I started reading Batman comic books two years ago now. This post from 2016 outlines my thought process when I began reading, including my first attempt to figure out a Batman reading order by referencing guides from multiple websites, and my thoughts on that olde great debate of whether you should read physical or digital comics.
Since that post, I've read a good amount of comic books, though perhaps not as many as I expected from myself. The reason behind that is largely due to my keeping up with reading non-comic books and listening to lots of podcasts, but that's neither here nor there.
I'm making this post to serve as a permalink to my work-in-progress Batman reading order, as I’d like to stop linking to my previously mentioned post when I need to link to something. A surprising number of people have been interested in the order I’m following and the reasoning behind it. As I make changes, additions, or feel the need to tweak the order represented here, I'll just update this singular location. The list has already been tweaked quite a bit as I’ve made my way through about 20 books so far; the more I read, the more I get intrigued by certain pieces in these books and the more I want to explore where I can find more along those lines.
A quick note about this list: It’s all modern era stuff, but it doesn’t approach the most recent storylines of the character. I haven’t read Flashpoint, the New 52, Rebirth or anything since, and those titles won’t appear here. I wouldn’t be opposed to getting into that stuff down the line, provided I work my way through this whole list or grow interested in trying out something different.
The list is a companion to my Batman Index, which lists everything I've read already. Below on each line, I've dropped in an Amazon link to every book I've either already purchased or confirmed exactly what version of the publication I will purchase in the future. There also also links to blogs I have written about each of the books individually for the ones I’ve already read.
I'll plan to write one-liners about each of these books on this post, updating them as they’re read, to aide in anyone's attempts to figure out what they want to check out, and I’ll note which of these I consider to be “essential” reading. The comics are listed in chronological order of the Batman world, rather than by order of release.
Essential reading. The modern-day introduction to Batman. The introduction to Batman that not even Christopher Nolan could top (though his was the best film adaptation, in my opinion, tbh).
I haven't read this yet and its location or inclusion may change. My understanding is this will serve as an introduction to Catwoman, who you meet in Year One, much the way The Man Who Laughs is an introduction to Joker a few spots down.
Batman: Shaman [collected by way of finding individual issues of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Nos. 1-5]
Batman: Gothic [collected by way of finding individual issues of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Nos. 6-10]
Batman: Prey [collected by way of finding individual issues of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Nos. 11-15]
I haven't read Shaman, Gothic or Prey yet, and their locations or inclusions may change; these runs are referenced as stories from the early part of Batman's career. It seems odd that they aren't more readily available as trade paperbacks.
Batman: Venom [collected by way of finding individual issues of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Nos. 16-20]
Separate note here: This one might be moved quite drastically in the reading order, down around the Knightfall saga, based on some notes I've read regarding the plot.
A good-enough introduction to Joker, though perhaps not the most canonical. Skippable unless you’re really into this early-stage Batman stuff.
A worthwhile warm-up before The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, especially for the Halloween-ification of A Christmas Carol. Nonessential to the plot of the following two books.
Essential reading. This is why you're here. A lot of people will read this and probably decide they have found what they're looking for. Batman faces off against his entire rogues gallery, one by one.
Essential reading. A direct follow-up to The Long Halloween. Fantastic Two-Face action and an awesome arc for Catwoman as well. I found it arguably better than TLH after my first read of each. Loved the Robin stuff in here; the dual fighting scenes are really rewarding.
This takes place during Dark Victory, during a half-year period where Catwoman has disappeared to Italy. If you're intrigued by her significant involvement in Dark Victory, this is a good bet.
Robin claims he is ready to take on a larger role in helping Batman fight crime around Gotham; Batman assigns him a challenge to prove himself; it gets kinda gnarly.
Combined volume with Batgirl’s Year One; Robin settles into his own as Batman’s sidekick, but gets his ass handed to him by a big-name villain. A really nice coming-of-age type of story after The Gauntlet.
Combined volume with Robin’s Year One; in our first introduction to Batgirl as a fighter, we see her team up with Batman and Robin as she shows off her own unique style of combat. While it doesn’t qualify as essential reading, I found this to be an extremely fun one.
Extremely unessential reading. I wanted more background on Robin, so I read this. It’s a version of a Teen Titans origin story that is very clearly aimed at a younger audience. Skip it.
This, on the other hand, was quite a bit better. This features the first introduction of Nightwing, and should serve as a good enough thermometer to help you figure out whether you want more Teen Titans in your life.
Modern reimagining of the beginning of Nightwing’s career. A good amount of Batgirl here, which is fun. We also see Batman catch Jason Todd trying to steal the wheels off of the Batmobile (lol), and Batman then decides to train Todd as the next Robin.
Kinda essential. It really depends on how much you enjoyed the Robin you found in Dark Victory, and maybe to a lesser extent, in Robin’s Year One. If you liked those, I would definitely read this. Nightwing’s fighting style is really acrobatic (duh) and makes for some really special fighting scenes. The four-issue mini-run at the beginning of this trade sucks, but the eight-issue run is the prize.
