Batman: Ego and Other Tails isn’t just one of the Batman graphic novels you should read before the return of the Dark Knight in theaters this year. It’s one of the best Batman books, period.

Darwyn Cooke’s timeless collection of Gotham-centric stories was singled out by The Batman’s director Matt Reeves as an inspiration for the film. So, with that in mind, I thought it was high time I read it. Let’s get ready for The Batman—as prepared as we can get, anyway!—by taking a look at two stories in the volume: Batman: Ego and Selina’s Big Score.

Batman: Ego

“I wanted to get into the mindset of the character,” Reeves said during DC FanDome 2020, “and I wanted to think of the psychology. For me, I think, one of the cool deep dive (comics) was Darwyn Cooke's Ego. He's confronting the beast that is Batman, and there's a kind of duality.”

As Cooke writes in the book’s introduction, Batman: Ego, his first project for DC Comics, started with a simple question: “What if Batman and Bruce Wayne were able to sit down and talk about what it is they do?” What follows is an unforgettable look inside Bruce Wayne’s damaged psyche as he grapples with the decision to continue his double life.

As Ego opens, Batman is exhausted. It’s been twenty long years of crimefighting in Gotham City, and the last few have made him wonder if he’s even making a difference. Sure, he caught the Joker (again), but the cost was devastating. When blood loss and fatigue overtake Bruce Wayne, he comes face to face with his alter ego in the depths of his mind, and it turns out that Batman and Bruce have a lot to talk about.

Batman looms in every panel. He is fear incarnate, and Cooke’s terrifying depiction of the Dark Knight shows us what criminals must see in the shadows. The small bit of warmth in the book comes from Bruce’s fond memories of Christmas with his parents—we already know that tragedy follows, but like Bruce, we can’t look away.

Cooke accomplishes so much with this stunning book, from a fresh retelling of Bruce Wayne’s familiar origin story to giving readers an entirely different perspective on who Batman really is. Ego is a must-read for Bat-fans before they head to the cinema. And after. And again after that.

Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score

Who was Selina Kyle before she was Catwoman? We don’t know a lot about her past, but Darwyn Cooke gives us some tantalizing clues in Selina’s Big Score. “I saw the chance to do a story that filled a few gaps in Selina’s life,” he writes.

In Selina’s Big Score, Selina Kyle’s luck has seemingly run out. She’s almost out of money, but she still has a friend or two she can count on for a nod in the right direction. Selina returns to Gotham City in search of her next job, and her connections point her toward a heist with a huge payday. It’s a huge risk for a lone cat burglar, so she’ll need some help. She reaches out to her old mentor—and ex-lover—to take on the job with her. Can they get past their complicated history to move forward and get the goods?

Cooke’s gorgeous graphic novel shows Selina at the top of her game with hints of the anti-hero she would become. She’s poised, confident, strong and graceful under pressure. But she’s also surprisingly compassionate when she recognizes the desperation in a kindred spirit.

Big Score remains my favorite book that I’ve written and drawn,” revealed Cooke. Need we say any more?

In this collection you’ll also find related covers, pinups and short stories from the award-winning Solo comic miniseries. It’s practically as priceless as Selina’s big score. Batman: Ego and Other Tails is available now in your local comic shop, bookstore, library or to read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

Kelly Knox writes about all-ages comics and animation for and her writing can also be seen on IGN, Nerdist and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk superheroes, comics and pop culture.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Kelly Knox and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.