Top Ten Essential Batman Stories (and Three You Should Totally Skip)

With Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy now in our rear-view mirrors, it’s safe to say that interest in the Caped Crusader’s ongoing war with the criminal element of Gotham City has never been higher. It’s a good thing that Batman is getting so much press (he deserves it after Batman and Robin nearly relegated him to pop-culture limbo), but the problem is that a majority of movie-goers and television fans think that they know everything about the Dark Knight because they’ve watched The Dark Knight, and that is simply untrue. As good as Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is, the truth is that we have yet to see a Batman movie that honestly succeeds in capturing the true feel of Gotham City’s obsessive guardian (outside of Bruce Timm’s brilliant animated universe). Throughout the decades, Batman has undergone many changes as many different writers have taken on the character, but the essential themes of loss, obsession, justice and vengeance remain constant. These ten gems, birthed from the graphic novels, are not only the single best examples of great Batman stories, but also happen to provide the source material for many moments and set pieces that were blatantly ripped off in Nolan’s films.

Note: Quite a few of these stories have been adapted into DC animated features, so if you absolutely must, you can check those out instead.

10. Year One

YearOneCoverFrank Miller’s 1987 masterpiece, penciled by David Mazzucchelli, chronicles young Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham after years of training abroad, and his subsequent transformation into the crime-fighting vigilante of the order Chiroptera (look it up). The idea of a Batman just starting out, testing out his tools through trial and error, and making mistakes (though never the same mistake twice) gives the character some much-needed humanism. It’s awesome to see an amateur Batman that doesn’t have every single detail plotted out beforehand, relying on instincts and improvisation. Miller also makes the brilliant choice of having much of the story play out through the eyes of one Detective James Gordon, a morally compromised young cop just starting out in Gotham PD who’s about to learn exactly what it takes to be the only honest cop in a den of corruption. Many of the ideas from this story found their way into Batman Begins, including Batman summoning a cloud of bats to cover his escape, and the character of Detective Flass. It’s also worth noting that are no colorful or garish villains in this story, only ordinary criminals and the corrupt officials who have long profited from their actions. This is how Batman introduces himself to them:

There is nothing cooler than this.

9. The Long Halloween

Someone is murdering the family members of crime boss Carmine “The Roman” Falcone, but only on holidays. Who is the serial killer the papers call “Holiday”? Is it the Calendar Man? Harvey Dent? The Riddler? One of Falcone’s own men? Batman aims to find out. Jeph Loeb’s story, combined with Tim Sale’s amazing artwork come together to create an intense and altogether intriguing Batman mystery involving a serial killer, Solomon Grundy and the origin of Two Face. Loeb expertly navigates the psychology of Batman, as well as Bruce Wayne, and brilliantly shows how the two co-exist. He details the beginnings of the Batman/Harvey Dent/Commissioner Gordon partnership portrayed in The Dark Knight, as we see the three not only scheming to take down the biggest crime boss in Gotham, but also figuring out a way to do it clean. As Gordon says: “We can bend the rules, but we can’t ever break them”. All of the best Batman stories play out more like a noir detective story than a scifi superhero tale, and The Long Halloween is no exception. Loeb effortlessly intermixes the bizarre Batman rogues gallery with the more mundane, but just as deadly, mob bosses that in this point in Gotham’s history, still run organized crime.

8. The Killing Joke

The Killing Joke - CoverAs this collection is only two issues long, it’s the shortest entry on this list, but easily the most intense. From the opening panel as Batman enters Arkham Asylum to speak with the Joker, in fact to plead with him to end his insanity before one of them kills the other, he finds not only that the Joker has escaped, but he’s stepping up his game a notch. This was bearded necromancer Alan Moore’s brief foray into the world of the Dark Knight Detective, but damned if he didn’t rock the annals of the Batman mythos for years to come. This was the story that forever set up the Joker as a dangerous and unpredictable psychopath with no moral center and no inhibitions (in the years prior to the 80’s he was always more or less…well…a joke). It’s also one of the first stories to suggest that perhaps Batman is every bit as insane as the super-criminals he hunts down. Of course no review of The Killing Joke would be complete without mentioning the single most far-reaching and long lasting change to the Batman status-quo, which was the crippling of Barbara Gordon, AKA Batgirl.

