Welcome to the Batverse. Enjoy your stay. Below is a list of readings for the contemporary or Post-Crisis Batman, in the chronological order in which these events unfolded (regardless of the publication date of certain readings). To follow the evolution of Batman in a linear fashion, new readers should check out the books below in the order in which they are mentioned. Some of the books that are mentioned or suggested are not about Batman strictly (like Robin: Year One and Batgirl: Year One) but they are nonetheless important reading for Batman and the events they portray are defining ones that influence a great deal of future stories.
Simply click on the links to view the issues corresponding to each story.
Origins and Early Years
Batman: Year One: The definitive Post-Crisis Batman origin story. Explores the death of Bruce's parents, his return to Gotham as a man, and his early trials and errors under the cowl. Introduces several key Batverse characters, including Jim Gordon, his wife Barbara, Sarah Essen, James Gordon Jr, Catwoman, Holly Robinson and Carmine Falcone.
The Man Who Laughs: The definitive Post-Crisis Joker origin story. Events take place immediately after the end of Year One. Also marks the introduction of a vital element of post-Batman Gotham, the Bat-Signal. Since Joker is Batman's most famous nemesis, this story is recommended for new readers as it marks the beginning of their relationship as perpetual adversaries.
- Optionally, new readers may also check out the Batman Confidential story Lovers & Madmen. While this is out of continuity as it differs from the established Joker origin seen in The Man Who Laughs, this story offers fascinating insight into how the Joker's mind works --- as well as being the first chronological appearance of Dr. Jonathan Crane (aka The Scarecrow) and the infamous Arkham Asylum.
The Long Halloween: Considered a classic Batman story, The Long Halloween is a gangster-mystery that introduces characters like Harvey Dent (whose origin as Two-Face is revealed in this story) and Poison Ivy, and deepens ties with existing characters like Catwoman, Jim Gordon and the Falcone crime family.
Dark Victory: A direct sequel to The Long Halloween. Resolves the saga of the Holiday Killer once and for all, and ties up loose plot points from the former story. Most notable for the introduction of Dick Grayson, the first Robin.
Robin: Year One: The early adventures of Dick Grayson as Robin. Not essential for Batman, but recommended considering Grayson's enduring impact on Bruce over the years.
Batgirl: Year One: The story of how Barbara Gordon took up the cowl as Batman's newest sidekick, Batgirl. As with Robin: Year One, this is not essential for Batman, but recommended nonetheless since it provides a context for several future stories.
This section is a break in the chronology. Along with the Joker and Bane, Ra's al Ghul and his daughter Talia are the villains with the most lasting impact on Batman's stories. Recommending introductory reading for Ra's and Talia includes:
Birth of The Demon: The origin of Ra's al Ghul and his enmity with Batman.
Son of The Demon: The evolution of Bruce and Talia's relationship. Talia becomes pregnant and gives birth to a boy, whom she gives up for adoption without Batman's knowledge. This ending is eventually retconned (more on that later as we return to regular chronology) and the boy grows up to be Damian Wayne.
These two stories provide a foundation for readers to understand the relationship between Batman, Ra's and Talia.
Dark Times For The Family
Apologies for the digression. We now return to regular chronology, following Batgirl: Year One.
Nightwing: Year One: Chronicles Dick Grayson's transition from sidekick to independent hero, as he sheds the Robin costume and chooses the name Nightwing. In response to this, Batman finds himself a new Robin: a young car thief in need of direction named Jason Todd. Jason becomes the second Robin.
- Fans of Grayson may follow his adventures in the Nightwing solo series.
- For a more in-depth view of Todd's origin as Robin, read Batman #408-411.
A Death In The Family: Pivotal story in which Jason Todd is killed by the Joker, changing the relationship between the Bat and the Clown forever. This is one of the most famous and influential Batman stories ever told, and its repercussions can be felt to this day.
The Killing Joke: Yet another pivotal story in which the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon through the spine, rendering her paraplegic and ending her career as Batgirl. Its repercussions can be felt to this day.
Man, working for Batman had better come with one hell of a health insurance scheme.
- Barbara's recovery and reaction to the shooting can be viewed in The Batman Chronicles #5.
- Following the end of her career as Batgirl, Barbara decided to put her technological skills to good use, becoming one of the DC Universe's most powerful information brokers under the moniker Oracle. She was established in her very own area of the Batverse as the leader of the all-female superteam Birds of Prey (follow the link to the team's series). This team and series also brought characters like Black Canary and Huntress closer to the Batverse.
A Lonely Place Of Dying: Following the death of Jason Todd, Batman becomes reckless and throws caution to the winds during his vigilante outings, putting his life in danger unnecessarily. A young boy named Tim Drake grows concerned over Bruce's rash behavior, and having independently discovered Batman and Nightwing's real identities, tries to persuade Grayson to don the mantle of Robin once more so that Batman will have someone to watch his back. Series of events later, Drake becomes the new Robin.
- Tim Drake was the third Robin, and a very popular one at that. Like Nightwing, he had his own solo series: Robin. Readers who find him interesting, feel free to check that book out.
Batman: Sword of Azrael: Introduction of the character Jean-Paul Valley. He becomes a major figure in upcoming stories, so this story is recommended for the sole purpose of familiarizing readers with him.
