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75 Greatest Batman Stories: #55-46

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48. The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6

Stranded in the past by Darkseid, Bruce Wayne travels through history in an attempt to get back home (his brain is a bit muddled so he doesn’t remember everything that happened). However, Darkseid KNOWS that Batman would eventually solve this, so he attached a deadly trap to Batman that will go off only if Batman successfully returns to the present. Grant Morrison wrote the mini-series with art from Frazer Irving, Yanick Paquette and, of course, Chris Sprouse for caveman Batman…

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47. “Blades” (Legends of the Dark Knight #32-34)

In this early DC work by James Robinson and Tim Sale, Batman must deal with a new vigilante known as The Cavalier, who slowly descends into vilainy as the story proceeds. Batman is also tracking a master murderer.

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46. “Night of the Stalker” (Detective Comics #439)

Based on an idea Neal Adams had, Steve Englehart, Vin and Sal Amendola and Dick Giordano combine for this classic tale of what happens when some bad guys kill the mother and father of a little boy while Batman is on duty…

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Batman’s reaction once he is finished with the crooks is amazing, and a display that you likely would never see nowadays.

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53 Comments

Love Night of the Stalker. Noteworthy for Bats not saying a single word throughout.
I found Ego too heavy-handed, though (a common problem with that sort of psychodrama). And Return of Bruce Wayne didn’t work for me at all.

“In this story by Jeph Loen,”

I liked Night of the Stalker until the ending, with sad little boy Bruce having a big cry. No, not for me.

Ego is similarly heavy-handed in its exploration of Bruce’s inner psyche. Cooke’s always been a better artist than a writer; thats why his best work remains the Parker adaptations.

Return of Bruce Wayne was pretty awesome, minus that awful cowboy issue. Like the previous stories, it explores who Bruce is, but in a really interesting metatextual way, while also indulging in base superhero comic thrills of seeing Pirate Batman swordfight blackbeard drawn by Yanick Paquette, or Bruce Wayne and some dame in a 1950s film noir story by Ryan Sook.

While some would like a defense for War Games, I’d love one for DKSA.

I honestly forgot about Blades. Very good story like a lot of early LOTDK.

I get Death of the Family, but man that was a lot of set-up for almost zero ending.

Still 3 of 10

Slim pickings in this segment. Dark Knight Strikes Again? Seriously, people?

“Night of the Stalker”, another classic Batman done-in-one. I’m a big fan of “Ego” as well.

But “Blades” is my favourite story by far here. Definitely one of the best LotDK story arcs, and the best Batman story Tim Sale ever drew!

i did enjoy return of bruce wayne. i did NOT enjoy strikes back

I did not vote but I am glad “Blades” made the list.

@John Trumbull

Dark Knight Strikes Again probably looks pretty good to people who have grown up hearing that The Long Halloween and Hush are great masterpieces.

I love how Public Enemies tried to suggest Metallo was the one who killed the Waynes, and everyone just said “No” and never mentioned it again.

I take it voting is long over with, but since I missed it the first time around I will add an honorable mention here because I feel it will most certainly get overlooked.

Peter Milligan had a short run on Detective comics and his issue #630 “The Executioner Wore Stiletto Heels” is both odd and affecting at the same time. It also plays with moral boundaries and leaves the reader wondering whether Batman made the correct decision at the end of the story.

Seeing DKSA is a bit scary……however I voted for both Blades and Death of the Family. Honestly didn’t think Blades would make it. Pleasant surprise.

I was under the impression that Superman/Batman was never supposed to be canon.

At least Death of the Family isn’t top 20. That is a bad comic by any standard you can apply.

Also, that is probably one of the worst excerpts from DKSA. It is a chore to read. Parts of it seem to be written by an illiterate polish person using google translate for english, but parts of it are great to look at. However, Lynn Varley had just discovered computers, so parts of it looked like your class 3 art project, like the excerpt on this page.

I’m glad to see The Last Arkham on the list. A forgotten gem in the Batman catalog.