This is why everyone in Gotham should wear kevlar at all times.

It was a moment that rocked the DC universe. This wasn’t an Elseworlds story or an imaginary tale. The actual Batgirl was actually shot in the stomach and confined to a wheelchair as a paraplegic for years. Brutal.

7. A Death in the Family

107032We gotta be frank here. There’s no way around it. Jason Todd was a toolbag. Knowing that the character, with his anger management issues, smart lip and just overall douche-baggery was widely loathed by the fandom, Batman editor Denny O’Neil sought out a way to remove the character from the books, but wondered if killing him might be viewed as a tad harsh. So comic book fans were given an unheard-of level of editorial control. Ads were run in all DC comics in the months leading up to this story, giving the fans the choice to call one of two 900 numbers to vote for the new Robin to live or die. The gimmick, however, is not the only reason we included this story. Writer Jim Starlin took the opportunity to take Batman global, which was rare in those days, and put him square in the middle of politics and foreign relations with the Middle East. The Joker not only kills Robin, but ultimately gets away with it due to his finagling a position as a UN ambassador for Ayatollah Khomeini himself. Batman’s staunch defense of justice and the law is stretched to the breaking point as the Joker flaunts his diplomatic immunity in front of the Dark Knight, and it takes no less than Superman to stop Bruce from killing him. As much as you hated Jason, you couldn’t help but feel the loss.

6. Knightfall/Knightquest/Knightsend

batman_knightfall_1I just want to take a moment here to shake my fist once again at the cinematic fiasco that was Batman and Robin, because even with Arnold and Uma chewing the scenery for all they were worth, even with the cringe-worthy dialogue, even with Chris O’Donnel’s extreme whinyness, yes even with the bat-nipples, the whole debacle could have been serviceable if they hadn’t gone and ruined one of the greatest, scariest and most bad-ass Batman villains of all time. I’m referring of course, to Bane. This is a guy who was *born* in a South American prison, was given super-steroids, figured out Bruce Wayne was Batman, blew a hole in Arkham Asylum, waited a few weeks, and then when he was at his weakest, WAS WAITING FOR HIM IN THE FREAKING BATCAVE!

You don’t mess with this.

This was the story that shook things up in Gotham for years to come, as Bruce chose a new Batman in the person of costumed vigilante/murderous psychopath Azrael, who promptly went off the deep end while Bruce was out getting his stuff together. I included this whole arc, which went on for well over a year, because it perfectly encapsulates the essence of Batman as a symbol. At his core, Bruce Wayne is  a human being, and ultimately can be hurt, killed or paralyzed, even if it’s only for a little while. The mantle of Batman, however, is immortal and indomitable, and will always go on fighting.

5. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth

250px-ArkhamOf all the characters occupying the dark corners of Batman’s turf within the DC universe, one stands ever in the background, as present as any super-villain or costumed crime-fighter. I’m referring of course to Arkham Asylum. The sanitarium with the revolving doors and most colorful inmates this side of Briarcliff has a personality all it’s own. Written by the legendary Grant Morrison, this story paints a grim and rich mythology for the asylum as interesting as Batman’s own. The story is recognizable enough to anyone who has played the best selling video game. With the Joker at the head of the pack, the inmates of Arkham have taken over and Batman is trapped inside with them, and after a while starts to feel their insanity creeping in at the corners of his cowl. This story is told alongside the story of the asylum’s founder Amadeus Arkham, who ended up becoming a patient in his own facility. The artwork by surreal artist Dave Mckean (who would go on to direct Mirrormask), and the distinctive lettering by Gaspar Saladino give the story a creepy, hallucinogenic feel.

tumblr_lnztqyIXbP1qk6272o1_500

Enjoy the nightmares.

