Collects Detective Comics #33, 439, 572, & 574, Batman #5, 62, 156, & 250-251, DC Special Series #15 & 21, Legends of the Dark Knight #79, and Batman: Gotham Knights #32
This volume includes 13 selected Batman stories designated as "best." Although Les Daniels admits that "best" may be in the eye of the beholder, theses stories were carefully selected to depict different aspects about The Batman character. They include stories from each decade starting with the forties. The origin of the Batman is taken from its original source, Detective Comics, November 1939, and it is retold in DC, March 1974: The Night of the Stalker.
In The Case of the Honest Crook (Batman 5, Spring 1941), Wanted: Santa Claus -- Dead or Alive! (Spring 1980), and Favorite Things (Legends of the Dark Knight, January 1996), Batman forgives crooks who repent. These stories along with 24/7 (Batman: Gothic Nights, October 2002) shows Batman's humanitarian angle as he combines philanthropy with crime-fighting. Now 24/7 stands out from the rest of the group. Plotless, it shows a utopia of order and control through a series of vignettes connected by the chronology of time. Each vignette shows the effect that Batman and Bruce Wayne have had on Gotham. Reading this story one wonders why would criminals bother at all to commit crimes in Gotham? In spite of its idealistic Utopianism, it reminds us that the major motive for Batman's existence is his parents' death.
The 1970s shows us a revival of a ruthless, mysterious, and noirish Batman: The Batman Nobody Knows (Batman, July 1973), The Joker's Five-Way Revenge (Batman, September 1973), and Night of the Stalker, cited above. My favorite of these is the last one because his pursuit of three common criminals embodies the fear that he should instill in his opponents. Giordano's stress on shadows, and Englehart's refusal to give speech to Batman makes this the most gothic and noirish of all the stories here.
The paternal relationship between Batman and Robin are shown in The Case of the Honest Crook, cited above, Robin Dies at Dawn (Batman, June 1963), and My Beginning... and My Probable End (Detective Comics, May 1987). Robin Dies... may seem silly, but it shows that when Batman believes that Robin has died to save his life, he suffers from guilt and despair, and wishes his own death. In My Beginning readers also find out about Bruce Wayne's lonely childhood and his education. Leslie, his adopted mother also appears in this story. It is probably one of the most introspective of the collections, where Batman undergoes an existential crisis as he sees Robin struggling with death: is his path the correct one?, Can he give Jason a better life? Leslie plays the role of the conscience, blaming herself for not preventing Bruce from becoming the Batman. Barr's story here is quite original and shows a side of Bruce's life that we may not have seen before, and making him a complex character.
There is also one story about the Catwoman's origin in The Secret Life of the Catwoman. Readers will also notice that the Batman stories from the seventies, eighties, and nineties are more realistic when they depict urban decadence, pollution, and increasing crime rates showing that writers and artists were very susceptible to the audience's mood toward the decaying urban landscape characteristic of American cities during this period.