February 2, 2015 by crew
The Batman universe is huge, and with all of the different ages and editions, it can be really confusing for a newcomer to find a good starting point. To celebrate the Batman Miniatures Games Second Edition release, I put together a series of articles to get you started in the narrative in the Batman Universe.
I am by no means an expert on Batman, however these article should prove a pretty good place to start if you’re a war gamer or just want to start reading Batman. I am going to attempt to keep this article relatively spoiler free so newcomers can experience the joy and horror of being surprised. Unfortunately some spoilers are unavoidable seeing as they tend to end up on the cover sometimes!
Batman: Year One
By : Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli and Richmond Lewis
Frank Miller’s Year One is probably the most logical place to start with Batman. His vision of Gotham is one that is dark, gritty and corrupt. Gotham is the sort of place you would have to worry about being mugged in broad day-light. The police openly take bribes, the few honest officers have been coerced into silence and police brutality seems to be the norm. The crime families and drug dealers have bought the majority of the judges, government officials and cops. Suffice it to say it was bad before the Wayne Family murder and it hasn’t improved since.
The story follows Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon as they set out on their crusade to make their mark on the city of Gotham. Frank Miller allows the reader into the heads of Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon as the set out on their quest to clean up the city of Gotham. The comic gives you their thoughts as the events unfold, as they analyze their mistakes, and as they plan their next moves. Both men have their flaws and make many mistakes that come close to costing them their lives, or something very dear to them.
Batman Year One mostly revolves around the corruption of public officials and the collusion of organized crime. Throughout the comic you hear rumblings of things yet to come, but characters like the Joker don’t make an appearance in this comic.. However, when it comes to communicating the thought process and motivations of Batman and Jim Gordon, there are few comics that do it better. The art is dark and has a very raw and intense look to it.
Batman : The Long Halloween
By: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
In the early days of Gotham the crime families ruled the city streets of Gotham. Their influence and money has allowed them to believe that they are above the law. The early days of Jim Gordon’s and Batman’s career have loosened their grip on the city. Now with the help of a young district attorney named Harvey Dent, they seek to put an end to the reign of the Falcone Crime Family. The three men make a pact to destroy organized crime in the city of Gotham and declare war on the Falcone Crime Family.
However, it would seem that someone is interested in doing Batman’s job for him. A killer that has been dubbed “Holiday”, is killing members of the Falcone family on holidays. Catwoman also seems to always to be found around the Falcone family, leaving many unanswered questions. The ranks of the crime families are sent into turmoil as freaks like the Joker and the Scarecrow add fuel to the fire as the city tears itself apart. All of these things lead up to the fall of Harvey Dent and the creation of Two-Face.
As far as Batman goes, this is the style that I remember him as. I would just like to say that my opinion of this comic may be biased, because I love Tim Sale’s art. Sale’s art is the I remember the iconic cape and cowl. Several of the comic’s most iconic villains make their appearance in this comic as well as several of the lesser known villains. As the story progresses, freaks like the Scarecrow and the Mad Hater take on a more prominent role in the story. As for the identity of “Holiday”, that is something you will have to discover for yourself.
Batman : Dark Victory
By: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
Dark Victory is a direct sequel of the Long Halloween and continues the story started by it. The killer known as “Holiday” has been caught, the crime families are in shambles, and all of this at the cost of Harvey Dent. A new district attorney is attempting to over turn all of Jim Gordon’s efforts to put the Holiday Killer behind bars. The crime families are losing their grip on the city and the freaks are becoming more problematic. To make matters worse Batman and Gordon wonder if Harvey could have been saved if they had done things differently.
Sofia Falcone Gigante is on the war path to take Harvey Dent’s head. In the attempt to kill Harvey Dent, he escapes from Arkham Asylum along with all of the most dangerous patients. Now with “Holiday” released with the possibility of having the conviction overturned, the murders begin again but now the police are targets. Police officers are being hung with a hang man clue being drawn on evidence and stationary from Harvey Dent’s office. Now suspicions have been sewn about who “Holiday” really was and Batman begins to have doubts about himself. As usual Catwoman continues to make her presence known around the Falcone family if for no reason other to make things difficult for Batman.
With the crime families divided, new factions of the mob begin to form. With a cop killer on the loose and the freaks loose in the city Batman can’t be everywhere at once. The death of a certain family of circus performers resulted in the birth of yet another masked avenger. Many of the major villains in the Batman universe make an appearance in their early days in Dark Victory. Dark Victory takes you for a ride into the madness that claimed Harvey Dent, leaving you to wonder if Two-Face is all that remains of him.
Everything that I loved about The Long Halloween is here in Dark Victory. Tim Sale’s art is dark and moody, which fits the story perfectly. Jeph Loeb’s work as a writer is spot on and visits some dark places in his work on Batman. Dark Victory is a fitting end to the story arc started by The Long Halloween and I highly recommend it.
Batman : Haunted Knight
By : Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
It may be a little late for Halloween but if you want to get into the Halloween spirit a bit early, this is a good place to start. Haunted Knight is a series of three stand alone comics that are all Halloween themed. As usual the work of Loeb and Sale is awesome. These comics don’t really specify a place in the Batman timeline, but I think its perfectly fine to read it after reading Year One.
Fear is the first chapter and it revolves around our friend the Scarecrow escaping from Arkham again in time for Halloween in Gotham. Dr. Crane is up to his usual shenanigans, and by shenanigans, I mean terrorizing the entire city. Batman has run himself ragged attempting to capture the Scarecrow. Of course no sooner does he capture him but he escapes on his way back to Arkham. Lastly too add more fun to the mix Bruce Wayne has a woman in his life and it’s someone other than Selena Kyle for a change.
Madness follows Batman in his attempt to take the Mad Hatter back to Arkham as he escapes just in time for some Halloween shenanigans. The Mad Hatter, aka Jervis Tetch, is labeled as a delusional, schizophrenic, homicidal, maniac. The Mad Hatter lives in a fantasy that clearly draws its inspiration from the book Alice in Wonderland. As with many Batman comics, the writer takes the opportunity to explore the character of Batman on a more personal level.
The last comic of the book is Ghosts. It’s A Christmas Carol repackaged as a Batman comic in time for Halloween. Quite frankly the most amusing part of the whole comic is seeing the Joker as one of the Ghosts. The art and storytelling for Haunted Knight are what you would expect from Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb.
The next question I suppose, is “Where do I go from here?”. I guess the answer is wherever it is you decide you want to go. Most of the books on this list are all relatively new. Year One was written in the 80′s and the Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale trilogy were written in the 90′s. The different ages have made the timeline pretty confusing. I have been jumping around in the Batman time line since I started reading Batman and I haven’t felt that it has hurt the enjoyment of it. If there is a suggestion to be made about how best to continue, I would say you should pick a villain and read bout Batman’s many encounters with that character.
Have I missed anything? Post in the comments below!
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"In the early days of Gotham the crime families ruled the city streets of Gotham. Their influence and money has allowed them to believe that they are above the law."
"Everything that I loved about The Long Halloween is here in Dark Victory. Tim Sale’s art is dark and moody, which fits the story perfectly."