4. Gothic

238102-19713-118203-1-batman-gothicThere are many examples of Gothic literature in which the reader can find themselves immersed in tales of the supernatural and macabre. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey or Johann Wolfgang von Goeth’s interpretation of the German legend of Faustus are some examples that spring readily to mind; stories of monsters and ghouls and demonic pacts. Batman was an innovation in storytelling; the first Gothic *protagonist* of modern myth – a superhero who adapts a creature of the night as his motif. Gothic, our second entry on this list by Grant Morrison takes the regular Batman detective story and adds some truly disturbing otherworldly terrors. The story finds the Dark Knight investigating a string of murders of Gotham crime bosses, which in turn leads to a decades-old mystery of a Gotham serial killer, and then to a centuries-old legend of a German monastery with a tragic history.  The deeper Batman goes, the more unsettling the case becomes, and when it starts to tie in to Bruce Wayne’s past, it looks as though Batman may be dealing with forces he doesn’t quite fathom. Klaus Jansen’s pencils really evoke the darkness of the story. His backgrounds are also astonishing. The Batcave is fully realized, and we see Gotham City as it should be, all sharp angles and dark alleyways. It’s not all somber and spooky however. Alfred’s dry wit is as keen as ever, and there’s even a throwback to the 60’s Batman TV show, as the caped crusader is caught by the antagonist and left in a Rube Goldberg-esque deathtrap. One can almost hear the announcer saying “same bat-time, same bat-channel”.

3. Hush

imagesIn the world of comics, any changes made to the status-quo of a long-established character is likely to evoke anguished cries of impotent geek-rage from every corner of the fanboyosphere. Thus, the guts it took for Jeph Loeb to take the Batman continuity and basically level it in order to tell this year-long story arc is nothing short of super-heroic in and of itself (The fact that most of these changes were undone in later issues by other writers only takes away from it a little bit). Add to that the pencils by the legendary Jim Lee and you have a graphic novel that’s not only fun to look at, but never fails to evoke a response at where DC was willing to go. After years of stagnation we witnessed Batman and Catwoman hooking up, Jason Todd’s grave suddenly empty, an old friend of Batman’s betraying him, one long-time villain reformed, another discovering Batman’s true identity, and a brand new villain introduced. All of Batman’s enemies are coming at him in new ways, atypical of their usual MO’s, and someone else seems to be pulling the strings from behind the scenes; someone who undoubtedly knows his most guarded secrets. Loeb makes some risky moves in the course of his run, not the least of which was opening the door for the #2 story on our list.

2. Under the Hood

4350_400x600An unknown figure, using the often utilized identity of “The Red Hood”, (most famously used by The Joker prior to his ‘service with a smile’ makeover) is violently taking over the organized crime in Gotham. Current reigning underworld boss Black Mask is less than thrilled about this newcomer, and Batman himself has a few words he’d like to share with the interloper. The only problem is that this new kid not only seems to know every trick in Batman’s arsenal, but also seems to know way too much about a certain millionaire playboy’s nocturnal activities, and *man* does he have a mad-on for Joker. Judd Winick’s follow-up to (and slight retcon of) the events in Hush lead to one of the most dramatic and emotionally resonant Batman stories in recent memory. What could have been a cheap and groan-worthy publicity stunt instead became a highly entertaining reflection on the relevance of Batman’s methods in his ongoing crusade in these modern times. In Under the Hood Batman is forced to answer some very hard questions when he’s confronted not only with his own past failures, but also seeing the effectiveness of a vigilante who seeks to control and minimize crime from the inside instead of ostensibly waging a never-ending war from without. Would Batman be more effective if he allowed himself to deal out a more lethal form of justice? Is that justice? And how many lives could Batman have spared if he’d killed the Joker years ago? The answers that Winick comes up with are intelligent and thought-provoking, and provide some really compelling moments.

