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Batman’s 80th Anniversary: The 5 Best Batman Comic Storylines

After 80 years what are the Dark Knight’s best stories? Here’s our picks.

Batman after being tackled by a plethora of talented writers and artists, there are some storylines that are truly exceptional. These storylines redefine a character, or are so well crafted that if you took the Batman element out of the story it would still work. They’re a testament to the fact that comic books are worthy of acknowledgement for everything they can show and tell. These are the five stories we believe are the best of all time.

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5. The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

In this four issue series, released in 1986, Miller took us into the later years of Bruce Wayne’s life. At 55 years old, Bruce comes out of retirement and dons the cape and cowl once more in a world where superheroes have been outlawed. Batman faces off against Two-Face, Joker, a street gang known as the Mutants, and Superman who has become a government weapon. The series also introduced the female Robin: Carrie Kelley. The series became a critical success and a fan favorite for giving a dark, adult look at Batman, and would go on to inspire nearly every live action version of Batman on film.

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4. Knightfall by Chuck Dixon, Jo Duffy, Alan Grant, Dennis O’Neil, Doug Moench

Knightfall did two very major things in the issues of Batman and other Bat-Family titles, it introduced Bane and removed Bruce from the mantle of Batman. The story was told in three parts, Knightfall, Knightquest and KnightsEnd. Knightfall introduced Bane, then saw him free the inmates of Arkham before breaking Batman’s back. Bruce then enlisted Jean Paul Vallley, a man who had previously been subject to a deep psychological conditioning to become an assassin-enforcer, to take on the mantle of the Bat. Knightquest saw Bruce work towards healing his back while Jean Paul fought crime as Batman in a newer mechanical Batsuit. Jean Paul becomes obsessed with being a better Batman than Bruce and eventually lets a serial killer die, resulting in his latest victim dying as well. KnightsEnd saw the return of Bruce, and a face off between him and Jean Paul. When Jean Paul is defeated, Bruce leaves to heal further and leaves Dick Grayson to take up the Batman mantle for a short period of time. The storyline was the first time the comics really removed Bruce from the role of Batman, and was a complex, crossover that truly lasted from April of 1993 to February of 1995.

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3. Death in the Family by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo

Most people think of Dick Greyson when they Robin comes up in conversation. He was the first Robin, and showcased in numerous films and TV series. But in the comics, the Robin mantle has been held by many young men and women. Originally, after Dick Greyson grew up and became the hero Nightwing, Bruce adopted a boy named Jason Todd and he became the second Robin. Jason was a street urchin that Batman caught removing the tires from the Batmobile. He was snarkier than Dick, and many fans weren’t happy with him taking on the title of Robin. DC decided to give the fans a choice, when Jason got wrapped up with a ploy by the Joker, would the clown prince of crime kill the Boy Wonder? The fans voted to kill off Jason Todd, and Joker did just that, beating him to pieces with a crow bar and leaving him and his mother in a warehouse which he subsequently blew up. It was the biggest death in comics at the time, and a publicity stunt unlike any seen before. But it left a lasting impact on comics and the characters in the Batfamily that still stings today.

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2. Batman R.I.P by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel

At the time of the storyline’s release DC Comics was in the midst of the epic crossover, Final Crisis, which would see the true full death of Bruce Wayne. But Batman R.I.P essentially killed off Bruce in the pages of the Batman title. The story does so much more than that, it shows how ingrained the Batman persona is in Bruce’s psyche and what all he’s willing to go through to continue being Batman. There are layers here that have never been seen before. And it proves that even when every single element of Bruce Wayne is stripped away, at his core, he will always be Batman.

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1. Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

Long Halloween is not only the best Batman story of all time, it is one of the greatest detective stories of all time. The story revolves around a serial killer, nicknamed the Holiday killer, who murders victims on a holiday every month for 13 months. The story sees Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent work together to take down the Falcone crime family and stop the Holiday killer, and is set after the events of Frank Miller’s Year One. The story also interweaves encounters with some of Batman’s most notorious villains and creates an origin story for Two-Face. The film also helped inspire some elements of The Dark Knight, and has often been cited as one of the best comic book stories of all time. There’s few stories that truly show Batman in every element of who he is, but Long Halloween covers all the bases perfectly, and the moment you finish it you’ll likely want to read it all over again.

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Written by Alex Lancaster
(Alex is a life long film fan, and has dedicated his life to watching, making and obsessing over films. His favorite film is Big Fish, and he despises Avatar. He has a 4 year old son. And a bad habit of saying more than he needs to. Follow @alex5348 on Twitter)

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