Over the past few months you may have heard me refer to my Batman dealer. After years of putting off the inevitable, I let my good friend hook me up with my first dose of comic books and graphic novels, on one condition: that he hold my hand through all of the alternate universes, reset timelines, and various arcs.

The world of comic books and graphic novels is vast; with so many writers, arcs, and reboots, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Knowing where to start is just part of the puzzle. The very big, gigantic, confusing puzzle. But it’s such a rewarding series to get hooked on!

Looking to get your feet wet with some Batman? I’m here to impart the wisdom of my Batman guru and help you navigate the universe’s deep, labyrinthine waters.

The Classics
Where better to start than with the most-loved and well-known stories. These graphic novels are classics for a reason, and had me instantly hooked.

Year One – When you want to start at the beginning, why not start at the beginning? Year One chronicles Bruce Wayne’s first year as Batman. Bruce Wayne returns from his training to fight crime in Gotham City, as Jim Gordon newly transfers to Gotham as well.

The Dark Knight Returns – Yes, the Dark Knight returns. From retirement, that is.

The Long Halloween – A murderer strikes on each holiday, killing a victim once each month as Batman races to discover his identity. Suspenseful and fabulously written.

Killing Joke – Iconic, and rightfully so. The Joker attempts to prove that any man can be pushed to his breaking point. That’s all I’m going to say here. Read. And enjoy. And freak out. And enjoy.

Background Knowledge
Writing this section made me realize how much I did not like these stories overall. Promising, right? While the previous set of stories are much more comprehensive and captivating, as stories go, these are just as important, if only for the origins that they establish. It makes enjoying the emotional torture of Bruce Wayne so much more enjoyable later on, even if it does mean gawking at some questionable events (Batman and Son, I’m looking at you).

A Death in the Family – This sets the stage for future stories, as Batman’s enemies like to dangle Jason Todd in his face more times than I can count. Cruel ammunition aside, this storyline was intriguing in the way that it polled readers to choose the fate of Jason Todd when it first came out. Should he live or die? You literally were asked to cast your vote. Talk about immersive, interactive media.

Birth of the Demon – Like A Death in the Family, the Birth of the Demon graphic novel establishes some information about a future character. Personally, however, I didn’t enjoy Son and Bride of the Demon at all; they felt much too campy and James Bond-y, but not in the good way. The actual Birth of the Demon story, though, was quite good, and stands apart from the two before it as it shares the origins of Ra’s al Ghul.

Batman and Son – There are some characters that you love to hate. And then there are characters that you just hate. Like Damian Wayne. I’m told he gets more bearable as his arc goes along, but in Batman and Son he just comes off as a whiny, angry prat. Rightfully so, but he doesn’t come across in a way that makes him endearing in the slightest. A good read nonetheless, but I’m still waiting to not want to punch him in the face.

Twisted and Controversial
From what I gather, people either love or hate these stories for various reasons. Controversial may not be quite the word I’m looking for, but these stories tend to split most people I know, be it due to personal taste or just being a different “type” of Batman story.

Arkham Asylum – More a psychological tale than anything, this was my introduction to the “weirdness” that is Grant Morrison. This story traces the origin of the founder of Arkham Asylum alongside Batman’s attempt to escape the asylum and its inmates (not to mention his own demented, tortured mind). Inner demons, man, inner demons. Bruce just can’t catch a break.

Tower of Babel – As a student of language and lingustics, the idea behind this Justice League adventure sounded superb. Most of the story centers on the betrayal of the Justice League itself, though, which, while equally interesting in its implications, takes away precious time from the actual Tower of Babel effect. Could’ve been better in its execution, but still an enjoyable read.

Others to check out:

  • The Cult
  • Hush

I’m now working my way through what my dealer has lovingly dubbed the Scott Snyder starter pack (I feel like I’m choosing my starter Pokémon), including The Black MirrorThe Gates of Gotham, and Court of Owls.

Are you a Batman fan? How do you not get lost in the vast comic book and graphic novel universe?