Comixology Sale Picks: Batman 750
Posted by Seb Patrick at 11:45 on 23 Jul 2014
Seven hundred and fifty Batman comics? Seven hundred and fifty? No way are we going to be able to give you a yes or no on every single item featured in Comixology's mammoth Batman anniversary sale, but if we go through and pick out a few choice things we think are worth looking at, it might help you actually navigate the sale without it taking the entire week that it lasts for...
Cream of the Crop
First of all, a selection of classics that if you're interested in Batman and still haven't read, you really should be doing before you check out anything else:
The Dark Knight Returns
Generally acknowledged as the greatest Batman story of all time (although some, this correspondent included, would disagree), this is about as important and seminal as modern (well, it's nearly thirty years old now, but still) comics get. If you've somehow never heard of it, it's a four-issue miniseries written and drawn by Frank Miller in a possible future where Batman comes out of retirement to... oh, come on, there's no way you've never heard of it.
Taking place in Batman issues #404-407, this is Miller's other great Batman story - and arguably a better one than DKR. With spectacularly atmospheric art by David Mazzuchelli, it's a huge influence on the Nolan films, but is also just a fantastic exploration of the early days of Batman - and of James Gordon, who's as much the lead character as Bruce Wayne is - in its own right. One of the most essential superhero comics ever published, basically.
The Long Halloween
You might be cautious, given our reputation, at the recommendation to buy thirteen issues by Jeph Loeb. But Long Halloween is excellent - a pseudo-sequel to Year One that establishes a lot of the Bat-mythos we now know and love (again, a huge influence on The Dark Knight movie in particular), with particular reference to Two-Face. The art by Tim Sale is amazing, making for an excellent noir crime feel.
What? Fourteen more Loeb issues? Yes, but this is basically more of the same, the direct sequel to Long Halloween that also introduces Robin. If you like TLH, get this as well. If you don't, don't.
The most famous long-form Batman saga of all - the mid-90s event in which Bruce Wayne's back was broken by Bane and he was temporarily replaced by Jean-Paul "Azrael" Valley - is available almost in its entirety in this sale, but it's tricky to piece together without a list to hand, due to being a crossover that was published across several titles at once. Fortunately! We've got such a list for you here.
It's broken down into the story's constituent parts, although to be honest if you're going to read part of it, you should really read the lot. However, the end of each block serves as a convenient jumping-off point if you're really not bothered enough to continue.
While you can get every issue that makes up the storyline digitally, not everything is included in the sale - so issues that are full price are marked with an asterisk (*) below.
Part 1: Broken Bat
Vengeance of Bane #1*
Detective Comics #659
Detective Comics #660
Detective Comics #661
Detective Comics #662
Detective Comics #663
Issues #489-491 of Batman are also in this sale, and you can pick those up too for a bit of lead-in story setup. Vengeance of Bane is useful, but not essential.
Part 2: Who Rules The Night
Detective Comics #664
Showcase '93 #7*
Showcase '93 #8*
Detective Comics #665
Shadow of the Bat #16-18
Detective Comics #666
Part 3A: KnightQuest - The Crusade
Detective Comics #667-668*
Shadow of the Bat #19-20
Detective Comics #669-670*
Detective Comics #671-673*
Shadow of the Bat #24
Shadow of the Bat #25
Shadow of the Bat #26-27
Detective Comics #674*
Shadow of the Bat #28
Detective Comics #675*
Frustratingly, all the Crusade issues of Detective Comics are on Comixology, but not in the sale. Keep an eye out, though, as that might hopefully change if and when they notice the discrepancy. Fortunately, throughout KnightQuest the issues are structured so as to be shorter, single or multi-part stories - so if you drop out the 'Tec issues, you're not losing whole chapters of stories that begin or conclude in Batman or Shadow.
(But be warned that if you don't get the Catwoman issues you should skip Batman #503-504, as otherwise you will be missing the beginning and end of a story. Also, the Dixon/Nolan Detective issues, which aren't going cheap, are generally better than Moench/Manley's Batman ones, which are. God, this is confusing, eh? JUST DO A FULL KNIGHTFALL SALE, COMIXOLOGY.)
