Reviewed By: Ian Mintz
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Lee Bermejo
Artist: Lee Bermejo
Colorist: Barbara Ciardo
Genre: Graphic Novel (Hardcover)
MSRP: $22.99 USA
Release Date: Available Now
Let’s face it, when you think of Gotham City’s Dark Knight you don’t exactly picture the cheery Christmas holidays and even more so when the murderous Clown Prince of Crime is involved. However, the talented Lee Bermejo – who is pulling double duty as both artist and writer – has envisioned a Christmas story that parallels another familiar Christmas tale by the great Charles Dickens. Batman: Noel is a surprisingly brilliant ode to a classic with a Caped Crusader spin.
To Batman’s eyes, the man sweating bullets as he makes an exchange behind the door of an old-fashioned toy store is nothing more than just another bagman working for the Joker. The truth is that the man – who is the Bob Cratchet of this story – did not want to work for a homicidal maniac but saw no other opportunities to make a fast buck seeing that he hated his job working for Wayne Industries where he was going nowhere. After all, he had a son to take care of and bills to pay.
Still, Batman sees nothing else but just another weak scumbag and he catches up to “Bob” and tries to find out what he knows about the Joker or the package filled with cash. The Dark Knight decides to use the man as live bait knowing that the Joker will come looking for him and the money. Placing a tracking device on him, Batman follows Bob to his rundown apartment where his young son excitedly greets his father with a broken plant he decorated as their Christmas tree.
Oh, but the sight that would pull on anyone else’s heartstrings does nothing for Batman who just sees another criminal and a son who will most likely follow in his father’s footsteps when he grows up. As his sickness begins to turn feverish, he finds himself waiting out in the snowy cold of Gotham’s winter. He touches bases with Commissioner Gordon who tells him that he was tipped off that the Catwoman not only will be pulling of a heist but she also might have information concerning the Joker.
As it turns out, Catwoman did manage to make a score and she is in the mood to play. Unfortunately for her, Batman is in no mood to play but in chasing her across the roof, he begins to remember the old days of chasing her with a lively zeal that is clearly gone. Catwoman begins to represent the ghost of the past … a past that included a partner that is no longer among the living. Even the Catwoman can see that he has changed over the years.
Like Scrooge, Batman is visited by a second visitor, and it just so happens to be Superman (the Superman before the New 52) who has come to Gotham. Representing Batman’s present, Superman shows his friend the things he does not see and the way people such as Commissioner Gordon and the police see Batman. Sure, it’s easy to see the darkness in people’s hearts but there’s also good and it’s the good the Superman believes Batman cannot see.
When Superman leaves, a surprise knocks Batman out as a familiar maniac drags the Caped Crusader into an open grave to be buried alive. In essence, this burial serves as an eye-opener for Batman as he sees a future without him in it. A future where Gotham City will tear itself apart thanks, in part, to the legacy he leaves behind because of Batman’s influence on the city and its people. Oh, and nothing goes well for our Commissioner Gordon whose fate makes a lot of sense.
Like the old miser in Dickens’ tale, however, there’s a turning point that makes Batman come to a realization. It leads to a good climax that is actually quite touching and, in the end, makes it a holiday story that never tries to too hard to drive home the Christmas aspects of the story. In other words, it doesn’t have any cheesy Christmas sentimentality that has been used before in other comics covering a holiday theme.
I always cringe at the thought of a talented artist penning the story as well but Lee Bermejo succeeds where others have failed in spectacular ways. Bermejo does a great job with the writing and making the dialogue sound natural and the interactions between each character works well. Of course, Bermejo is best know for his artwork and he does not disappoint in the very least with his amazing visual style that makes everything from Catwoman to the Batmobile look hot.
Batman: Noel is everything you can ask for in a holiday-themed story starring Batman but, more importantly, it’s a brilliant story that pays homage to a literary classic in its own style that just works. Bermejo clearly has what it takes to tell a story visually as well as with his writing and it shows in this story that makes this graphic novel one Batman fans should not skip out on this holiday season.
COMIC REVOLUTION RATING BREAKDOWN
Mirroring the Scrooge character in A Christmas Carol, a sick Batman finds himself chasing the Joker by way of a down-on-his luck bagman who the Caped Crusader is using as live bait. However, as his illness begins to become severe, he finds himself meeting up with three visitors that makes Batman reflect on his past, present and future.
Visually speaking, Bermejo’s work has always been original and downright impressive so it is not a surprise that Batman: Noel looks so visually-striking with Gotham City in winter being quite a sight to see. It’s also good to see Superman in his pre-New 52 costume. On top of that, Barbara Ciardo’s coloring is sublime.
A brilliant take on Dickens’ classic Christmas tale, Batman: Noel is simply a perfectly crafted holiday story with a Dark Knight twist that makes it all work. Lee Bermejo proves that he’s not only a talented artist but he can also spin a good yarn. Whether you’re a true Batman fan or are interested in a different kind of holiday story, Batman: Noel is a graphic novel you should not miss.
Review copy provided by DC Comics