With 2014 being The Dark Knight’s 75th birthday, now seems as good a time as any to cast our eyes back through the DC Comics archive to unearth some of the best Batman stories ever told. Whenever people talk about great Batman stories, the following titles inevitably come up: Year One; The Dark Knight Returns; The Long Halloween; The Killing Joke; Hush. This list is not about these comics. They’ve (rightfully) been worshipped enough, adored by all and sundry as the classics they are. Instead, this list is about the stories that we believe are almost as good, but have been lost in the shuffle somewhat. Given that The Caped Crusader has been in continual publication for these 75 years, there is a truly enormous amount of material to sift through. Batman appears in so many different comics every single month that it is difficult enough to produce a Top Ten list for a single year, never mind one covering his whole history. Therefore, the forthcoming list is not an exhaustive one. These are simply ten stories that we feel deserve a bit more recognition, for someone to celebrate them. You know, give them a bit of love. They deserve it. These are the stories that mightn’t be the most well-known but are more than worth tracking down and reading. These are 10 of the most underrated Batman comics ever.
10. Gotham County Line (2005)
In a previous article, we highlighted how Batman is a character that can function in stories of many different genre’s, rather than limiting a writer to superhero tales. Gotham County Line, published by DC in late 2005/early 2006 as a three-issue Prestige Format miniseries, is unashamedly a horror story, and a very good one at that. Written by Steve Niles, of 30 Days Of Night fame, and featuring macabre, grotesque artwork from Scott Hampton (Batman: Night Cries), Gotham County Line features Batman investigating a series of ritualistic murders in the Gotham suburbs. What initially seems to be a gritty, harrowing serial killer story quickly escalates as Batman finds himself drawn into a terrifying, supernatural realm. Gotham County Line is a twisted, scary treat, with Niles really bringing his own voice to the material. The story gleefully becomes more and more overtly supernatural as it goes on, and by the end we have Batman fighting hordes of the undead and talking to the corpses of his parents. It also benefits from appearances by Deadman and The Phantom Stranger, two beloved characters more known for appearing in the mystical corner of the DC Universe. Serial killers? Zombies? Batman trapped in a phantom world between the living and the dead? Some fans may be reluctant to embrace a Batman story with such elements, but Gotham County Line rewards readers that go with it. Niles knows his way around a horror comic, but also clearly has an affinity for Batman, as his depiction of how the grounded Bruce Wayne would deal with such events feels spot-on.