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The Greatest BATMAN Detective Stories Ever Told

Batman is many things to many people. He is justice, he is vengeance, he is the night, but most importantly he is the world’s greatest detective. It’s easy to forget in between his high-speed Batmobile chases and epic slugfests with supervillains that Batman is, at his core, a super sleuth. With superior intellect, intuition, and some incredibly expensive gadgets, Batman is always three steps ahead of the bad guys because he uses deductive reasoning to crack even the toughest cases. So, in honor of Marie Lu’s thrilling new YA novel, Batman: Nightwalker, we’re going to run down some of the greatest Batman detective stories of all time.

(Editor’s note: This post is sponsored by Penguin Random House’s new novel Batman: Nightwalker)

Heart of Hush

Whenever you ask someone for their favorite Batman detective story, Hush will inevitably one of the first names mentioned, and for good reason. But while Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s 12-part 2002 story is excellent, Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen’s sequel is a better detective story. With the criminal known as the Black Glove plotting to kill Batman, Hush—a.k.a. Tommy Elliot—decides to beat him to the punch and begins targeting people close to Batman, which leads to kidnapping Catwoman and surgically removing her heart, which is beyond messed up. With so many devious plot twists, horrifying surgical procedures, and explosive revelations, Heart of Hush keeps you feverishly turning the page as you try to solve the mysteries alongside Batman before Tommy goes full Face/Off.

The Black Mirror

One of the greatest Batman detective stories happened when Bruce Wayne wasn’t Batman at all, but when Dick Grayson was under the iconic cowl. Like many great Batman stories, this was all about family. In this case, the Gordon family. Commissioner Gordon’s son, James Gordon Jr. returns to Gotham as brutal, psychopathic murderer stalking the streets, and Dick finds himself in a deadly game of cat and mouse with James, with Barbara Gordon’s life on the line. With everything from poisoned babies to deep-seated family crises, The Black Mirror packs a serious punch, both physically and emotionally, but it’s twisting mysteries make it one of the best.

Time and the Batman

For Batman’s landmark 700th issue, Grant Morrison and a murderer’s row of talented artists wove a sprawling mystery stretching across space and time to feature Batmans of different eras like Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne, and even Batman Beyond Terry McGinnis, all solving crimes in their respective eras to show that no matter what, no matter when crime may happen, no matter where villains may lurk, a Batman will always be around to crack the case and save the day. So if you haven’t read this one yet, get a clue and discover why Batman isn’t just the world’s greatest detective, but the world’s greatest superhero.

Broken City

Tragedy is in Batman’s DNA. For better or worse, murder is what defines Gotham City’s Dark Knight and his quest to prevent what happened to him from happening to anyone else is what drives Bruce Wayne in his one-man war on crime. So when Batman finds himself investigating the murderer of a young boy’s parents in a case that feels remarkably and horrifyingly similar to his parents’, it sends him hurtling down a corridor of regret, introspection, and unbridled anger as he examines his own life choices. To make matters worse, a pair of killers have been following his every move, just waiting for Batman to slip up. There’s no crying in baseball, but is there room for it in crimefighting? That is just one of Broken City’s many exquisite mysteries.

Gotham by Gaslight

Do you like your Batman stories with a Victorian twist? This classic Elseworlds story takes place in a 19th century version of Gotham City where one of the most infamous serial killers of all time is on the loose: Jack the Ripper. Having relocated to Batman’s hometown, The Whitechapel Murderer is on the loose, and to make matters worse, Bruce Wayne is accused of Jack the Ripper’s crimes and sentenced to be hanged. Will Gotham’s vigilante pay the ultimate price for crimes he didn’t commit? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, there’ll be some seriously sweet steampunk goggles.

The Long Halloween

Thank your lucky stars the holiday season has come and gone because reading The Long Halloween on an important day of the year might send a shiver up your spine. Jeph Loeb and Time Sale’s creepy noir unfolds over the course of a year in Batman’s life as a masked vigilante. While mob boss Carmine Falcone hires all manner of supervillains like Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and The Riddler to stop Batman, the Dark Knight has his hands full trying to solve a series of murders that only happen on holidays. It’s a literal race against time as Bruce must figure out who’s trying to wish Gotham a happy holi-slay before another body is added to the pile. And if you manage to solve the mystery before Batman does? Well, consider that an early Christmas present to yourself.

And those are some of the greatest Batman detective stories of all time! What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!

Special thanks to Batman: Nightwalker for sponsoring today’s episode! Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu, this suspenseful, action-packed novel gives fans a never-before-seen origin story for Batman. Join Bruce Wayne as he turns 18, inherits his family’s fortune, and becomes Gotham City’s most underrated detective, helping solve the crimes that no one else can using his wits and his wiles. With a sinister group known as the Nightwalkers terrorizing Gotham City’s elites, Bruce Wayne works undercover at Arkham Asylum to sleuth out who’s really behind the brilliant crimes before Gotham City is brought to its knees. Batman: Nightwalker, available wherever fine books are sold!

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Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter (@DanCasey).

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