Despite the fact that comic books are pretty in right now, what with the myriad of films, TV shows and other superhero-themed merchandise having dominated the pop-cultural landscape for quite some time, comics themselves are still notoriously difficult to get into. Like, really difficult.
Without getting into the various different reasons behind why the medium is so inaccessible, there are some avenues out there that do present some potential jumping on points for new readers. Y'know, the kinds that aren't tied down by decades-worth of icky continuity. That sort of thing.
Indeed, there are plenty of standalone series out there that, well, stand on their own; you can get into them without having to worry about where they fit in the overall comic book canon, or that you'll somehow have to purchase about fifteen confusingly-numbered volumes to complete your collection. They're definitely a rarity in the industry, but these great, more 'evergreen' feeling stories succeed - partially - because they're so timeless to begin with. They also happen to be pretty stellar in their own right, so the fact that they're easy to pick up only compliments their artistic qualities even further.
It's not just Marvel and DC who have their own timeless classics either. Indeed, Image, Dark Horse and IDW have all published some seminal - and easy to pick up - storylines throughout their publishing history. With all that in mind, it becomes apparent that there are quite a lot of places to start. Where first? Admittedly, there's no right answer. There are a few titles out there that should be at the top of any prospective comic book fan's wish list though. Some more surprising than others.
Most writers will cite either Year One or The Dark Knight Returns as being the most essential Bat-story out there, but both - apart from the fact that they're both very heavy - don't paint a definitive picture of The Dark Knight, with one taking place at the beginning of Bruce Wayne's nighttime career, and the other during the character's twilight.
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's The Long Halloween, however, occupies a nice middle-ground in the Bat-mythos. Situated in and around the second and third years of Batman's crimefighting career, Loeb's seminal detective story redefined origins, relationships, and did it all while weaving one of the greatest mysteries to have graced the pages of a DC comic book. Fans of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy will no doubt recognise some of Tim Sale's pencils as well, as the book inspired a lot of the material covered in The Dark Knight, particularly in its depiction of the dynamic shared between Gordon, Batman and Harvey Dent.
Though there were sequels to the original text, The Long Halloween stands alone as the quintessential depiction of the Caped Crusader. Said sequels - Dark Victory and Haunted Knight - varied in quality, but, if you do enjoy Loeb's original novel (which, let's face it, is rather likely), they're there to pursue if you want to.