1. The Dark Knight Returns

250px-Dark_knight_returnsAs Frank Miller wrote the definitive story of Batman’s debut, it’s only fitting that he should also write the definitive story of Batman’s last case. (Neil Gaimans’s incredible Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? comes in a close second). Written and drawn by Miller, DKR tells the story of a Batman aged to around 60 years, coming out of forced retirement to fight criminals in an actively hostile dystopian future which has outlawed superheroes, and especially doesn’t want him relapsing to his old ways. When faced with violent gangs that seemingly have given up on being human, a government that is looking to lock him up (even if they have to let a certain Kryptonian off the chain), and a new age pop psychiatrist clamoring for the release of a supposedly reformed Joker, what does an ordinary man who once walked with gods and triumphed over demons do? This is the book that reestablished Batman as the Dark Knight, shaking him free of the camp and self-satire he’d been awash in since the sixties, and allowing him to reemerge as the grim and tragic figure that we know him as. This was the story that Tim Burton looked to when making the 1988 Batman movie that nearly dominated the world. If any of you out there wonder why almost every comic book fan you talk to insists that Batman can defeat any other foe, I refer you to this book.

The Bad

Now that I’ve made you aware of the essential, must-read Batman stories in order for you to truly call yourself a Batfan, I should be fair and warn you off of a few stinkers floating around out there. These books not only fail to grasp the concept of Batman as a character, but in turn completely undermine the character with unrealistic motivations, trite, unbelievable plotlines and no small amount of self parody. Here they are in descending order from “forgivable” to “absolute mess”.

3. The Dark Knight Strikes Again

3-1While Frank Miller undoubtedly has written two of the best Batman stories ever, it’s kind of ironic, yet contains a weird kind of symmetry, that he should also be responsible for two of the worst Batman stories of all time. The first, a sequel to The Dark Knight Returns is the kind of story that makes you wonder why Miller didn’t scrap it five pages in and start on a new story that actually makes any freaking sense. It’s hard to know where to start with all the things that went wrong in this book. We know what Miller was trying to accomplish, throwing in a slew of DC heroes in an attempt to recreate the out-there kitsch of the Silver Age, but he fails on just about every level. (Cartoon Network’s Batman: The Brave and the Bold attempted this to much better effect). The story flits from character to character so often that Batman finds himself relegated to the background. Carrie Kelly, who was a great addition as Robin in DKR is now a fetishized Catwoman wannabe on rollerblades. Miller’s fixation with satirizing media-obsessed culture, brilliant in the original book, comes off here feeling like an old man complaining that young people don’t write letters anymore. Miller’s pencils are sloppy and unappealing and Lynn Varley’s digital colors are as reminiscent of a bad acid trip as Photoshop Elements is likely to get. Just go watch Brave and the Bold and spare yourself the twenty bucks.

2. All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder

9175_900x1350After the dreadful misstep that was the previous entry, We were skeptical about trusting Miller with another Batman vehicle, even though he had two admittedly amazing Batman stories under his belt. When Jim Lee came aboard as artist, though, everything seemed to be clicking into place. This was going to be epic. Then we actually read the book and got subjected to this:

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This is a thing that happened. Seriously.

That’s Bruce Wayne, the “G@dd@mn Batman” shortly after he hospitalized a team of cops and abducted a small boy whose parents were just murdered. When he gets him home he’s gonna leave him in a dark wet cave to feed off the rats. No, really. Later the kid becomes Robin, because…stockholm syndrome I guess, and the two of them paint themselves and a whole room yellow to fight Green Lantern.

I so wish I was kidding.

I so wish I was kidding.

Points to Jim Lee at least for his near herculean attempt to make this nonsense at least visually appealing.

1. Batman: The Widening Gyre

imagesKevin Smith has been losing points with me for years now. Yes, I loved Clerks. Hell I even liked Jersey Girl. But through the years, Smith’s unwillingness to put any sort of effort into evolving as a visual director coupled with his near-constant whining about people criticizing him, and his incessant need to pass off toilet humor as something ironically sophisticated has started to get under my skin. Around the time he started bragging about all the copious amounts of weed he was smoking and how it’s like totally inspiring him to do his “best work”, he also took on this little writing job for DC. Let’s play a little game. I’ll list a number of plot points and you see if you can guess which ones I made up and which ones are the result of Kevin Smith’s “genius”:

