What are the greatest Batman comics on the market? Keep in mind, this is a matter of judgement, and comic book aficionados are nothing if not devoted debaters. So don't envisage this to be the exhaustive list of the very best Batman graphic novels ever or anything.
Prior to getting to the ranking, of course, let's be straight about choice of words. A graphic novel is a long-form comic book, which is often published all at once. Batman: Earth One is a good example of a graphic novel. When a lengthy story is issued over a number of months in the common periodical comic books, and assembled into a full book, that is knowned as a trade paperback. 'Graphic novels' and 'trade paperbacks' are often used interchangeably, but there is in actuality a subtle difference.
Anyway, most of you know this already (especially if you are reading a website on Batman books) that the character has been published since the 1930's. So there have of course been a ton of Batman comics made through the decades. I've been a ravenous Batman follower since I was a boy, and still pick up at least one Batman book monthly, but I certainly haven't been around as long as the Caped Crusader. So please forgive me if this list appears to include only the more modern released names.
At this point DC Comics produces a minimum of five Batman books monthly. The character is perhaps the most popular in the DC Universe, and generally sells better than Superman. In any event, below is my lineup of the greatest Batman graphic novels and trade paperbacks:
1. Batman: Year One. Newbies may want to begin with this trade paperback, considering that it provides you Batman's origin story. Beyond that, though, it's a great introduction to the partnership between Batman and Jim Gordon.
2. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. With this book, Frank Miller made Batman a force to be considered again. I have to say, even I was becoming a little sick with Batman just before this book came out in 1986. This was the source of Batman's rebirth.
3. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. This is actually a pretty scary book touching on all the crazy miscreants Batman has struggled with over the years. The hand-painted artwork alone is worth the price.
4. Batman: The Long Halloween. A serial killer is menacing Gotham City, only acting on holidays. Batman has to beat him. What else must be said?
5. Batman: The Killing Joke. I don't want to spoil the ending, but this graphic novel really solidified the Joker as a seriously destructive villain, not only a clown. Without a doubt pick this one up.