Writer and Artist: Lee Bermejo
Colorist: Barbara Ciardo
Letterer: Todd Klein
Distributed By: DC Comics
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I had heard about a Batman graphic novel that put a new spin on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I found the possibilities intriguing and I couldn’t wait to purchase a copy of Batman: Noel. I expected one thing, but got quite another.
In this graphic novel, Batman is not himself. Suffering from some flu-like illness and feeling every ounce of his age, he refuses to relax, obsessed with taking down The Joker. In an uncharacteristic move, he uses a first time “deliveryman” named Bob Cratchit, a poor citizen of Gotham trying to make a few bucks any way he can to support his sick son, as bait to catch The Joker.
At the Batcave, Alfred is shocked at Bruce Wayne’s condition and the lengths he is resorting to. He tries to get Bruce to call it a night, but his obsession with capturing The Joker is all-consuming. While watching a cleverly placed video surveillance bug showing Cratchit and his family, Bruce happens to glance over at his uniform display case and sees a vision of his dead partner. Former Robin, Jason Todd, warns Batman that there are consequences for his actions. According to the narrator, Batman is informed that he will be visited by three individuals who will set him back on the right path.
Leaving the Batcave, Batman finds himself in a cat and mouse game with Catwoman. When he becomes incensed with Catwoman and refuses to play her games, she becomes concerned, reminding him of all the “fun” times they used to have and how much he used to enjoy the chase. Aggravated by Catwoman and her constant games, Batman slips up and falls from the ledge she is perched on. So much for the Spirit of Christmas Past.
He is later visited by Superman, our Spirit of Christmas Present, who expresses grave concern for the caped crusader. Batman refuses to allow Superman to help him, despite his kindhearted attempts. Superman even tries to dissuade Batman from using Cratchit as bait, trying to give Batman hope for Gotham by showing him all of the folks who are down on their luck and still trying to live a happy life without resorting to crime.
Scoffing at Superman and basically telling him to take a hike, Batman is now visited by the third spirit: The Joker as the Spirit of Christmas To Come. Anyone who has ever read or watched a version of A Christmas Carol knows that Batman (AKA: Scrooge) will have a change of heart. It’s how it happens and what he does that make the end of the story rather interesting.
The minute I opened this graphic novel, I knew Batman: Noel was something special. The artwork by Lee Bermejo is stunningly detailed and beautiful in a gothic noir sort of way. I hadn’t even read the story and I knew I was going to love Batman: Noel just based on the artwork.
After perusing the artwork, I sat down to read the story. I actually expected the tale to take a different path. I expected a former villain to be redeemed in this story and was shocked to discover that it would be Batman who needed redemption. And yet, as I read the tale, it really did make sense. Batman’s obsession with hunting the criminal element in Gotham has had a profound effect on his life, causing him to lose many people he loved and making him a hard, cold individual…just like Scrooge.
I loved the narration of the story. The words of the narrator displayed on the page would be very close to lines from the original A Christmas Carol, but the action taking place in the artwork on the page would show you the Batman skew of the story. I also loved the surprise ending when you realize who it was narrating the story all along.
Batman: Noel was a terrific addition to my graphic novel collection. Here was a Christmas special that wasn’t all cheery, colorful joy and silliness. This was a Christmas graphic novel Batman fans could really sink their teeth into - a dark tale with a decent, not over the top happy ending. If you are a Batman fan, you have to check out this graphic novel. Just the artwork alone makes Batman: Noel well-worth the price. Add on the story and you’re getting more than you paid for - a great new tale for the holiday season!
For more about Batman, check out these links:
Where Were You On The Night Batman Was Killed: Batman Issues 291-294
Batman in the Sixties
Batman in the Seventies
Batman: Bruce Wayne: Fugitive
The Music of Batman
Batman: Gotham Knight
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman Beyond: Return of Joker (Original Uncut Version)
The Dark Knight
Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Mayhem of the Music Meister!
Batman: The Long Halloween
LEGO Batman: The Video Game
Enemies & Allies
For feedback, visit our message board or e-mail the author at talonkarrde@g-pop-net.