No thanks! Considered by some to be amongst the best Batman trades out there, this is a short one-shot that details the Joker’s origin story via flashbacks. That part of the book is good; the present-day portion of the book features the Joker humiliated and crippling Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl to the point of paralyzation, a decision that DC Comics never reversed and in fact doubled down on in a recent animated film adaptation of this book. They should let this one die out.
Imagine Batman, in Gotham, but drawn by a horror artist with a good number of zombie-looking enemies. While the events in this book have enormous implications, it sorta takes place outside the regular Batman chronology, and doesn’t really tie into the wider storylines. It’s not essential, but it was a really cool read because of how unique the art is throughout.
Essential reading. Not my favorite book, but an important one to read as it includes the death of Robin (Jason Todd) at the hands of the Joker. Some plot points are pretty friggin weird, and Batman is more cartoonish here (given the time this was released) than he is in Year One and the other books you’ve read by now.
Death begins to touch on some interesting psychological points in the Batman / Bruce Wayne relationship (more on that in the next piece) and Dying continues that angle. We are introduced here to the third Robin, Tim Drake.
This is collected in the same trade paperback as the above-linked A Death In The Family.
Essential reading. Read this!!! Especially if you can find the original pressing … I really can’t speak to the new one at all, though perhaps I’ll buy it just so I can compare. This doesn’t fall in line with the rest of the overarching storyline at all — it’s a side adventure. The Batman / Bruce Wayne thing is absolutely awesome in this book, which is why I placed it here, and while it doesn’t inform the way I necessarily think about these characters moving forward, it’s a super interesting read IMO.
Quick note — that Amazon link appears to be a newer printing, and I'm not familiar with that specific book. The book I read was the original 1992 printing, which I bought on eBay. Also, this one is a bit of a side-step in the Batman chronology in terms of reading order
This is the best-selling graphic novel that DC Comics has ever released, which as I wrote in my blog, is very surprising to me given how poorly I think it represents the Batman that I think most readers know and love. It was more enjoyable on a second reading, but I wouldn’t consider it essential if you’re only looking to read a handful of titles.
Have not yet read. This is next up on my list.
Essential reading. This three-part arc gives you Ra's al Ghul’s origin story as well as a heavy dose of his daughter, Talia al Ghul. A really good story that plays nicely into Christopher Nolan’s film trilogy too.
All in service of leading up to Knightfall.
Prelude to Knightfall (Batman #484-489, Detective Comics #654-656)
These are not collected in any trade paperback, but appear to be relevant to the Knightfall saga; I'll collect these by finding hard copies or by purchasing the individual issues on Comixology.
Batman: Knightfall [new pressing includes the "Vengeance of Bane" arc, which would otherwise be its own line item]
I! CAN’T! WAIT! I actually read this once when I was a kid, but I don’t remember it.
This arc is, for the most part, collected in the above trade KnightsEnd TPB.
This is not necessarily in the correct place, chronology-wise, on the list, although I did read a recommendation to include this volume around this spot. I just know that I want to look into the Justice League at some point, and this is the best intro spot; Vols. 2, 3, and 4 will be added to the list if I like this one, and you can keep going from there if you choose.
These three Nightwing books are also not necessarily in the correct place, chronology-wise, on this list. I'll move them into a more appropriate slot if I feel the need to after reading them. I’m just anticipating wanting a small break from Batman himself after the Knightfall saga and its related pieces.
Very excited about this saga as well. For things like this and Knightfall, I’d recommend signing up for a ComiXology account and keeping an eye out for big DC Comics sales. Black Friday is coming up, and if you don’t want to fill an entire shelf with Batman titles, it’s really convenient to get these multi-book arcs on your phone or tablet.
I really like the sound of these two … Bruce Wayne surfacing as the primary suspect in a murder that Batman will ostensibly have to investigate … my favorite relationship in these stories, if you can’t tell, is the one between Bruce and Batman.
Haven’t read too much about this villain, but seems like a great storyline; when the idea for a story sells me early on, I try to avoid spoilers … hence not having too much to say about the books I haven’t read yet.
Under The Red Hood
Batman: The Black Mirror
Many would suggest reading this classic story and its sequel much earlier — I wouldn’t be surprised if people suggest this all the time as a first Batman book. But since I wanted to read in the order of Batman’s life, more or less, I have it toward the end.
Gotham by Gaslight: A Tale of the Batman
This is an “Elseworlds” book, which explore what it would be like if Batman lived during a different day / age / time / etc. In this one, Batman fights Jack The Ripper.
Another Elseworlds story; Superman lands in Russia rather than America, and Batman shows up too, I guess. On here via a recommendation from a friend.
Essential reading. A true delight! Batman is the focus of a Christmas Carol-inspired story, and the art in this book is something you will find yourself obsessing over. Along with the Batman we see in The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, the Batman we find here is how I imagine the character in my head.
Batman: Master of the Future
Batman: Holy Terror
Batman: Dark Dynasty