After playing Arkham Asylum I went back and read some older Arkham-centric stories I’d never read before. The Last Arkham was the one I started with and it was a great story. Certainly deserving of a place on this list. I had no idea it was the first appearance of Zsasz though. Crap, now I want to replay AA.

I read The Dark Knight Strikes Again well after I’d read The Dark Knight Returns, but almost right after a reread of TDKR. Some weirdness aside, I didn’t mind the first issue too much. The wheels flew off with the second issue. I really don’t know what to make of that whole story, but I know I didn’t care for it. I think what Grant Morrison said about it on an episode of Fatman on Batman is pretty accurate: essentially, it’s a writer actively working out his feelings about and reacting to a traumatic event (the WTC attack, in this case) and the resultant changes to the world he finds himself in. On that level and with that context, it’s actually a bit fascinating to read. But as just a Batman/JLA (it really is more of a JLA story, I think) story? eh, perhaps not so much.

For some reason I’m surprised to see Death of the Family on here. Curious to see how far up the list Court of Owls places now. I thought DotF was alright. I could see what Snyder was getting at and trying to do with the story, but I don’t really think he pulled it off. He’s had a hard time sticking the landing of his big stories in the New 52, and indeed the last issue or two was where I thought it started weakening. I was enjoying the story before those issues though. On a bit of a side note, NO ONE managed to make Joker’s face look as horrifying as Patrick Gleason did in the Batman and Robin tie-ins. There’s a splash page in B&R #15 where Joker is hanging upside down, but his face is right side up. Absolutely disgusting.

The Return of Bruce Wayne, like much of Morrison’s run, was pretty nuts (in a good way). I quite liked this story, but I definitely felt a bit lost sometimes. I hadn’t read a whole lot of Batman, or Morrison, or any JLA, or really even any DC by the time I’d started his Batman run, so I chalk up most of my difficulties with RoBW to not knowing or being prepared for what I was getting into (Final Crisis was almost impossible to decipher). I’ve read a lot more of all of those since then (loved Morrison’s JLA run and am currently rereading it), and reread his entire Batman run after it finished, and it’s something that is MUCH more enjoyable and rewarding the second time through.

did not expect dark knight strikes again to ever show up on this list given how it wound up a little mess in the end of the story . and death of the family figured it would show up here given how it shows that now there is no limit the joker will go to to mess with and try to destroy batman. plus the scary bit of does the joker really know batmans i.d or is it a trick. night of the stalker found interesting for shows that batman is still human may come off almost as a dark myth but still human.

face it, among the cognoscenti DKSA is seen as a masterpiece.

No amount of bitching of its inclusion on these lists will change that.

The art is what makes it awesome. Esp. the amazing coloring

I wish we could like posts , Trey , you have it right. I always think it is funny with all of these lists that Brian does , it seems the people who have negative things to state , post more , then the people who just vote and seem to ignore the comment section. Makes you wonder , how much time the “negative nancys” have on their hands

“Night of the Stalker” is the second story on this list so far from Archie Goodwin’s (too short) seven issue run editing Detective Comics. I wonder how many more will make the cut? I think at least two Archie-written ones are shoo-ins.

Neo-Con Professor Pyg

July 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Of all the choices so far, and people are bitching about DKSA? That’s kind of amazing, as it’s a legitimate masterpiece. It’s the best Silver-Age revivalism pre-Morrison, and better than Darwyn Cooke and Alan Moore’s lazy attempts at it. As wrong-headed as Miller’s Dick Grayson angst might be, the layout of Batman and Robin’s final battle is a sight to behold.

Another interesting group, including some I voted for (“Night of the Stalker”) and some I would never vote for in a month of Sundays (“Dark Knight Strikes Again”). Still, I suppose the variety of stories that have been told (and can be told) about Batman is part of the appeal of the character.

At the moment, I have abandoned hope that “court of Owls” will not appear on this list, but I at least hope it doesn’t make the top 10.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again was my #6 vote. It’s just a great big silly enjoyable story. I also enjoy seeing the people who hate it tear their hair out. I can’t wait for ASBAR to turn up!

Blades is excellent – probably the best writing we’ve seen in a Tim Sale Batman story.