Vengeance of Bane: One-shot issue that delves into the origin of Bane, his arrival in Gotham, and his reasons for starting a war with Batman with Gotham as the prize. The Knightfall Saga begins here, and as such this is recommended reading for a full appreciation of the story about to unfold.
This one's going to take some explaining. Bear with me.
Prelude to Knightfall: In Batman #484-489, Bruce starts to fear he's lost his edge after failing to apprehend Black Mask. He finds it hard to maintain his focus and resolve, and contacts a therapist named Shondra Kinsolving for help. At the same time, he directs Tim Drake to train Jean-Paul Valley in detective work, hoping to make Valley a reliable ally in the war against crime. Against Dr. Kinsolving's advice, Bruce pushes himself further and further, causing his health to deteriorate.
Simultaneously, in Detective Comics #654-656, Bruce's fatigue is underlined more and more clearly, and it is revealed that he is being closely monitored by Bane.
Knightfall: Bane destroys the walls of Arkham Asylum, freeing all its inmates. The effort required to fight and apprehend all the escapees further drains Bruce, leaving him physically and mentally exhausted once they are all captured and he returns to Wayne Manor. Once he arrives home, he is shocked to discover that Bane has been lying in wait for him, having figured out Batman's true identity by observing Bruce Wayne's body language at a social event. After a brutal beating, Bane lifts Bruce up and shatters the Bat's spine over his knee, leaving him paraplegic. He then proclaims himself to be the new ruler of Gotham, and the notoriety of being The Man Who Broke The Bat allows him to easily assume control of the city's thriving underworld.
While in rehabilitation under Dr. Kinsolving, Bruce asks Jean-Paul Valley to don the cowl and take his place as Batman in order to keep the city safe. Despite Bruce's instructions not to confront Bane, Valley attacks the villain one night and barely escapes with his life. Following this defeat, Jean-Paul's mental state starts to crack (as a result of a deep psychological conditioning called the System), and he becomes paranoid and arrogant. He builds a stronger Batsuit (often referred to by fans as the AzBat suit) and confronts Bane once again; this time, he is able to take advantage of the latter's dependency on Venom, deprive him of it, and beat him to within an inch of his life. He manages to stop himself from delivering the killing blow, and Bane is taken away to Blackgate Penitentiary. With Bane defeated, Jean-Paul Valley is acknowledged by Tim Drake to be the new Batman.
Knightquest: The Crusade: Events of The Crusade take place at the same time as the events of Knightquest: The Search (below). This story follows Jean-Paul Valley's tenure as Batman. His System conditioning causes his mind to deteriorate further and further as the story progresses. He locks Robin out of the cave, stating that he does not need help from anyone. He becomes progressively more violent and unbalanced, viciously beating criminals to near-death and straining ties with Bruce's allies like Jim Gordon and Catwoman. He redesigns the AzBat suit, adding more bulk and lethal weaponry, and his mental instability reaches its peak when he willingly lets a serial killer called Abattoir fall to his death, dooming a civilian Abattoir had kept hidden in a secret torture chamber. He becomes driven by the desire to be a more efficient and ruthless Batman than Bruce ever was, deeming it to be his sole purpose in life.
Knightquest: The Search: At the same time, Bruce and Alfred journey to England to rescue Jack Drake (Tim's father) and Shondra Kinsolving when they are kidnapped by Shondra's brother, Benedict Asp. When Shondra and Asp engage in a telekinetic battle, the backlash heals Bruce's back, but shatters Shondra's psyche. Bruce reluctantly signs her into a mental institution, and returns to Gotham.
KnightsEnd: Jean-Paul starts to hallucinate that his dead father is talking to him, commanding him to avenge his murder. Though the murderer was already brought to justice, Valley fixates on a mobster named Penn Selkirk, believing him to be his father's killer.
Bruce returns to Gotham and is initially impressed by the results Valley's approach to crime-stopping has brought, but when Robin informs him of the circumstances surrounding Abattoir's death, he confronts Valley in the Batcave. Valley proclaims Bruce to be a failure, maintains that he is the one true Batman, and orders Bruce to leave the cave and never return. Bruce realizes that it is his responsibility to bring down Jean-Paul, and decides to train under legendary assassin Lady Shiva to renew his skills following his period of invalidity.
His skills renewed, Bruce dons the cowl once again and starts to build back his confidence. Meanwhile, Jean-Paul hunts down Selkirk, only to find Batman standing in his path. After a pitched battle with Bruce, Dick and Tim, Jean-Paul escapes back to Wayne Manor, only to find Bruce waiting for him there. In a climactic battle, Bruce manages to lure Jean-Paul into a dark, narrow space that forces him to shed his armor, and then finally emerges in front of Valley in a burst of light. The sight of Bruce standing before him in the Batsuit brings Valley to his knees, and he concedes defeat with the words "You are Batman.....you've always been Batman....and I am nothing.....". Bruce tells Jean-Paul that he will not take him to the police since it was his decision to let him don the cowl, and thus Valley's actions were his responsibility. Valley is grateful and leaves Wayne Manor, wandering the streets of Gotham by himself.
The Knightfall Saga ends here