  1. Poison Ivy uses her powers to synthesize a cannibus plant to get Batman high.
  2. Batman gets a girlfriend named Silver St. Cloud who he spends all day every day with on a tropical island before flying back to Gotham every night to fight crime.
  3. Said GF calls Batman DD, because the first time they “did the deed” they hit double digits. (Ask your parents if you don’t know.)
  4. Batman becomes BFFs with a crime fighter called Baphomet who’s totally awesome and Batman invites him back to the batcave and unmasks in front of him despite him mentioning a few panels back that he totes wants to murder super villains.
  5. Batman recounts the story from the above panel of Year One to aforementioned new BFF, and admits that in that pivotal, iconic moment, he peed himself.
  6. Batman takes his new GF to the Fortress of Solitude and gives her an alien flower.
  7. Batman, out of nowhere, nearly smacks his new GF around because he thinks she’s a robot.
  8. New GF gets her throat slit by new BFF because Batman is an idiot.

Can you guess which one I made up? Yeah, none of them. All of this actually happens in an actual Batman comic, not a fanfic. It’s like a disturbed thirteen year old wrote out his sexual fantasies, left them in the DC offices and somebody picked them up and thought they’d make for a great Batman story. Smith does no one any favors by getting his friend Walt Flannagan to do pencils. Flannagan has done well in the indie market, but his work is not up to Batman standards and his graphic violence and penchant for drawing supervillainesses in sexually suggestive poses only makes the end result feel creepy. This book is an example of everything that’s wrong with comics and comic fans nowadays. Avoid like the plague.

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13 Comments

  1. Good article, but I do have a few quibbles:

    I would argue that the Joker’s status as “dangerous and unpredictable psychopath” had been cemented long before ‘The Killing Joke’ – not counting his early Golden Age appearances, where he was very much the cold-blooded (if not necessarily insane) killer, ‘The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge’ is generally considered (and I agree) to be the one that truly set him in stone as a psycho, and that was in ’73, a good fifteen years before TKJ – not to mention a number of other great ‘crazy Joker’ stories in the interim, such as the classic ‘The Laughing Fish’. Killing Joke is definitely one of the definitive Joker tales, but it didn’t really set in place anything about his basic character that wasn’t already there, save for giving him an origin story of sorts.

    Jason Todd BECAME a “toolbag”, certainly, but as initially written, he was actually a pretty nice guy. He basically got turned into a toolbag by writers who didn’t like him, and others have followed their example since then.

    I think “years of stagnation” is a little unfair. There were all sorts of good stories being told in the Bat-verse around that time – what about the ‘No-Man’s Land’ saga, for instance? That was pretty friggin’ significant.

    Also, while I haven’t read ‘Hush’ and therefore can’t judge it, I don’t think “leveling” continuity is anything to be particularly proud of. That continuity happened to contain all kinds of stuff that people LIKED. I’m not saying that it should therefore have remained completely untouched and sacrosanct – sometimes changes need to be made – but there is a reason why a lot of writers tend to tread lightly around this stuff. A heavy hand can render goodness-knows-how-much character build-up completely irrelevant, and make readers who were really invested in it wonder why they bothered.

    I think it would be more accurate to say the PERCEPTION of camp and self-satire he’d been awash in – there were plenty of great, dark Bat-stories prior to DKR; it’s just that it made people who still thought of Bats as campy start to change their mind.

  2. Fun article, Mike. No major surprises, which makes sense… they’re classics for a reason. I remember enjoying Hush at the time it was released, though I definitely think it’s more of a guilty pleasure than most of the others on the list… Batman’s Greatest Hits, basically.

    I’d lobby hard for the inclusion of Batman: Strange Apparitions; or, if you’re not comfortable classifying the Englehart run as one full storyline, at least putting one of those stories on the list (“The Laughing Fish”/”The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge”, maybe). And brief as it was, Neil Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” still carries a lot of weight with me.