The Last Arkham was definitely a good Grant/Breyfogle story. Not least for introducing the glorious Zsasz.

I don’t see anybody tearing their hair out over DKSA. Just some people who don’t think it was “Best Batman Stories” material.

I do see some fans of modern material who seem kind of upset that anyone would have different tastes from them.

Get over it. It’s OK to think older comics are better.

Neo-Con Professor Pyg

July 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm

I think the biggest bummer about this Greatest Batman Stories list is that it doesn’t really highlight some of the smaller obscure Batman stories by great writers.

Batman: The Last Arkham is on the list. There are probably a dozen better Breyfogle/Grant joints, but they are far too obscure to be put on a list which is based on popularity. Because of that I think Last Arkham will be the highest Breyforgle/Grant story while stories like Trash or The Nobody go unnoticed. Same goes with Moench/Jones and Milligan/Aparo (The Riddle story will probably place soon).

I am glad that Batman vs Predator made it though. It’s something that no one probably things will be any good until they pick it up. Kubert’s art style has aged really well.

Red Rain never gets as much love as it should, fantastic story.

“Night of the Stalker” and “Blades” were both in my Top 10. Not a fan of “Return of Bruce Wayne” or “DK2.”

I like these little lists. They tell me what I should read next. Already I’ve seen two good suggestions.

I love The Last Arkham. I can’t remember if I voted for it (I certainly voted for a bunch of other Grant/Breyfogle stories that probably won’t make the list) but it is one of the best Arkham stories. It’s a shame that DC’s apparent vendetta against the Grant/Breyfogle team has prevented them from reprinting it, even in light of the success of the Arkham games, which seem to take at least a little bit of inspiration from the story.

So far, I agree with just about everything on the list thus far…. except the inclusion of DKSA. I mean, Year One and TDKR are such masterpieces that Frank Miller has certainly earned his place in the pantheon of Batman writers/artists. That goes without saying… but DKSA was an absolute mess. The biggest problem about it was the “Talking Head” segments which were in the original but were more of a side-thing to provide perspective about the effect Batman’s re-emergence had on the public became too much of a spotlight. It almost felt like they had more panel time than Batman in this book, which isn’t how it should feel at all.
Plus… Batman could have solved the whole story in like, the first issue. I don’t remember if it was literally in the first issue, it may have been early on in issue 2, but there’s a part where Batman just drives the Batmobile into Lex’s Window and beats him up, slashing a “Z” for “Zoro” on his face which he then has for the rest of the story… then Batman just leaves, like “I’ve made my point… no need to capture him or anything… the attacking him and leaving thing will TOTALLY make him afraid of me, and won’t piss him off and escalate the situation.”

I am kinda expecting to see ASBAR appear on this list higher up now… if only for the fact that the unintentional hilarity of it actually makes me enjoy it quite a bit, even if I enjoy it for all the wrong reasons.

Didn’t vote for any of these, but some of them are pretty good. Well, not Dark Knight Strikes Again, that’s a terrible heap of ultra-trash that may have been the beginning of the end of Frank Miller’s credibility. Wasn’t a big fan of Return of Bruce Wayne, except that Tim Drake was actually involved in bringing him back.

I don’t understand the intense hatred for Death of the Family. Yeah, I get that it didn’t really do what it was sold as, and people think Snyder went overboard on the gory horror element, but what it actually *does* say about the characters, especially Batman and Joker and their relationship, and even Joker’s relationship with the other members of the rogues gallery is interesting and said well. It didn’t make my list, but I’m glad to see it on here somewhere. I imagine, though, that inferior storylines will outrank it out of sheer longevity.

Seems there’s some fans who don’t care for Snyders run. I get that. When I read Court of Owls initially I was blown away. It’s only a few years old. I still like it…not a top ten for me though. Death of the Family had a nice tense feeling even after rereading it. It made my lower top ten. Though that can change. Not a fan of DKSA. Though I often wonder if it’s because I unfairly compare it to DKR. Even though I’m not a fan of every book making it, it’s fun to see what other fans pick.

Voted for Red Rain and Dark Knight Strikes Again, so I’m glad to see them listed here.

