The Best Ever Batman Comic Is One You've Never Heard Of

A look back at the genius of Darwyn Cooke's Batman: Ego.

Batman: Ego and Other Tales
DC Comics/Darwyn Cooke

As far as legends of the medium go, they don't get much greater than Darwyn Cooke. A legendary artist and writer who primarily contributed to DC during his career, Cooke was renowned for his cartoony-style and historical comprehension, with most of his stories directly weaving the past into their wider narrative.

His magnum opus, The New Frontier, is widely considered to be one of the finest stories in DC's library, with Cooke having used the story to analyse the medium - DC's character's specifically - through the lens of JFK's eponymous 1960 speech. His understanding of history was unrivalled in the medium, and while Cooke is no longer with us, having tragically passed in 2016, he crafted a legacy on and off the page that'll be remembered for decades to come. He was one of the true visionaries of the industry during the modern age of comics, and so it should come as no surprise, then, that his love-letter to Batman, a story called Ego, is really something special.

Except, for the most part, Ego has largely been squared away in discussions relating to the Caped Crusader's finest comics. The works of Frank Miller, Jeph Loeb and Dennis O'Neil are frequently optioned as the definitive Bat-comic (as they should be), but Cooke's work continues to elude the spotlight. Why this is the case, exactly, is still unclear. But what is clear is that the comic is in urgent need of reappraisal, certainly in regards to its critique of Batman's psychology, which Cooke marshals effortlessly throughout the comic's thirty-or-so pages.

Irrespective of the book's age, or its perceived popularity (or lack thereof), the genius of Ego's story lies directly in academic reflections of the Dark Knight, and in wider discourse surrounding the character himself. It's a true dissection of the character, but the conclusion that will no doubt resonate the most with Bat-fans relates directly to what people consider to be the character's real mask: Bruce Wayne, or Batman.

Cooke's reply to this debate is as surprising as it is authoritative, but - irrespective of that - it's plain for all to see that it's a seminal comic book text, and perhaps even the Caped Crusader's best...

Comics Editor
Comics Editor

WhatCulture's very own Comics Editor. Cats, comic books and spaghetti westerns are my thing. Rants about stuff @EwanRuinsThings