Batman has always been known as the ‘Dark Knight’ and has featured in thousands of comics in a career spanning decades. However, from time to time, the writers over at DC Comics have put pen to paper to write truly dark comics with particularly gory, graphic, sexually suggestive comics. This article mentions some of the darkest Batman related comics ever written and drawn.
Many of Batman’s and other Bat-family comics could be classed as dark but the following books mentioned in this page featured adult orientated themes such as child abuse, sexual assault, drug abuse, graphic violence, psychosis among others. Somber tales have become quite popular but often aren’t everyone’s come up of tea and you can see that in polarising critical reception. Some of these melancholic books may not be seen as ‘great’ in the eyes of the reader but certainly they were memorable.
Death of the Family
Death of the Family is a crossover event involving most of the Bat-family (Batman and Batgirl have been reviewed) during the New 52. Death of the Family was the grand return of the Joker after getting his face ripped off. He’s not had it reattached and plot a gruesome trap for all the heroes with an explosive ending. Death of the Family obviously nods to the 1988 controversial storyline Death in the Family where Joker murders Jason Todd but the contents are quite different, Jason Todd as Red Hood does feature in Batman’s version, though.
What makes the book so good and bleak is the horrifying and tense filled return on the Joker, not just the symbolic return but the visual return. Give it a read, you won’t regret it.
Batman: Venom is a dark comic book as it explores the time that Bruce Wayne becoming addicted to the super steroid Venom, long before Bane got his greasy mitts on it. Readers are plunged into Bruce’s darkest thoughts during this time as he battles to ween himself off it. Not a fun comic or a fast paced one.
Venom takes place during Bruce Wayne’s earlier years as a crimefighter and it’s a bold move by Denis O’Neil (he has more than one place in this list) to make Bruce Wayne weak enough to succumb to the addictive properties of Venom. However, what O’Neil gets absolutely right that no matter the challenge he faces Batman and Bruce Wayne just keep going to overcome it.
Tales of the Demon
Batman: Tales of the Demon is a Ra’s al Ghul written by Dennis O’Neil with a storyline which explores the Lazarus Pits in much more detail than any other book, in particular the insanity being reincarnated brings. Although not the most compelling book in the world, it offers insight into the parallels between Batman and Ra’s as well as the al Ghul family in general. Dark, twisted and interesting this is certainly a good choice for those looking for the darker tales.
Be warned that Tales of the Demon is from a different era and before Frank Miller shook things up with Dark Knight Returns so the art and storytelling can take some getting used to.
Batman: The Cult is a short four issue story from 1988 which is about a cult led by Deacon Blackfire. Batman is brainwashed in great detail while in the Cult and serves as one of his most challenging situations to overcome. The cult is known as one of the more brutal and grim comics ever written.
What’s worse is that in The Cult Batman is seen to maybe gun people down and kill.
What makes The Cult particularly good and why many people may prefer Batman over other superheroes such as Superman or The Flash is the he is just a man who succumbs to mortal challenges such as drug abuse and psychological abuse like in The Cult. But, no matter how desperate or grim the situation is Batman and Bruce Wayne always rises above and conquers his fears – and not always in one piece.
Red Rain is a part of the Batman & Dracula trilogy. A part of ‘Elseworlds’ along with Haunted Gotham and not a part of canon obviously but just the mere thought of Batman and Dracula in the same book should make you understand it’s going to have a darker tone. Batman is bitten by a vampire and slowly becomes one, gaining the necessary power to be able to stand up to the Dark Lord himself. Needless to say, Batman breaks his oath of not killing as he impales Dracula on a tree, before perishing himself. Really dark and a must read this one. Red Rain is the name of the book probably because of the sheer amount of blood included in the pages.
The Killing Joke
One of the most famous Batman comics of all time and one the darkest. The Killing Joke is a twisted storyline where Joker may well have gone too far as he paralyses Barbara Gordon (with some suggestion he may have raped her while she suffers) and then goes on to kidnap James Gordon and takes him through a brutal trip down in an abandoned theme park. It’s not just The Joker who makes this a dark tale but also the very ambiguous ending between Batman and the Joker. An absolute must read.
Make sure to read the book before the film to experience it properly.
- Batman: The Killing Joke, Deluxe Edition by Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Hardcover
- Approximate Product Dimensions: 11.29" x 7.36" x 0.45" (Length x Width x Height)
- Stunningly illustrated, BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE, THE DELUXE EDITION has been lushly re-colored by artist Brian Bolland, presenting his original vision of this modern classic for the first time.
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth is a comic unlikely any other Batman comic. It’s more a book on dark and gothic art, almost as if the artist (David McKean). It’s a stroll down the supernatural and mysterious history of Arkham Asylum as well as scenes which deconstruct many of Batman’s rogues gallery. It’s a book which needs to experienced rather than read.
Don’t confuse the book with the game of the same name.
Arkham Asylum: Living Hell has a great name that tells you all you need to know about what’s in store, although Batman doesn’t really make much of an appearance in it. Living Hell is a story about day to day life as an inmate of Arkham, Warren White, a fish out of water who thinks pleading insanity when he isn’t in Gotham is a good idea. It’s dark and twisted and a bit of a journey for the reader. Gets a bit weird towards the end but overall a great read.
Batman: Tenses is probably not the best Batman story you’ll ever read but it is very dark and desolate. Bruce Wayne is in his early days during tenses and Alfred is nowhere to be seen. It’s grim and twisted with an unsettling overtone throughout. Quite a rare book, you’ll be lucky to get your hands on this at a bargain price.
Batman: Night Cries ventures into very dark territory indeed; child abuse. Batman and James Gordon work together to bring down the abusers but come to an unsettling conclusion: bad people will continue to do bad things in private and they will never be able to stop it all. Grim, eh?
Cycle of Violence
Cycle of Violence is a Batman Vs. Scarecrow book which has more violence and gore than usual, as you can see from the title. Childhood trauma, psychological warfare and creepy grotesqueness is in abundance and not for the squeamish.
- DC Comics
- Gregg Hurwitz
- Publisher: DC Comics
All-Star Batman and Robin
An infamous book and not in a good way. All-Star Batman and Robin is a series where Batman (Bruce Wayne) has been written as a cruel and sadistic man and infamously called Dick Grayson “retarded”. Probably wouldn’t recommend this book but it is still a ‘dark’ comic.
- DC Comics
- Frank Miller
- Publisher: DC Comics
Batman the Ultimate Evil
Another Batman book which explores childhood abuse is Batman: The Ultimate Evil. Some say this is the darkest Batman book out there.
- Andrew Vachss..."Batman...The Ultimate Evil"...Copyright 1995...Published by Warner Books...First Edition, First Printing.
- Andrew H. Vachss
- Publisher: Grand Central Pub
Last update on 2019-09-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API