Strikes Again is great, and I feel sorry -almost- for people who can’t enjoy the sheer crazyness of it.
Most of the haters wouldn’t feel so butthurt about it if it was a standalone story instead of a sequel to their precious Returns.

Meanwhile I think Death Of The Family was garbage and the Joker has been ruined as a character with the face-mask gimmick. So to each their own.

“I think the biggest bummer about this Greatest Batman Stories list is that it doesn’t really highlight some of the smaller obscure Batman stories by great writers.

Batman: The Last Arkham is on the list. There are probably a dozen better Breyfogle/Grant joints, but they are far too obscure to be put on a list which is based on popularity. Because of that I think Last Arkham will be the highest Breyforgle/Grant story while stories like Trash or The Nobody go unnoticed. Same goes with Moench/Jones and Milligan/Aparo (The Riddle story will probably place soon).”

I voted for Trash, and Milligan’s Identity Crisis. The Nobody was outstanding, also.

Maybe if we’re good, Brian will release at least a bare listing of #76-150, which would likely contain more obscure examples.

I’m pretty confident no-one else voted for the Spook’s first arc from the early 70s, or Just Another Night from Batman Adventures, though :)

Public Enemies is awesome. Loeb’s run on Superman/Batman is so underrated.

Caveman Batman is an awesome concept.

“I’m pretty confident no-one else voted for the Spook’s first arc from the early 70s, or Just Another Night from Batman Adventures, though :)”

I didn’t vote for Just Another Night, but I could have. My list could have been constructed entirely of stories from the Batman Adventures books. In the end I ended up voting for two others, one of which I’m confident will end up on this list. The other, The Little Red Book, hasn’t shown up yet so I seriously doubt it will at all. My love for that issue is something fierce. It cuts to the essence of Batman as well as the intro to The Animated Series itself, and it’s arguably Parobeck’s strongest artwork in the series.

Lots of people voted for Batman Adventures stories but I’m afraid that no one story was a consensus favorite. Well, except for that one story, but you know what I mean, none of the regular issues.

Why can’t we just agree to disagree? We are releasing our collective respective celebrations and frustrations in the most civilized way possible.

First, TDKSA is slowly gaining a bit respectability though I still comprehend why the majority howls it. And second, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is never ever an “underrated” Batman story for its paperback edition is now multi-editions, including the ABSOLUTE Editions (two volumes of the Jeph Leob’s run).

In addition, Red Rain deserves a high-end hardcover edition, seriously. That story is way awesome than many Dracula/vampire-themed “sagas” (I’m looking at you, Twilight!).

If I could have voted for 30 stories at least 1/3 of them would have been from The Batman Adventures.

Charles J. Baserap

July 13, 2014 at 8:57 pm

My two biggest problems with Death of the Family, personally were as follows:

1. It made the Joker almost seem like a meta who was impossibly ahead of everyone by like twenty steps and walking around snapping necks singlehandedly like Bane. He seemed, like Riddler in Zero Year, to just be so uber for some reason.

2. The ending was horrendous and made me buy the everyone hates Bruce angle even more.

Really, outside of that, I found it to be a fun story, but after this one and Court of the Owls, I’m a little wary on the final issues of The Wake and Zero Year because I haven’t been a fan personally of Snyder’s endings. We’ll see I guess!

Not a fan of DKSA, but I think the segment with the Atom at the beginning is awesome. I’d easily put it on my list of “Best Atom Stories of All Time” for that segment alone.

I am not a fan of Public Enemies at all, on the other hand. Terrible, clunky plotting, I’d say.

Strikes Again is great, and I feel sorry -almost- for people who can’t enjoy the sheer crazyness of it.

“Gonzo comics” has become the go-to defense of Miller’s later work, but it gets harder and harder to read his material ironically — and that is what the “gonzo” interpretation demands — with each new iteration.

DKSA by itself deserved the response it got. DKSA in the wake of Holy Terror, All-Star Batman and Robin, the Spirit film, and 3000: Rise of an Empire/Xerxes doesn’t read the same way to me, and my tolerance for MIller’s “gonzo” work is pretty much eroded by what I see as a stream of consistently nuance-free, haphazardly plotted, thematically repugnant work executed by a creator who nowadays makes it perfectly clear he’s not being ironic in the slightest.

