It's time for another top ten essential trade paperbacks list from Collected Editions! If you haven't read our list of Top Ten Superman trade paperbacks, click the link to see it. And now on to the Batman trades ...
* Batman: Knightfall
This Bat-saga created in the wake of The Death of Superman never gets the credit that it deserves. In total, the trilogy was probably a too-long telling of the fall and rise of Batman; in parts, however, Knightfall is a thrilling tale of Batman pushed by his enemies to the brink of exhaustion ... and beyond. Part one is great for fans of Batman's colorful villains, nearly all of whom appear here.
* Batman: Death and the Maidens
I literally stayed up all night to finish this gripping Batman/Ra's al Ghul story, written by Greg Rucka in the spirit of the original Dennis O'Neil Ra's tales. Rucka has an addictive, pulse-pounding story that weaves in and out of history and ultimately makes a major change to Batman continuity. This is a classic Batman story, and comes with one of my highest recommendations.
* Batman: Evolution
Then-new writer Greg Rucka's beginning Detective Comics after the mega-No Man's Land crossover. In an attempt to distinguish the title, the colorist worked with a limited pallet, creating comics that were often only shades of reds, blues, and greens. The result is a gorgeously moody Batman comic featuring yet another Ra's al Ghul tale by Rucka. I feel the art here is something every fan should experience.
* Batman: No Man's Land
No Man's Land is a gigantic six-trade collection of a year-long Batman crossover, unique in it's authorial structure such that the story read far more like a novel than most comics crossovers. The story drags, undoubtedly, at times, but the stories of Batman's return to the city in the beginning, and the bittersweet end, are both worth reading.
* Batman: Sword of Azrael
By the time Knightfall was over, no one really liked the Azrael character, but I always thought there was a lot of potential in this initial mini-series. The writing is by comics legend Dennis O'Neil, and art is by current Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. The story pits Batman against a Knights Templar-type organization, with one Jean-Paul Valley caught in the middle; Valley has no idea he's next in line to become the order's avenging Azrael.
* Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying
Not as well known as A Death in the Family, the story that killed off the second Robin, Lonely is the first appearance of the third and current Robin, Tim Drake. It's also, however, a Batman/New Titans crossover, which should thrill any 1980s comics fan, and is written by New Titans creator Marv Wolfman. For Batman, Robin, or Nightwing fans, this is a good one.
* Batman: Year Two
Also not as well known as Batman: Year One, Year Two is a great mystery with tragic romance that works so well with the Batman character. The story deals with the man who murdered Batman's parents and the reasons Batman doesn't carry a gun; art is by Todd McFarlane of Spawn fame.
* Batman: Broken City
Sandwiched between the vaunted Batman: Hush and the start of some new creative teams, Broken City didn't get much notice, but deserved it. This is moody, hard-boiled crime fiction with plenty of snapped arms and broken teeth--it's also an excellent Batman whodunit. If you like Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's 100 Bullets, you should have this in your collection.
* Batman: Bruce Wayne — Fugitive Vol. 3
The Batman Murderer/Fugitive story wasn't a bad crossover, only perhaps went on a little too long. This final trade, though, is a gift from DC Comics -- after volumes one and two, they realized there were enough good follow-up stories out there to warrant a third trade. What you find here are smaller stories featuring Batman and his sidekicks; Rucka's the three-part about Batman's hunt for, and failed romance with, Checkmate's Sasha Bordeaux is worth the price of admission.
* Batman Adventures: The Lost Years
Lost Years is a trade collecting a mini-series that bridged the gap between two different Batman cartoon series and, essentially, it's the animated universe's take on the origin of Nightwing and the rise of the new Robin. If you're a Nightwing or Bat-verse fan, this is some fun revisionist history done in the animated style.
Agree? Hate my choices? Got something to add? Leave a comment!