The Dark Knight has one of the greatest rogues’ galleries in the history of the comic book medium, and many of those supervillains made for some memorable heated moments. Considering Batman and his colorful cast of supporting heroes and outright villains, there have been plenty of comic book arcs that have honed in on deeply intimate and vitriolic conflicts.
Unsurprisingly, the Joker has been responsible for much of the hell he’s brought onto Batman and his loved ones’ lives. However, his most personal fights of him also include other villains and – occasionally – some of his allies of him as well.
The Man Who Broke The Batman (Knightfall)
For being a relatively “new” villain in Batman’s rogues’ gallery — considering the hero is over 80 years old — Bane has had a monumental impact on the Caped Crusader’s lore. In what was one of the best Batman comics of the ’90s, the sprawling knightfall saga presented to Bruce Wayne a foe that’s been able to strike one of the most intimate blows, physically and psychologically, even by today’s canon standards.
Bane made it a personal mission to break the great Batman down, and he did so first by orchestrating a mass Arkham breakout knowing that the brooding hero wouldn’t rest until they were all stopped. Knowing his identity from him and waiting until he was at his peak for mental and physical exhaustion, Bane broke into Wayne Manor and the Batcave to break Batman’s back from him over his knee from him. It was an explosive way to introduce a new villain, and it made an emphatic impression on readers and in-universe among heroes and villains alike; Everyone knows who broke the Batman.
Disproving A Point (The Killing Joke)
Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke is undoubtedly one of the most influential Batman comics ever written, as it served as some kind of reference for every well-executed live-action adaptation of the Joker and his warped dynamic with the titular hero. The Clown Prince of Crime serves as an unreliable narrator of sorts, seeking to carry out his most heinous crime against Batman, Commissioner Jim Gordon, and Barbara Gordon to provide a deplorably nihilistic point.
He infamously crippled Barbara and tortured Jim to try and prove to them that all it takes is “one bad day,” and that no one is fundamentally different from the Joker. Of course, he fails to break any of their iron wills, with Batman exposing him for the homicidal coward that he is. But as personal as this was for Batman, it was even more so for the Gordon family.
Beating A Demon (Birth Of The Demon)
Fans can largely thank the late and great Denny O’Neil for reinvigorating the Dark Knight in the realm of comics, as his push in the ’70s to salvage the character from the bygone days of over-the-top-camp brought him back down. to his pulpy crime-noir roots. Part of this initiative was creating alongside Neal Adams and Julius Schwartz the iconic villain Ra’s al Ghul, the “Demon’s Head.”
the Birth of the Demon arc with artist Norm Breyfogle is comprised of three Ra’s al Ghul-related one-shots, with the final story of the same name pitting Batman and Ra’s in a deathmatch. The story largely centers around the origins of the League of Assassins’ leader, but it culminates in a vicious fight between the two where Bruce is killed — and even impaled with a shovel — only to be resurrected by the Lazarus Pit to pull a reverse on the villain. Batman and Ra’s al Ghul’s relationship has always been tense, as the two are aware of each other’s immense intellectual and physical strengths and tend to avoid confrontation whenever possible. In a way, it’s a fragile — but mutual — professional respect.
Bad Blood (Under The Hood)
Though he’s now one of Batman’s most important Bat-family members, Red Hood has had a tumultuous upbringing and one of the most complicated relationships with his adoptive father. Jason Todd was, of course, the second Robin who was mercilessly murdered by the Joker in the Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo-helmed A Death in the Family, and he was later resurrected and took on the Red Hood person.
Being thrust back into life wasn’t a seamless transition, as he eventually brought up his bad blood with Batman and the Joker in Judd Winick’s under the hood. Jason’s revival of him as an anti-hero means his combat style of him is even more relentless, and that showed in their confrontations. It’s a tragic story, to an extent, as it’s ultimately a story of an unintentionally estranged son lashing out in desperation for answers and validation from his father.
Breaking Point (The Court Of Owls)
DC Comics’ “The New 52″ brand-wide reboot proved to be a headache of a mistake, but Batman was one of the few characters that came out unscathed. Modern star duo Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo spearheaded one of the best Batman comic arcs of the 2010s, with the grandiose Court of Owls arc being one of their biggest highlights. Part of what makes this storyline so compelling is that it flips what fans know about Batman as Gotham City’s all-knowing World’s Greatest Detective on its head. This colonial-era murder cult creeps in and throws that concept out the window.
The titular Court merely allowed Batman to exist this long, only now coming out of the shadows for his head after Bruce Wayne makes more noticeable progress in pushing Gotham’s downtrodden out of economic oppression. The Dark Knight gets strung into their subterranean labyrinth, being put through perhaps the biggest physical and psychological deconstruction in his comic book mythos. Of course, his well-earned triumph of him at the end is what makes the arc’s resolution so cathartic.
Back With A Vengeance (Death Of The Family)
In what would’ve made an excellent prelude arc to a “final” Joker story, the Clown Prince of Crime came back from a lengthy absence at the start of The New 52 comics. Snyder and Capullo’s Death of the Family was the Joker ominously coming back in the same vein as a horror-movie monster, aiming to exact a final vengeance on Batman’s extended family.
The villain had twisted himself into believing that the likes of Robin, Batgirl, Red Hood, and co. were holding back the Dark Knight from reaching their dynamic’s vitriolic apex, leading him to try and torture and murder them in an attempt to “win him back.” It was a grotesquely thrilling story that ended with a temporary defeat of the Joker.
Grudge Match (Endgame)
As one would expect, Death of the Family was a bloody opening act for what would be an explosive finale on Snyder and Capullo’s time with the Joker in mainline canon. The villain has become even more hyperviolent, with this characterization of the Joker and Capullo’s haunting artwork leaning even harder into horror-like influences.
Joker came back with an even more aggressive “Joker toxin” that functions as an extremely contagious airborne pathogen, turning Gotham City on itself. He even manages to turn the Justice League against Batman, with the story crescendoing in an explosive underground fight between the two that may just be their bloodiest yet.
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