As the year draws to a close and we start to gear up for the holiday season, I want to choose a recommended read that is in keeping with this time of year. So, with that in mind, I am suggesting a very festive recommended read – Batman: Noel. This was the obvious choice with Batman starring in an amazing holiday-styled graphic novel. I know – it’s hard to imagine that today’s dark, gritty Batman could be the star of a Christmas-themed story, but writer and illustrator Lee Bermejo realized that Batman could be cast as one of the most iconic Christmas characters: Ebenezer Scrooge. Along the way, Batman has to come to terms with his past, present and future as he battles villains – from the campy 1960s to dark and brooding menaces of today. Meanwhile he is exploring what it means to be the hero that he is. Members of Batman’s supporting cast enact characters analogous to those from A Christmas Carol, with Robin, Catwoman, Superman and The Joker taking key roles.
You heard me correctly. Batman: Noel is the DC Universe’s take on the classic story, A Christmas Carol. The writer really knows how to make this story of Batman and his beloved Gotham work. He understands that this Batman is not someone to respect or fear, but to feel bad for. He goes the extra mile by casting Jason Todd as the Jacob Marley character of the story, as a result of this casting, we are given an empathetic reason as to why Batman would act like this.
The selection of the ‘ghosts’ are all DC Universe characters, which really builds on this story’s theme perfectly. Catwoman, being one of Batman’s few ‘sane’ villains becomes the Ghost of Christmas Past, and also serves as the lost love that Scrooge-Man could have had.
The next selection comes in the shape of Superman as the Ghost of Christmas Present. If there is one character in the entire world of comics who best captures the jolly, vibrant spirit of the ghost, it would be Superman. This story works on the fact that the Batman/Superman dynamic works, due to Superman being a constant force of good; a reminder that he is above bitterness and anger. Also, Superman’s powers of x-ray vision and super-hearing allow him to show the story of the crook who Batman chases throughout the novel.
Then for the finale, Joker appears as the Ghost of Christmas Future, and literally buries Batman alive in perhaps one of the comic’s most extraordinary moments: the vision of the future. Instead of Batman being disgraced and forgotten for his cruelty, people take the wrong lessons from how he fights crime. Batman sees instead a world turned monstrous, the average citizens violently dealing with even the most petty of criminals.
Bermejo does a great job of writing here. His story blends so much of the original Dickens classic that the reader is always asking themselves if this is the actual text from the original Dickens story. What’s a comic book without the art? This one is gorgeous. Bermejo really brought his A game on the previous book he illustrated, the amazingly dark and disturbing Joker, which was written by Brian Azzarello. But Batman: Noel really knocks that one out of the ballpark. With Gotham City at night and covered in snow, he throws in some Christmas lights, painting a beautiful picture – nobody does that like Bermejo.
So, just in time before Christmas, skip all the classics and read this book to the family by the fireplace. It’s a great twist on a classic, and the pictures are like none you’ve ever seen before.