    Who knows, maybe someday you can do a follow-up of Ten Essential Single-Issue Batman Stories, to get to stuff like “…My Beginning… And My Probable End,” “The Batman Nobody Knows,” “To Kill A Legend,” “The Batman’s Last Christmas,” one of the Englehart stories, maybe some of the ones from Batman Black & White. And while it wouldn’t make the list, I’ve always enjoyed that Harlan Ellison gag story, “The Night of Thanks, But No Thanks!”

    Or hell, maybe even Ten Batman Stories Batman Barely Appears In, to cover stuff like that great Paul Dini issue of Robin versus the Joker on Christmas, or something from the Stephanie Brown Batgirl run (Draculas on Segways gets my vote). So much great stuff, so little time…

    • Personally, I’d say the Englehart run works very well as one full storyline. It’s the continuing subplots that really make the thing, and they not only introduce Boss Thorne but form one of the better Hugo Strange stories ever told – I’d say that makes them worthy to be considered as a whole.

  3. Nice job. I have or have read most of the ones you list in the best column. I have to admit though I never was a big fan of Frank Miller. I respect though what he did as far as bringing the more gritty feel back but I just never cared for his style. Never knew Kevin Smith did a Batman comic. Sounds like complete garbage. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. Agree with most of the picks…. except for Widening Gyre. Yeah, it wasn’t as good as Cacophony but let’s take this from the top:

    1. Who gives a shit if it was cannabis? The way it’s dealt with it’s not much different than if it were any other drug. The only reason anyone complains about it is because it’s marijuana. Get over it.

    2. Because Batman could never have a girlfriend right? Look I think we can all agree that Batman kicking the shit out of villains is totally awesome but we can only do that so much before we have to add a bit of fucking character and relationships into the mix.

    3. Who cares?

    4. That relationship was actually quite well built up. Also he didn’t flat out say he “totes wants to kill super villains”. It was brought up in a discussion. Besides it’s not exactly something Batman hasn’t thought of doing before so shut up.

    5. Oh boo hoo. It turns out Batman isn’t perfect. It turns out Batman is a human being with flaws and an occasional lack of bladder control like the rest of us. I don’t know how I can ever take Year One or any comic in this series seriously ever again. Waaah!

    6. And? Is it much more silly than the idea of a man who swings around a city in a bat costume and fights crime? Didn’t think so.

    7. I….. Okay I must admit that was a little stupid.

    8. Not because he’s an idiot. Because he built up a trust in this guy for a long time and he was fooled. Like the flawed human being that he is.

    But if you guys prefer that Batman were an undefeatable, flawless brick wall with no sexual organs or sense of humour to speak of resulting in the comics becoming a boring rehash of origin stories and villains being beat into a bloody pulp with no real character development or suspense then be my guest. Oddly enough that sounds more like something a thirteen year old would come up with.

    Oh and as much as I love “Year One”, “The Dark Knight Returns” was overrated. The concept was cool and it had a lot of neat ideas, but the artwork was annoying, I hated Carrie as Robin, and Miller relies too much on the media satire sequences to hold it all together. Plus Superman’s involvement just descends into “Oh look! It’s ham-fisted social commentary time with Frank Miller!”. Not all bad but on the same level as “Watchmen”? Hardly.

    • I think people tend to over-praise ‘Dark Knight Returns’ because of what a big deal it was at the time. Back when people still largely thought of Bats as the ‘well done, old chum’ guy, it was literally a type of Batman story that no one had ever seen before in comics, and it made a lot of people go ‘holy crap! This is BATMAN?!’
      Nowadays, of course, we’ve all become a bit inured to Frank Miller and his ever-increasing Millerisms, and DKR is not as special anymore (especially since it’s the direct source of a number of said Millerisms). It’s more like ‘OK, here’s the example where those things more or less work’ than ‘this is amazing and makes me look at the character in a whole new light’.