Part 3B: KnightQuest: The Search
Justice League Task Force #5-6*
Shadow of the Bat #21-23
Legends of the Dark Knight #59-61*
The part of the storyline that even DC didn't want to collect! And that, it seems, Comixology didn't want to put on sale! Aside from the two Shadow issues, you'll have to pay $1.99/£1.49 apiece for what is apparently considered entirely skippable by all concerned, but it's worth doing to fill in the background of just how Bruce starts on his recovery.
Part 4: KnightsEnd
Shadow of the Bat #29
Detective Comics #676
Legends of the Dark Knight #62*
Shadow of the Bat #30
Detective Comics #677
Legends of the Dark Knight #63*
Gah, another one where several issues aren't on sale. It's especially annoying given that earlier issues of Legends are in the sale - but you can't skip these ones as they include the ACTUAL ENDING of the story. And oddly, after the KnightQuest issues of Detective were left out, the KnightsEnd issues ARE in.
Part 4B: KnightsEnd Aftermath
Showcase '94 #10*
Three issues that offer a bit of post-KnightsEnd closure for various characters. They weren't trade-collected, and none of them are in the sale, but again, they're listed for completists' sakes.
Part 5: Prodigal
Shadow of the Bat #32
Detective Comics #679
Shadow of the Bat #33
Detective Comics #680
Shadow of the Bat #34
Detective Comics #681
Not really considered part of Knightfall at the time, but it's since been collected in some of the trades and all the issues (bar the Robins) are in the sale, so grab 'em if you want to see the story continue with Dick Grayson taking over as Batman while Bruce figures out what to do next.
Part 6: Troika
Shadow of the Bat #35
Detective Comics #682
Also not really considered part of Knightfall, but it does mark the point where Bruce finally returns properly. Also where he debuts his new costume, which remarkably was based on the Tim Burton films' outfit (darker grey/black all over, no overpants) despite it being three years since Returns. So again, get it for completism, but it's not especially great.
The first tranche of Morrison's mega-bat-epic runs through issues #655-658, #663-683, and #700-702 of Batman. That brings you up to the point where the Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman & Robin series - essentially Act II of the saga - begin, but none of those are in the sale.
It's really recommended that if you go for this, you do the whole thing, but here's an arc-by-arc list:
#655-658 - Batman & Son
#663 - The Clown at Midnight
#664-666 - The Three Ghosts
#667-669 - The Black Glove
#670-671 - The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul*
#672-675 - Batman Dies At Dawn
#676-681 - Batman RIP
#682-683 - Last Rites
#700-702 - Time and the Batman/RIP: The Missing Chapter
(*SKIP THESE unless you're going uber-completist on Morrison, as they're two parts of a wider storyline that he wasn't the architect for. Some of the other issues of that arc are in the sale, but not all of them.)
The only arcs that really stand well on their own are "Batman & Son" and "The Black Glove" - and of those, "The Black Glove" is much, much better (not least because of JH Williams III's incredible art). However, the best arc overall is "Batman RIP" - but if you're going to read that, you could really stand to have read the various bits of complex setup threaded throughout the arc as a whole.
So, in short: if you're only going to buy three issues of Morrison Batman, buy The Black Glove. But if you can stretch to six, buy RIP. Really, though, just buy the damned lot. You won't regret it.
And The Rest...
The above really should be enough to be going on with, but if you want more - or if you're already familiar with the big classics and you want to dig in a bit deeper - here are a few more personal recommendations. These aren't all guaranteed absolute classics, but they're ones that in at least some way I consider to be worth a look.
The Court of Owls
(Batman (2011) #1-7)
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman was one of the strongest early books of the New 52 - which I know sounds like a backhanded compliment, but still - and the first arc, at least, is worth checking out. If you like it, carry on with Night of the Owls (#8-12) and Death of the Family (#13-17), the latter of which manages to be quite good despite centering around the awful, awful "face cut off" Nu-52 Joker.
