We come to the end of the Best of Comic Book Battles. Arguably, I saved the best for last. The Dark Knight himself, Batman. I’ve read countless Batman comics and I can tell you that there are a lot of great battles among them. The problem is narrowing it down to five.  I don’t want to miss anything but surely I’ll look back at this list and say ” damn! How could I forget that one!” Nevertheless here is my final entry of Best Comic Book Battles.

5. Batman vs Bane part 1 & 2 ( Knightfall and Detective Comics # 701) By Doug Moench, Jim Aparo, Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan & Scott Hanna

Okay, so I’m cheating a bit. Technically these are two different fights from two different story lines BUT they fit so well with each other! Most people know who Bane is thanks to the Dark Knight Rises film. The film actually borrowed heavily from both of these stories. Knightfall is the classic where Bane ‘ breaks” the bat, leaving him paralyzed. it’s not much of a fair fight really. Bane pretty much takes advantage of Batman after he’s been battling all the escape convicts from Arkham. By the time Bane shows up, Batman’s on his last legs. Injured and exhausted. Bane just pumps the Venom and beats the hell out of him. I think Batman gets one punch in. This is such an important fight because Batman had never been beaten bad enough that he was broken and humiliated. It also ended a story with the villain, essentially winning.  Plus it gave us this classic image…

 

Detective Comics #701 takes place during the Legacy story line where Bane teams up with Ra’s Al Ghul to unleash a plague all over the world. The story was okay, but it did give us the much anticipated rematch of Bane vs Batman. This time Batman was 100% and Bane was Venom free. The result was a much more balanced fight. I’d even say that Batman dominated most of it. There was a lot of hype for it from my perspective. I think fans really questioned ” could Batman actually beat a guy who seemed his superior in every way?” the answer was satisfying and awesome as hell.

4. Batman vs S.WA.T. teamn ( Batman: Year One) By Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli

 

A fantastic fight scene from a fantastic story.  Miller and Mazzucchelli create a masterpiece in action with this one. As the title would suggest, this is Batman’s rookie year and he’s not used to having his back against the wall.  He’s injured and cornered by a corrupt police S.WA.T. team that wants him dead. The way Batman takes out each member one by one goes from desperate to methodical. He even finds time to save a cat. Another thing I love about this fight is that you get to see how much Batman relies on the shadows and uses it to his advantage. If you’ve played the Arkham games, you know just what I mean. You might say he adopts the dark. ( wink.) This is another fight scene that was adapted in animated and even, loosely in live action films.  It just goes to show the strength and enduring appeal of this battle.

3. Batman vs Manny ” The Fish” Cardona ( Batman:Prey – Part 2 of 5 – By Doug Moench & Paul Gulacy)

Definitely a childhood favorite of mine. I remember reading this issue over and over again. The artwork and the dynamic nature of the fight really caught my eye. Still does. I would say that compared to some of the other stories on this list, “Prey” is less known. It did get some exposure when it was theorized that it might be adapted as the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It’s also known for being one of the best Dr. Hugo Strange stories as well. Again we see Batman in the early years of his crime fighting career. He goes one on one with a crime lord known as The Fish. It proves to be a more even contest than Batman expects. That’s what makes it even funner for me. Seeing Batman make some mistakes and have to fight his best adds a thrill to any fight. Paul Gulacy has a unique style that may turn off some but I love it for this particular story arc.  I urge you to check this story out and enjoy an awesome fight scene. It should be fairly inexpensive if you decide to hunt for it.

2. Batman Vs Joker ( Endgame – By Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo & Miki

 

As the cover would suggest, a battle that has lasted ages. You knew that the greatest rivalry of all time would have to make the list.  I think a quote from ” The Dark Knight” really nails it.

“Oh, you. You just couldn’t let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” – Joker

Endgame “seems” to give both combatants the end that only they deserve. It’s eerily similair to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns but it’s meant to be. It’s shockingly brutal and impossible to take your eyes off of. Like any realtionship it’s hard to keep things exciting and fresh between the two after so many years. I can say that , Snyder and Co. succeed in doing so.  A lot of fans were divisive in regards to Snyder’s last venture into the mind of the Joker ( Death Of The Family) but this time I think he nails it. The last issue/ chapter is worth it alone thanks to this glorious fight. Courtsey of Greg Capullo & Miki’s art, check out this page…

1. Batman vs The Mutant Gang Leader – Both fights – ( The Dark Knight Returns) By Frank Miller, Klaus Janson & Lynn Varley

 

This time it’s less cheating because both fights happen in the same story… a flimsy excuse perhaps, but I digress. Both these fights get mentioned a lot and while I’d love to be more original, the thing is too damn good. This particular comic WAS the first time you see Batman get his ass, more or less, handed to him. This time against the leader of the Mutant gang. He’s essentially an earlier version of Bane, full of brute strength and in the prime of his life. Batman? Not so much. In his fifties and just out of retirement. It’s a well known story and it too, inspired the Nolan movies. In fact, the entire story was adapted in an epic animated movie. It does a fantastic job of bringing this epic fight to life. One thing that is missing from the animated version is Batman’s inner monologue. You get to read the way he assesses each blow as he tries to outwit his opponent. Eventually you start to read the fear and desperation as he realizes he’s losing.

 

The rematch is a bit of a different story. This round Batman tries to use strategy rather than matching his opponents savagery. Batman manages to lure the Mutant leader to a mud pit and even the playing field. The result is one of the coolest, most quotable lines in the whole story.

