A look at the different Batman comics.

Everybody likes Batman. Seriously. He’s the character that people just enjoy. There isn’t anyone that will say “I hate Batman” because Batman is cool. He’s the epitome of cool. There might be characters that people like more, but no one hates Batman. Thanks to movies, TV, Halloween, everyone likes Batman. He’s always popular but right now the Bat-Family has gone such a big change in the titles that combined with “The Dark Knight” it’s arguable that he’s more popular now than ever. There certainly is more devotion to him in comics.

So this week we focus on the Bat-books. We’ll discuss, grade, pan, and praise so you know what‘s good and what you should avoid.

Shockingly, the most important book in the universe is “Batman, Inc.” Writer Grant Morrison has spent the past five years crafting one of the most intricate, epic stories he’s even been involved in. Last year’s “Batman: the Return of Bruce Wayne” saw the culmination of the past years and made everything worthwhile. The big moment came when Bruce Wayne “came out” and said he funded Batman. Finally, announcing ‘Batman Incorporated.’ A Batman (or representative) in every major city in the world. And let us say, wow, Morrison gets it. Inc. is the coolest Batman centric book out. Using moments and forgotten characters from every decade he’s been around Morrison’s Bat-opus continues and is building to somewhere we can’t even imagine. Must Read

“Batman: The Dark Knight” is the newest addition to the family and it shows. One of Batman’s quirks is he believes magic is just another science yet to be explored. But things are happening he can’t explain so he’s delving into the supernatural. Superstar artist David Finch was given this book as his major writing duty and it shows. Aside from the perennial lateness of the book due to his doubling as writer and artist he is quickly needs to learn how to not fall into comic clichés. (and if that’s his intent, it doesn’t work) There’s a ton of potential in the story but it needs to be tightened up. His art is, as always, gorgeous and gritty. Sadly, he’s leaving art duties with issue four. Hopefully, this will give him time to work on becoming a more solid writer. Read When Collected.

The book the launched Batman has undergone a revolution once again and we thank the comic gods for it. “Detective Comics” was a bright spot in comics for almost a year with Batwoman as the central character. After she left all we got was filler. Scott Snyder picked up the book and has made the most compelling Batman stories in years, and Batman isn’t even the main character. Snyder took the title to heart and the book is now a dark, noir, crime saga involving Batman of Gotham City (remember Batman Inc? Dick Grayson, former first Robin, is currently Batman in Gotham) and Commissioner Gordon. Gordon’s estranged son has returned and he’s about as creepy as can be. Beautiful art by Jock and Francesco Francavilla really accentuate the mood. The combination have made this the best Batman book on the stands. Must Read.

You‘d think with the title “Batman” that the this should be the book to read. Sadly, that’s not the case. It’s just another book dealing with Batman vs. villains. But since writer/artist Tony Daniel took over, it’s been the same villains. Two-Face, Ninjas, and Mobsters. There isn’t any variety to his characters. He writes Dick as Bruce, which he’s not and shouldn’t be. He’s Dick, and has fun being Batman. Lately, Daniel has understood that and started dropping hints of that but overall, this book is just another pretty book dealing with the same stories. If You’re Bored.

“Batman and Robin” has had a train ride existence in it‘s short life. Morrision wrote the first incredible sixteen issues. There was a last-second rush-job 3-issue filler was done by Paul Cornell which is best ignored in favor of underrated writer Peter Tomasi’s current run. Someone is murdering the family members of Arkham inmates and the dynamic duo need to figure out who. Sadly, the story just ended and another new writer starts his run with the next issue. This book went from a must read to a Read When Collected extremely quick.

“Batgirl” is easily the most delightful of the Bat-books on the stands. Now that might not sound appealing for a Bat title but it’s nice to have a bright spot in the surrounding darkness. Stephanie Brown (former Spoiler and Robin 4) is the current Batgirl and she has her own back-up, tech, arch-nemesis, and problems as she juggles college, hiding her identity from her mom (who knows about the past heroics) and super-heroing. There are a lot of great done-in-one stories (which are a rarity in comics these days) with some fun and thrilling overarching stories. You might not think this book is worth reading by the title but it is a Must Read.

Tim Drake has gotten the shaft in the past couple years. While he’s easily one of the most respected characters in the D.C.U. no one can give him the respect he deserves. After basically being forced out of the Robin persona he took over as “Red Robin.” While Bruce was bouncing around time, Tim was the only one that believed he wasn’t dead. And no one believed him. So he proved it. And proved himself as an worthy successor to the “World’s Greatest Detective” title. The majority of the series has been about Tim proving Bruce is alive and what a well-crafted long-game story it was. Since then, writer Fabian Nicieza has returned to a character he’s written before and taken him even further. We’re glad someone respects Tim Drake and Fabian does. While Red Robin is deeply rooted in the Bat and D.C. mythos he has his own universe and weaves it well. The only criticism is that because there is many flowing stories going on, it would be difficult for someone new to just jump on board. So start from the beginning and Read As Collected.

“Gotham City Sirens” has every making of a fantastic cheesecake book. Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn living together and talk about boys, money, and stealing things. It’s a recipe worthy of Darren Star. Thankfully, though, it’s not as painful. In fact, it’s the hidden gem of the Bat family. Catwoman, by and large is a good guy. So how does she work with two villains/murderers? It’s quite a genius book that doesn’t fall into the cheesecake it should. Every one of these characters is very flawed but the book is very strong. It can be read right now but it’s best to read this one As Collected.

Finally, the book most on the fringe of the family is “Birds of Prey.” A team book featuring the strongest women of the D.C.U. somehow managed to become a massive fan favorite. Starring Batman’s ear to the world Barbra Gordon/Oracle she’s the greatest hacker in the world and uses her skills to keep it running smoothly. When this book was cancelled a few years ago the fans prayed, demanded and begged it come back. Shockingly, D.C. listened. The series came back with everyone’s favorite writer Gail Simone back in the drivers seat and has moved… rather slow. It’s not been bad, in fact, it’s been pretty darn good. But we’ve been building to the next issue since the first. One of the problems is the art has been so inconsistent month to month that it’s difficult to keep in the story. The most recent story “Death of Oracle” was a highpoint for the new run and the next issue welcomes a new, fantastic and most importantly, regular artist Jesus Saiz on. With the utmost faith in Mrs. Simone pick up the next issue because it’s going to be a great jumping on point and definitely a Must Read.

Jo Schmidt