None of this means other people can’t enjoy it, and I’m glad people who voted for it got to see it make the list. Graphically, it’s interesting and daring. But defenses of the writing and the ideas just don’t work for me anymore in the context of MIller’s work over the last fifteen years.

“Blades” was yet another really great story that narrowly missed the cut on my own list.

When oh when will any of the stories I voted for show up?!? :)

Bill K: I certainly voted for Trash. There were certainly a lot of votes for the Grant’Breyfogle Detective run on my list.

Omar: Well said.

I like DKSA. I can understand why a lot of people don’t.
I agree with Bill K that a lot of good stories simply won’t get enough attention to make the list, but that’s the nature of the game. Particularly a game that’s stretched 75 years with multiple stories coming out every month.

Bill K, I love a lot of those old tales as well, and was really tempted to avoid listing things like Year 1, DK, Killing Joke, which would be sure to appear, in favour of obscure stories that made me love the Bat in my youth. I almost voted for the “Bat-Murderer” storyline when the Spook framed Batman for murder.

Pretty funny that people voted for Dark Knight Strikes Again. I’m pretty sure Frank Miller meant that as an f-u to the industry. Everyone pestered him for 15 years for a sequel to the Dark Knight Returns, and he got sick and tired of hearing it. So he creates the biggest turd he can- DK2. Now he’s happy, because no one bugs him to make more Batman.

And now some people put it on the list of the top Batman stories- hilarious.

Pretty sure you have it wrong Fremgen, I had Miller sign my DKSA books , and in discussing it with him , he felt DKSA took the concept to a whole other level. And to this day , people still bug Miller every day , if All-Star Bats is ever going to wrap up. In fact it was a topic of conversation each day (that i was privleged to work ) on the Sin City II set

I was going to mention that DKSA features one of the best Atom sequences ever, but Ben McClure beat me to it. I enjoyed the story – I’d call it a romp through the DC universe – but its clearly not everyone’s jam.

Never voted… Totally meant to go through my back issues and do it but I forgot. That being said I knew Public Enemies would be in my top 5. Out of 30 years worth of Batman at home, that’s one of the stories I’ve read the most. I’m not saying it’s the most well written story ever, but for re-readability? I’ve read it probably 50 times and I always enjoy the hell out of it.

Also, I re-read DKSA a few months back. It was the first time I’d read it since I bought it monthly all those years ago., and it’s no where near as bad as I’d remembered. I hated it at the time, but I was probably expecting too much.

The first of my Top 10 Batman stories turn up at # 46.

Night of the Stalker was # 6 on my list

Since we have some Archie Goodwin fans on here, I’ll just mention that the 1970s anthology Weird Heroes #1 has a novelette, “Stalker,” that’s very good: A Vietnam veteran winds up fighting a corrupt cabal of Oklahoma oil men with national political ambitions. Unfortunately, no sequels, but worth looking for if you like Goodwin’s work.

I’m sorry, but Dark Knight Strikes Again is not very good. This is the beginning of the end of Frank Miller’s sanity. I think Linkara from Atop the Fourth Wall can tell you why DKSA is terrible, but this was one of the worst Batman stories ever, as well as the worst thing Miller has ever written . . . at least until he wrote the atrocity called Holy Terror.

So the Shadow of the Bat story made my list. Now I remember why Zsasz was so mad all the time…he had such a small…word balloon. (Arkham must be cold).

DKSA – wut? (How much did Miller get paid for that?)

I’m not sure how anyone thought “faceless” Joker was a good idea, but I’m not sure what editors at DC do anymore.

Dracula vs. Batman was only marred by going to that well a few too many times. But the original is great.

But mainly I’m glad this list made me remember Blades, which is a tremendous story.

Stephen Conway

July 21, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I kinda preferred Miller’s art on DKSA to DKR, but that’s all I’ll say in its favour.

Blades and the Last Arkham are great, and probably would be on my list if I made it.

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