“[Fighting the Mutant Leader] You don’t get it, son. This isn’t a mudhole… It’s an operating table. And I’m the surgeon.” – Batman 

Amazing.  Frank Miller has always been a masterful visual storyteller, and here we get Frank in his prime, with a big assist to Mr. Klaus Janson on inks.

There you have it. My picks for Batman’s greatest battles. Who knows? maybe in a few months I’ll tackle a new set of characters to showcase.

This year’s Eisner award nominees were announced earlier this week which got me thinking.if you’re unfamiliar with what the Eisner awards are, think of them as the comic book version of the Oscars. Named after the great Will Eisner who famously wrote The Spirit for several years.  Here is this year’s full list of nominees if you’re curious click here.

 

One thing I noticed is how much more quality comics material there is out there and how much more scarce it is to find A DC or Marvel comic among the major categories I guess, much like the Oscars, these awards are meant to honor lesser known books. I do remember a time when the Eisner awards were chock full of DC & Marvel representation. So I figured that this is a prime opportunity to list some of my favorite non Dc/Marvel stories so that you may seek them out. I will be listing several Vertigo books that I realize are owned by DC but I’m not counting them as DC. Let’s kick off with part one!

100 Bullets ( Vertigo) By Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso.

Winner of thee Eisner awards including Best ongoing series, Best Artist & Best Serialized Story.Instantly hooky and addictive. It’s crime noir meets Twilight Zone with a dash of government conspiracy in it. The premise is simple. What if you had the power to take your life back and get revenge on the person or persons who ruined your life, consequence free?  Would you do it? What if a man showed up and knew your entire life’s story and gave you a suitcase with an unregistered gun and 100 untraceable bullets? How about then? That is how every new story begins. Intriguing isn’t it? That mysterious man is Agent Graves and the less you know about him the better. Brian Azzarello made his name with this project and eventually got to write in the DC and Marvel sandbox. Eduardo Risso was the primary artist and you might call him the modern day Alex Toth. The series ran, fittingly enough, for 100 issues.

Pride Of Baghdad ( Vertigo) By Brian K. Vaughn & Niko Henrichon

Gut wrenching and beautiful is how I would describe this one. Brian K . Vaughn is no stranger to the Eisner’s , having won multiple times for other things but I find that this tale often gets overlooked. It serves as a fictionalized account of a true story about a pride of Lions escaping a  zoo in Baghdad. After a major bombing they must deal with their new surroundings and fight for their lives. It has wonderful character moments and it doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities. You can basically treat them as  anthropomorphic animals who share their thoughts and feelings like any human would. Niko Henrichon exquisitely illustrates the hell out of this one. A real page turned that is impossible to put down once you start. Not for the faint of heart but a must read nonetheless.

The Maxx ( Image) By Sam Kieth & William Messner-Loebs

If you’re looking for something a little out there, then step right up to the Maxx. Weird is the appropriate word, but it’s the kind of weird you can’t help but be intrigued by. You want to know more and you constantly seek to try and comprehend this chaotic world. in a nutshell it’s a tale of two characters and two realities. The real world and the unconscious world known as The Outback. The Maxx and Julie are the two characters that share a link into both those worlds. I’m not quite sure “what” Maxx really is. They refer to him as a man but he doesn’t exactly share the traits of a typical man or human for that matter. It’s an intriguing book that looks wonderfully dark thanks to Sam Kieth’s unique art style. The subject matter can be intense at times dealing with things like rape trauma and repressed memories. A real head scratcher at times but well worth the journey. IDW is the current comic company reprinting these classic tales so you’re in luck!

Robocop – Revolution ( Dynamite) By Rob Williams & Fabiano Neves

If you’re looking for something more familiar, then look no further than this underrated gem. If you watched the cult classic film and loved it, you’ll like this. This story is the only version of any medium that does the original Robocop justice, as far as I’m concerned. It takes place directly after the end of the first film and it actually adds layers to the original story. Don’t worry, It keeps the satire and violence that made the film what it was as well,It reads very well and the art is thoughtfully done which begs the question as to why more people didn’t embrace this story more? Then again a lot of critcs and fans didn’t embrace Blade Runner when it dame out either. Robocop ran for only seven issues but it deserved much more. The great thing is that you can enjoy it without having to be a huge Robocop fan. Nevertheless,if you are looking for something that harkens back to the original then check this out.

Astro City ( Image) By Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson & Alex Ross

Astro City started out at Image then bounced over to Wildstrom and now has resurrected in a new series for Vertigo. An Eisner Awards titan winning 12 awards including best writer, best cover artist, best new series, best ongoing series, best single issue story, & best serialized story. It’s also nominated this year for best single issue story. Clearly well respected in the industry. The unique thing about it is that it still exists in the superhero world and it relishes it. Busiek really sought out to explore other dimensions within that world and make the best out of it. It’s really about life around and among superheroes. The focus at first was on establishing the world and the characters in a single issue format. Eventually they had longer arcs which were fantastic as well. Busiek and Ross created what were essentially parodies of many of the most recognizable heroes we know. The Samaritan is essentially Superman, The Confessor being Batman and Winged Victory serving as a kind of Wonder Woman. That’s only the Trinity. We have several more. The first issue is a wonderful story that is simply about The Samaritan having the same dream every night where he is flying. Sure he flys all the time, but he does so in moments of extreme pressure and danger. He never really gets to enjoy this fantastical feat. Another great issue deals with a super villain pulling off the greatest heist ever but not receiving the credit for it. On top of great story telling we are treated with the lush beautiful covers of Alex Ross! I urge you to stop by Asto City and enjoy your stay.

This concludes part one. Stay tuned for part two!