  5. Glenn Smith: It’s not so much the fact these events happened. It’s more how awkwardly they’re shoehorned into the Batman mythos. In the hands of a more capable (or less stoned) writer these plot points could be serviceable, even interesting. I have no problem with Batman as a romantic figure. I loved the Selina/Bruce coupling in Hush (before it got all gross and over-the top with the new 52). I think his relationship with Talia Al Ghul is one of the most ripe-with-possibilities relationship in comics, especially when you take Damien into consideration. Re-introducing Silver St. Cloud, a disposable character with no real personality to speak of, is merely Kevin Smith going “hey everybody! I’m such a hardcore comics geek I’m aware of an obscure character from 30 years ago that nobody else cares about” and oh yeah, “Hey look everybody Batman’s totally doin’ it with a hot chick!!”. Smith’s lowbrow humor and adolescent sensibilities don’t work with Batman, which is disappointing because he handled Daredevil and Green Arrow so well…almost perfectly I’d go so far to say.

    I also have no problem with Batman as a flawed character. One of the best JLA stories ever (Tower of Babel) is predicated on that assumption. You can convey that without having Batman piss himself however. Batman has many flaws. Lack of trust, overconfidence at times, obsession and of course a hefty dose of psychological disorders. Insecurity is in no way one of those flaws. Ham-fistedly forcing in a new vigilante, in Gotham no less, and having Batman unquestionably accept him is stupid. If he’s worried about leaving Gotham a protector he has Dick, Tim, Barbara, Stephanie, Damien, even Helena or Cassandra Cain to take up the mantle. If he wants someone to pal around with (he doesn’t), he has the entire justice league. Batman letting his guard down around Baphomet makes no sense. He doesn’t do that with *Superman* who is by all accounts his best friend.

    Every aspect of TWG reeks of adolescent fanboy pandering and the whole addled mess comes off looking like a bad fan-fiction.

    • While I can’t comment on Widening Gyre itself, I must disagree with you regarding Silver St. Cloud. She’s NOT “a disposable character with no real personality to speak of” – whether or not you LIKE her personality is a matter of personal opinion, but it is certainly there. She’s a smart, savvy businesswoman-about-town; I’d call that a personality, and more than many of Batsy’s love interests have gotten. As for “an obscure character from 30 years ago that nobody cares about”, I would point out that said character was introduced as part of a run of comics that featured the introduction of the modern version of Deadshot, one of the better Hugo Strange stories ever written, and ‘The Laughing Fish’, one of the best and most famous Joker stories ever written, among others. Collectively, it is generally considered one of the best extended takes on the Batman to date, one that continues to influence people well into the present day – and Silver St. Cloud is a prominent part of it. She may not be as famous a name as, say, Vicki Vale, but she’s still pretty darn well-known amongst those who know their comics.

  6. Not a bad article, agree with most of the stuff here. With that being said, have some stuff that I felt missed the cut. And let it be known that I am a HUGE Poison Ivy fan, so my honorable mentions for best and worst directly relate back to her.

    I think Greg Rucka’s No Man’s Land is the best Batman story to date personally, it’s definitely my favorite. I love how it examines how a large scale disaster like an earthquake could completely change the destinies and futures of countless Batman characters, particularly Poison Ivy. It does a great job showing all the aspects that make her such a great and sympathetic character; we see her protect and raise a group of orphans, as well as much of the cities poor, abused or otherwise voiceless, but it also makes it clear she is NO wimp as when her orphans are murdered by corrupt cops, she flat out SLAUGHTERS the police officers. But in the end, it really pushes the idea that Poison Ivy is a very sympathetic and tragic character, who is only the villain because the world forces her to be one. It’s one of the most emotional, intelligent and tragic comics I’ve ever read and the best Poison Ivy interpretation to date.

    As for the worst, I’d have to say without a doubt Paul Dini’s Detective Comics run may be the worst, most vile, most disgusting thing I have ever read. The Poison Ivy who was once a feminist icon who only killed people to protect her plants and had noble intentions, and often saved and protected innocents when she could, is now a sadistic, motivationless pedophile who tortures and murders people who are nice to her and makes bisexual snuff films out of it, rubs her tits and ass moments after almost getting raped and murdered, flirts with a 12 year old Tim Drake and tries to push Batman over the edge to kill her. I’m sorry but…If you like that comic, you’re stupid.

    What do you think?

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