A Death in the Family
As distinct from the Snyder arc mentioned above (in fact, that was deliberately named in homage to this late '80s classic). There's a fair bit wrong with this storyline, in which readers voted by phone to kill off second Robin Jason Todd - but there's also a lot that it does really well. It's unpleasant at times, but it's a jaw-dropper of a story.
Face the Face
(Batman #651-654, Detective Comics #817-820)
James Robinson's much-heralded return to DC came as part of the post-Infinite Crisis "One Year Later" jump, and saw Batman returning to active duty with this pretty solid Two-Face story.
I don't know a huge amount of the early/Golden Age material, but I do know that the Joker's first ever appearance - which is in the very first solo Batman issue - is a belter. Writer Bill Finger crafts an immensely atmospheric noir story, and one that holds surprisingly true to later interpretations of the character.
The Great Clayface-Joker Feud!
Unfortunately my favourite Silver Age Batman story - The Joker's Utility Belt from 1952 - isn't available on Comixology, but this is another one I fondly remember from my old Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told TPB.
The Joker's Five-Way Revenge
In which the classic team of Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams restore the Joker to his "murderous psychopath" roots.
The Laughing Fish
(Detective Comics #475-476)
One more Joker story - a late '70s classic by Englehart and Rogers, which homages the original 1940 story.
(Legends of the Dark Knight #65-68)
Oh, alright, one more Joker one - an underheralded gem by J.M. deMatteis, which sees the Joker actually recover his sanity and trying to become an ordinary person after believing that he's finally killed Batman. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't go well.
Dini on Detective
(Detective Comics #821-824, #826-828, #831, #833-834, #841, #843-5)
The first part of writer Paul Dini's run on Detective consists of several generally excellent done-in-one (or sometimes two) mystery stories. They're variable in quality but pretty much all worth picking up. If you want to be picky, have a look at the covers and decide which guest characters you like, basically - in particular, Dini's always good on Zatanna or Harley Quinn. There's also a quite decent two-parter in issues #829-830 by the late Stuart Moore.
From issue #846 onwards, Dini starts a longer-form storyline. But despite strong art by Dustin Nguyen, it's about Hush, so it isn't really very good. Speaking of which...
Don't go into this expecting a good or well-written story - it's Jeph Loeb playing largely to form - but that's not what the appeal of this storyline is. The appeal of this storyline is Jim Lee turning in certainly his best work ever for DC, and possibly his best work ever for anyone, and Loeb basically sitting back and wheeling out as many characters as possible for him to draw.
Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?
(Batman #506, Detective Comics #853)
Despite the title, this isn't anything like as good as Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? But, it's Neil Gaiman writing Batman, and while it might not be his best ever work, it's certainly interesting.
Gotham by Gaslight
The first ever Elseworlds story, reimagining Batman as a Victorian-era vigilante. It's not the greatest ever, but it's certainly an interesting historical curio. It's a shame they haven't included more of them in the sale (Speeding Bullets is especially good), but at 99c/69p for a 49-pager that has art by Mike Mignola, this is still pretty decent going.
All-Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder
Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha only joking. You know it still hasn't technically finished? It's actually shameful that DC would continue to ask people for money for this.
And so that's the Batman 750 sale. There's loads more in there, of course, but it would simply take too much time to go through everything. It looks like it's possible to get most if not all of the No Man's Land storyline through it - but that's an even longer and more complex undertaking than Knightfall, and while bits of it are excellent, it's generally more variable in quality. Several other of the Legends storylines - like Gothic, Prey and Venom - might also be worth checking out depending on your tastes, but they're easily identifiable by their cover straps and they're all self-contained.
At the end of the day, though, these are Batman comics - and with a few notable exceptions, you can stick a pin in Batman's 75-year history and find something worthwhile whatever you come out with. So while the above recommendations come with the Panel Beats seal, they're certainly not the be-all and end-all. Have a dip in, see what you like... and have a Happy Batman Day!