DC Universe Infinite makes reading Batman’s greatest tales that much easier, but for all the mainline stories, there are also great Elseworlds tales.
With more than 80 years of history as one of the world's most iconic superheroes, Batman has enjoyed countless great comic book series in DC Comics' mainline continuity. Yet as the likes of the ongoing Batman & The Joker: The Deadly Duo proves, there are plenty of excellent Elseworlds stories a well.
Decades ago, DC designated the Elseworldsimprint for series that took place outside of canon continuity, but the current Black Label has effectively replaced it. Even so, in and out of labels, the former term has been used to refer to any story with such a premise, and from White Knight to The Dark Knight Returns, DC Universe Infinite makes these easier to read than ever digitally.
Writer/artist Sean Murphy's White Knight universe is one of the most gripping alternative iterations on established Batman canon. It's currently a maxiseries comprised of three main series (with the third ongoing) and a few spinoffs. White Knight opens up with an increasingly unhinged Batman that's terrifying and losing the confidence of even his allies, with the Joker rising again to gain a political foothold in Gotham City.
Meanwhile, Curse of the White Knight puts an ingenious spin on the characters Azrael that upends the Wayne lineage. This universe is still going strong with Beyond the White Knight, with the third series incorporating the DCAU's Batman Beyond continuity into the mix.
Given the fact that Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns grew to be so influential, it might be a common misconception that this iteration of the character was intended to be a mainline take on Batman. It's nonetheless one of the best Batman comics to read on DC Universe Infinite, taking a politically dystopian spin on the Caped Crusader's world.
This was a revolutionary concept for the time in the '80s, with a middle-aged, cynical Batman feeling compelled out of a 10-year-long retirement to pull Gotham out of the mire it found itself in again. The story featured a U.S. government using Superman as an oppressive political weapon overseas, a Clockwork Orange-style gang destroying the city, and a battle-hardened vigilante sick of the powers-that-be neglecting Gotham.
Written by industry newcomer Mattson Tomlin, illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino, and colored by Jordie Bellaire, The Imposter is a thrilling and relatively new Black Label tale from the Batman corner of the world. In a premise akin to Daredevil's third season, this new incarnation of the Dark Knight sees his mantle slandered and tainted by a fake going on a targeted killing spree.
And in addition to being an impressively human version of the flawed hero in the comic book space, The Imposter shines a light on the supporting character Leslie Thompkins, one of Batman's most underrated "Bat-family" members.
Another original Elseworlds classic, Miek Augustyn, Mike Mignola, and P. Craig Russel's Gotham by Gaslight is an entertaining Victorian-era-inspired interpretation of Batman and Gotham City. This tale sees the World's Greatest Detective hot on the trail of historical serial killer Jack the Ripper in the 19th century.
Such a concept is further evidence of how versatile Batman can be as a character under the deft hand of many creative teams. It does something refreshing and new while still hanging onto the essence of what makes the superhero so beloved. And considering Batman's street-level, noir, and sleuthing traits, mixing history with fiction is a winning combination for an alternate timeline.
Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok's Three Jokers took quite a long time to finally hit shelves and the digital pages on DC Universe Infinite, but it was ultimately well-received as an intriguing Black Label story. The story functions as an indirect sequel to Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's landmark The Killing Joke and Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo's A Death in the Family, with the revelation coming forth that there was always more than one Joker, arguably Batman's greatest foe, operating in Gotham at one time.
It's an interesting premise that entangles Batman, Batgirl, and Red Hood in a grittily personal story of old wounds, as well as cleverly using different comic book eras of the titular villain as the personalities for each of the Clown Princes of Crime.
In terms of alternate timelines, Batman has had several bizarre team-ups and crossovers over the decades. However, perhaps one of the most memorable was the Bram Stoker-inspired Batman & Dracula. In a unique corner of the vast DC multiverse, the Dark Knight discovers that Dracula and his minions have been feeding on the city's homeless population, with Batman resorting to great lengths to put an end to his reign.
Writer Doug Moench and artist Kelley Jones made this story into a three-part saga, which proved to be an excitingly fitting premise as far as alternate Batman tales go.
The all-star duo of writer Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo were credited with one of the most prolific mainline runs on Batman during the otherwise volatile New 52 reboot. And while their tenure on the main continuity book eventually needed to come to a close, they joined up again under the Black Label imprint.
Last Knight on Earth is one of the most delightfully strange Batman stories available, blending sci-fi with dystopian elements and a colorful cast of familiar Justice League characters. Bruce Wakes up in Arkham Asylum 20 years into the future, where everyone around him claims the "Batman" identity was a figment of his diseased mind. But what unfolds is an explosive Mad Max-inspired Dark Knight epic.
Grant Morrison is commonly regarded as one of Batman's best writers, as well as DC Comics in general. His 7-year-long odyssey with the character was his most mind-bending and groundbreaking, but back in the crescendo of darker Batman comics in the '80s, he and artist Dave McKean teamed up for Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.
It's the rare example of an outright psychological-horror Batman comic, with the hero tasked with venturing through the titular house-of-horrors-style asylum to quell a riot incited by the Joker. Thanks to McKean's mesmerizing and haunting artwork, Arkham Asylum succeeds as a chilling story that delves into the psyche of the cast involved.
Another one of DC's most recent efforts with Batman under the Black Label imprint, One Dark Knight is an engaging high-octane adventure. Written by writer/artist Jock (who co-illustrated Scott Snyder's Dick Grayson-led Batman arc The Black Mirror), One Dark Knight takes place throughout a single hectic night.
Batman needs to escort an original villain for this universe named EMP in the middle of a city-wide blackout, with the violent mobs and supervillains taking every advantage of it. It's briskly paced to keep the excitement factor up and Jock's signature stylized artwork fits the story seamlessly.
For fans that want to read up on the influence behind the upcoming animated Batman movie adaptation, reading The Doom That Came to Gotham on DC Universe Infinite is a must. Many of the hero's greatest stories come from the tense, street-level crime-noir comics, but the argument can be made that Batman would mesh well with Lovecraftian dark fantasy/horror in an Elseworlds continuity.
Mike Mignola, Richard Pace, Tony Nixey, and Dennis Janke's miniseries scratches that particular itch, portraying a 1920s Gotham where Batman accidentally reawakens the Lurker on the Threshold and has to fight off the supernatural forces it brings.
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Guillermo Kurten is a journalism graduate from the University of Houston. Originally from Caracas, Venezuela, he now resides in Houston. He is a fan of pretty much anything involving nerd culture. Video games, comics, movies, TV, anime, manga, you name it. He also has experience writing about soccer, specifically, the German team Bayern Munich.