as their tumultuous relationship with Batman. 

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9. Batman: The Black Mirror

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DC Comics

The Black Mirror story played out in the pages of Detective Comics and was the last story right before Crisis and the New 52 reboot that would go on to make writer Scott Snyder a household name among Dark Knight fans. This detective story laid the groundwork for so many of the themes Snyder would later build upon. 

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8. Batman: Arkham Asylum

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DC Comics

Batman is awesome in and of himself no doubt, but there are also iconic elements around Batman that make him the most popular comic character today. Things like major villains, his Bat family, the city of Gotham as a whole and more really add to the Dark Knight's mythos. Maybe no background factor plays as much of a consistent role as the prison where Gotham's most vile villains are held: Arkham Asylum. 

This prison has been the inspiration for film, TV, video games and animated features as it often acts as a character in and of itself, filled with a who's who of Batman villains. 

Also, for those Batman fans who love Grant Morrison's signature manic style, this is the writer's debut with the character and a real tone-setter for some of the stories to come after it. 

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7. Batman: Hush

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DC Comics

This classic early 2000s story is seeing a renaissance as it was declared as the inspiration for a 2019 animated feature. The story introduced us to the new villain Hush but also laid the groundwork for a potential romance between Batman and Catwoman, one that has been heavily explored in recent years by Batman writer Tom King. 

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6. Batman: The Long Halloween

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DC Comics

This is one of my personal favorite Batman stories and the story to read now before the Robert Pattinson run as Batman when The Batman hits theaters. This story inspires both that film (along with Year One) as well as an upcoming animated feature. Much more of a detective story than most, this graphic novel is a mystery that plays out like an episode of Law and Order set in Gotham City. A whole cast of villains appear as Batman tries to figure out who is at the hands of some gruesome murders in Gotham. 

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5. The Court of Owls

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DC Comics

The very first arc in the rebooted New 52 from 2011, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo did something that many people thought was impossible in reinventing the world of this 70 plus year old superhero by adding the element of The Court of Owls. This story arc was an instant hit and sent back issue prices skyrocketing. 

The story line has inspired multiple retellings in animated form as well as on the TV Series Gotham. The secret society has been totally integrated into Gotham's lore. This is maybe the most modern of any of the truly iconic Batman stories. 

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4. A Death in the Family

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DC Comics

This is the original Death in The Family story arc that set comic book newsstands on fire. The Jim Starlin classic allowed fans to vote on the fate of its characters, resulting in the brutal death of a member of the Bat family at the hands of the Joker. This death would forever change Batman and also set Jason Todd on the path to become the cult popular Red Hood in the 2000s. 

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3. Batman: Year One

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DC Comics

We really can't take a deep dive into Batman graphic novels without looking at this classic retelling of Batman's origin. This story arc has been the inspiration for so much that we have seen on film and really reset Batman on a clear path when the arc debuted on newsstands in the 1980s. It gives context to the anger and drive Bruce Wayne feels and shows the events that set him on his path as well as how the young Bruce reacted to them. It seems like this will continue to be a storyline that Hollywood will pull from when looking at Batman's origin as a base for their storytelling. 

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2. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

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DC Comics

This is THE Batman story I would recommend to anyone who isn't a big comic reader who is looking for a self contained Batman narrative. This one was originally an elseworlds story and has really become a part of the Batman mythos over the years. 

I think this is a great jumping on point for a generation who grew up with Christian Bale and Ben Affleck as their Batman, as both film franchises are set largely in the world of DKR. This dark and brooding Batman was a departure from the campy detective of the past and has resonated with a whole generation of movie-goers. 

What a lot of people don't realize is the man who wrote this classic, Frank Miller, is also the man responsible for cross-genre hits like Sin City and 300. 

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1. The Killing Joke

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DC Comics

This is the quintessential Batman vs. Joker story. This is especially recommended to those who have read or watched many Batman—or specifically Batman vs. Joker stories—as this graphic novel added nuance and perspective to the relationship that had never been seen before. This story begs the question: "Is Batman really a good guy? The ending will leave you guessing and probably arguing, what happened? Did he kill him? Arrest him? Who knows. And I kind of like the mystery about it.  

Also for DC animated fans, there is an animated feature of the Killing Joke, but viewers beware as they changed some details of this classic storyline and received backlash from Killing Joke die-hards, so do not simply skip the source material in favor of the easier watch.

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Conclusion:

By now, if you have taken the time to peruse the many Batman offerings listed above, you undoubtedly see that there is a litany of stories to choose from. And these are just the very best; Batman has a more than 80 year history of stories one can lose themselves in. What makes Batman such a unique character is the different genres he plays in and upon. Whether you like superheroes or not, mystery, love, family, duty and honor are all themes used as inspiration for stories and depending on what story you read and whose perspective it comes from can largely shape and even change your opinion on the characters of Gotham City. 

Batman is a timeless character and I suspect we will see Bruce Wayne patrol the streets of Gotham forever. And if DC ever does decide to let the character rest, there is a whole new crop of heroes ready to take the cowl like Damian Wayne, Luke Fox and Terry McGinnis. 

Like any list of this nature, there is always room for personal interpretation and debate. I want to know: What is your favorite Batman story? Hit me up on social media @akamrbolo on Twitter or @aka_mr.bolo on IG and let me know your favorite story from the Dark Knight.

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