Batman is a lot of things. He's a millionaire, a ninja, a superhero, and has a genius-level intellect. He truly shines, and where some of his best stories come from, though, are his skills as a detective. Even the newest movie, The Batman, earned praise for shining a light on his "World's Greatest Detective" side. It even received comparisons to Seven, a gritty detective film.
Watching the Dark Knight act as a detective adds a certain level of intrigue to the story, especially for comic buffs. It is very satisfying to see your favorite superhero have to use his brain and wit to defeat a villain. And it doesn't matter who is under the cowl because almost anyone that has been in Batman's shoes has had to use their cunning to save Gotham City.
In no particular order, here are 10 comics where Batman shone as a detective.
10 Comics when Batman was indeed a detective
1) The Court of Owls
The Court of Owls is a secret society in Gotham City that pulls the strings. Whether that's bribing city officials, murdering people that stand in their way, or keeping the police on their payroll, the Court gets its way. In one of Scott Snyder's most popular stories, Batman's detective skills shine as he tries to figure out who is part of The Court, where they operate from, and how to stop them.
In Batman Vol 1: The Court of Owls (new 52), there's an interesting investigation blended with action sequences. While The Court of Owls keeps an army of immortal assassins that Bruce comes up against on more than one occasion, it's the moments when he's chasing down leads and investigating clues that make this story memorable.
2) Dark Victory
The sequel to the highly acclaimed The Long Halloween, Dark Victory didn't quite earn the same accolades as its predecessor but deserves a read if you're in the mood for a good detective story. Also written by Jeph Loeb with art by Tim Sale, just like The Long Halloween, Dark Victory gives a realistic look at Batman's early days.
This time joined by Robin, Bruce investigates a new murderer wreaking havoc across Gotham. He uses the name "Hangman" and uses similar methods to the Holiday killer.
3) Gotham by Gaslight
Jack the Ripper comes to a Victorian-era Gotham City. Bruce Wayne is framed for murder. Commissioner Gordon works alongside Batman to prove the billionaire's innocence. One of the beautiful things about The Dark Knight is that he can be placed in almost any time period and fit. This was proven during his jump through time in Grant Morrison's The Return of Bruce Wayne.
Written in 1989 by Brian Augustyn with art by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, Gotham by Gaslight was one of the first Elseworlds stories by DC Comics. Mignola's art captures the gothic tone of this book wonderfully and perfectly depicts a steampunk world for the Caped Crusader. Don't pass this up.
4) The Black Mirror
Scott Snyder came onto that Batman comic when Bruce was no longer under the cowl. In Final Crisis, he had just died, and Dick Grayson took over the mantle. Snyder quickly proved that he knows what the Dark Knight is all about.
When somebody is selling weapons to multiple villains in Gotham City, the former Nightwing uses all the detective skills he learned from his mentor. He's led down a dark path that brings back Commissioner Gordon's son.
Jeph Loeb's momentous storyline put the Caped Crusader through the wringer. A new threat emerges in Gotham City that dives into the history of the Waynes and keeps Bruce guessing. He even travels to Metropolis to investigate further, and the conclusion of this tale kept fans thinking.
With art by Jim Lee, Hush immerses its readers. It's grounded and gritty, which a lot of fans like to see in their Batman. Not to mention, it gives us a character that will come to see many more appearances.
6) Batman R.I.P.
The storyline that led up to Bruce's death (although he didn't actually "die" until Final Crisis) was memorable. Not simply because it saw him defeated psychologically and physically, but because it required him to exert all his cunningness to come out on top.
It's a story that pays off in a big way because it pulls in details from many previous stories before Grant Morrison ever wrote a word about the World's Greatest Detective. It shows how Batman prepares exhaustively for every scenario, which he's good at because of his investigative mind. RIP explores a plot to defeat Bruce most fundamentally.
7) War on Crime
Few teams are as good as Paul Dini and Alex Ross. Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, combined with the masterful art by Alex Ross (Kingdom Come), makes for a great detective story. War on Crime finds Bruce fending off a corrupt business person on the civilian front and helping a kid with similar trauma to his own as Batman.
War on Crime indeed leans into the detective aspect of the character. It favors a more human story over traditional superhero elements, and it pays off. It might be a lesser-known title, but worth picking up.
8) The Black Glove
Before Batman: R.I.P., Grant Morrison wrote a story tied together with elements from the Dark Knight's long history that most people thought were no longer relevant. Bruce works with other characters similar to Batman in themes like Knight and Squire, a Batman and Robin proxy from England.
Bruce and The Batmen of Many Nations are summoned to an island owned by an old ally. It is here that Bruce learns of The Black Glove. They are a secret society of wealthy elites who enjoy playing chess with living people as their pieces. Once a year, they bet on the life of somebody. Bruce spends the better part of this arc investigating the nature of The Black Glove and its leader: Doctor Simon Hurt.
9) Year One
This is Frank Miller's quintessential take on The Dark Knight. Giving fans a look at Batman during his inception is the character's most grounded story. Following Batman in his first year as the Caped Crusader when he has yet to discover who he is as a vigilante and has to decide whether it's something, he wants to continue doing or not.
Fans get to see Bruce be the best detective he can be in this story. It's his first team-up with James Gordon as they battle Gotham's criminal underworld. There's no Joker, no Riddler, Bane, nor Scarecrow here. Just some good, old-fashioned criminals and a lot of detective work.
10) The Long Halloween
Christopher Nolan cites The Long Halloween as his influence for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. This is evident in a few scenes. However, what those movies were lacking was showing Bruce as the trained detective that he is meant to be.
The Long Halloween, written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale, is a pivotal story for the character. Much like Year One by Frank Miller, this one follows the Dark Knight during his early years. Along with James Gordon and Harvey Dent, Batman investigates several murders that occur during a holiday each month.
Some of the best stories are where Batman gets to flex his detective skills. Following leads, dusting for fingerprints, deciphering clues- something you'd see in an episode of Law & Order. Those make for an intriguing story. Try to find those, and you're in for a treat of a story.