UPDATE: In the spirit of our Batman: Arkham City coverage, I figured I would move this list back up into the feed.

ORIGINAL STORY When my Batman: Arkham Asylum review hit the Internet, my mailbox filled up with reader comments pertaining to my critique of the game’s story. Since I poked holes in the underdeveloped plot, most readers wanted to know what I thought made for a great Batman story.

Upon the release of the game, my mailbox filled up again – this time with questions relating to specific plot moments from the game. Why did Batman say, “This time I break you” to Bane? When was Batman first infected with venom? Who is Oracle?

As I answered these questions, I realized I was referencing my favorite Batman stories. Listed below are my 10 all-time favorite Batman tales. Many of these books can be viewed as prequels to Arkham Asylum, while others are stories all self-respecting Batman fans should read. And no, I do not feel any of the Batman films (even The Dark Knight) belong on this list.

1. The Dark Knight Returns
Written by: Frank Miller
Art by: Frank Miller

With The Dark Knight Returns, scribe Frank Miller looked deep into Batman’s future. What affect did the death of Jason Todd (the second Robin) have on Bruce Wayne? What would happen if Batman lost his faith in the world? For the time, comics didn’t explore dark emotional themes. Giving emotional scars to a character didn’t just create an interesting story; it changed the landscape of comics forever. This comic signaled a change from whimsical crime capers to darkly themed dramas.

Miller’s story follows Bruce Wayne’s return to the mantle of the bat, and the resurgence of his fallen foes. Batman’s turmoil is the centerpiece of this plot, but Miller also shows us he knows how to write action. A scene with Superman is, without question, my most beloved comic book moment.

If you do decide to read The Dark Knight, do not, and I repeat, DO NOT read the sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again. With this follow-up, Miller bookends his Batman career with the best and worst Batman stories.

2. Batman: Year One
Written by:
Frank Miller
Art by:
Dave Mazzucchelli

Once again, comic fans have Frank Miller to thank for Batman’s evolution as a comic book character. In Year One, Miller explores the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon. Both characters see Gotham City in different ways. Jim humanizes the city, whereas Bruce demonizes it. The relationship between Batman and Gordon is fully explored. You see how their friendship takes shape, and how their unified goal to protect the city is divided by faith and remorse. This story concludes with one of comic’s most memorable scenes with Batman revealing his true identity to Gordon.

3. The Killing Joke
Written by: Alan Moore
Art by:
Brian Bolland

Could you ever see yourself sympathizing with the Joker? That’s exactly what this story makes you, and Batman, do. While many comic writers have explored different origin stories for the clown prince – a move that has added to the psychosis of the character –this is the introduction most comic fans, myself included, see the most truth in. This exciting page-turner shows Joker lashing out at the world, destroying lives we are led to believe are similar to his own. The Gordon family falls victim to Joker’s rampage. Intent to make Commissioner Gordon crack, Joker shoots and paralyzes his daughter, Barbara (who was Batgirl at the time). Barbara, not willing to give up, later dons the new guise of Oracle. Unable to do work in the field, Oracle helps Batman and other heroes on a technical end.