Poll: Best Batman story of 2011?

We’re all looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, but what about the great Batman stories from 2011? We had amazing stories that built upon the Batman mythology in film, TV, comics, and video games this year and thanks to your input on Twitter, Chris and I have narrowed down the year’s best Batman stories into a list of six stunning nominees representing the very best in Batman. Be sure to check out the poll at the end of this post to vote for your favorite! And the nominees are…

Batman: Arkham City

Developed by Rocksteady Studios
Directed by Sefton Hill
Written by Paul Dini

The sequel to “Arkham Asylum” that not only met, but far exceeded expectations. Every action from the previous tale had consequences: the Joker is dying from Titan poisoning, Gordon has been pushed aside in favor of martial law, and a quarter of Gotham has been walled off to create a super prison known as Arkham City. This is the Batman story that made Hugo Strange a household name and showed everyone just how scary Penguin can be. “Arkham City” establishes this as a formidable video game franchise and a lovely homage to over 70 years of Batman mythology from comics to “Batman: The Animated Series” and the Nolan films. But it’s not just a tribute, the “Arkhamverse” has solidified itself as a legitimate Batman universe with powerful storytelling and characters that can and will die.

Batman: The Black Mirror

Detective Comics #871-877
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jock and Francesco Francavilla

After over a year of stories featuring Dick Grayson as the man beneath the cowl, one tale stood above all the rest: “The Black Mirror”. It’s about Dick getting used to his role as Batman and becoming the hero Gotham deserves. Not only is it the definitive Dick Grayson as Batman story, it’s one of the best Jim Gordon stories we’ve seen in years. Just when you thought Jimbo’s life couldn’t possibly get more tragic, his son Jim Jr. returns to Gotham and stirs up dark secrets from Gordon’s past. The art in this collection comes from Jock and Francesco Francavilla who complement one another perfectly. It’s a dark, moody piece that’s reminiscent of “Batman: Year One” but with the whole Batman Family around for the adventure.

Batman Incorporated

Issues #1-8 & Leviathan Strikes!
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Burnham, Yanick Paquette, and Scott Clark
Ink by Michel Lacombe, Scott Clark, and Dave Beaty
Colors by Nathan Fairbairn and Dave beaty
Letters by John Hill, Pat Brosseau, and Dave Sharpe

Influenced by the animated series “Batman: The Brave & the Bold”, 1960s Batman comics & Manga, and a hint of James Bond for good measure, “Batman Incorporated” was a far-out adventure series that took readers on one of the most fun and unpredictable rides in years. It’s also one of the most progressive Batman stories and shakes the Batman mythology to its very core by having Bruce Wayne announce that he is not only the one funding Batman’s war on crime, but he’s going to institute a caped crusader in cities around the globe under the banner of Batman Inc. The story featured secret societies, giant squid, ex-Nazi scientists with Alzheimer’s, Internet 3.0, exploding blue scorpions, and schoolgirl assassins. It was crazy, ground-breaking, erratic, had stunning art throughout and was 100% unforgettable.

Batman: The Brave & The Bold “Mitefall!”

Developed by James Tucker & Michael Jelenic
Directed by Ben Jones
Written by Paul Dini
Starring Diedrich Bader, John DiMaggio, Henry Winkler, Paul Reubens, and Ted McGinley

It began with Batman and Abraham Lincoln teaming up to defeat steampunk John Wilkes Booth and it ended with Ambush Bug, Aquaman and the collapse of the universe. Meta-fiction at its finest, the extra-dimensional character Bat-Mite, eager for a return to the darker Batman cartoons of old, uses his powers to alter the world of “Batman: The Brave & the Bold” throughout the episode in an effort to get the show canceled. Not only is it a fitting end to this lighthearted Batman’s story, but it’s a great commentary on television in general. Both hilarious and incredibly moving, a list of the year’s best Batman tales just wouldn’t be complete without mention of “Mitefall!” which is not only a great series finale, but one of the most satisfying series finales I’ve ever seen.

Batman: Noel

Written by Lee Bermejo
Art by Lee Bermejo
Ink by Lee Bermejo
Letters by Todd Klein
Colors by Barbara Ciardo

Lee Bermejo’s art is some of the best and most realistic in comics today, but it’s in “Batman: Noel” that we see his writing chops for the first time. So what did he do? He tackled Dickens AND The Dark Knight at the same time. Some gumption, huh? Well he pulled it off nicely and the art is some of the best he’s ever done. It may be “A Christmas Carol”, but it’s not about Bruce accepting the spirit of Christmas. It’s about him finding balance between the lighthearted adventurer of the golden age and the gritty vigilante of today. It’s an instant classic and is sure to be a holiday tradition for Bat-fans to read every winter for years to come.

For more of Andrew’s thoughts on “Batman: Noel”, read the review here.

Batman: Year One

Directed by Sam Liu & Lauren Montgomery
Produced by Lauren Montgomery & Alan Burnett
Written by Tab Murphy
Based on “Batman: Year One” by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Starring Benjamin McKenzie, Bryan Cranston, Eliza Dushku, Katee Sackhoff, Alex Rocco, and Jon Polito

Few DC comics deserved the animated treatment more than “Batman: Year One”, the definitive tale of how Bruce became the Bat and how Gordon not only survived, but overcame Gotham’s corruption. You couldn’t ask for a more faithful comic adaptation than this. It’s one of the very best DC Universe Animated Original Movies and an almost verbatim adaptation of Frank Miller’s classic Batman origin story. The art is beautiful and shows off fluid action reminiscent of Japanese anime while maintaining the dreary and gritty look of David Mazzzucchelli’s original artwork from the 4-part comic book series. One of the story’s greatest strengths is Bryan Cranston’s performance as Jim Gordon. His voice perfectly captures the character’s frustration and maturity and after viewing this film, it’s hard to not imagine Cranston’s voice when you go back to reading the comics. This is a film that’s sure to become a favorite amongst Batman fans.