A Batman Christmas Carol
Inspired by Charles Dickens’ immortal classic A Christmas Carol, BATMAN: NOEL features different interpretations of The Dark Knight, along with his enemies and allies, in different eras, from writer/artist Lee Bermejo (JOKER).
In this graphic novel, Batman must come to terms with his past, present and future as he battles villains from the campy 1960s to dark and brooding menaces of today, while exploring what it means to be the hero that he is.
An excerpt of Batman: Noel appeared as bonus content in a number of early issues of DC’s New 52 comics, and I was immediately drawn to the artwork (which is absolutely stunning). As soon as the book was available, I picked up a copy, and I’m very glad that I did. This is an innovative, interesting, and above all stunning graphic novel.
I like the way the author has blended the themes of Dickens’ The Christmas Carol in with the Batman story and aesthetic. The Dark Knight receives three visitors over the course of this one night, drawing his attention to his past, present and potential future failures and faults, and also how people really perceive him. It’s an examination of Batman’s temperament and what makes him stand out from other DC superheroes – the fact that he walks a very fine line between justice and the darker side of vigilantism, how he must keep his temper from diminishing his higher goals and ideals. Batman: Noel shows us a particularly ruthless streak in Batman, one that his experiences and the words and actions of his visitors this night temper – just as Scrooge’s experiences with his three ghosts temper his own obnoxious disregard for other people and their concerns.
It wasn’t 100% clear to me where the graphic novel fits into the overall Batman canon – there are hints at a couple of references to a Robin who is no longer present, although it’s it was unclear as to whether it’s meant to be Dick Grayson (now Nightwing) or Jason Todd (died, resurrected, and now Red Hood – one of my favourite characters, and reviews of two Red Hood-related graphic novel collections are in the works). Other than that, I guess it manages to do what the synopsis suggests – it gives us an overview of the Batman story, seamlessly blending past and present concerns into a fluid and fast-paced story. It’s deftly done.
We get some cameos from some friendly and not-so-friendly faces. Big names like Catwoman (below), Superman and the Joker feature, and of course Commissioner Gordon and the always-excellent Alfred are also present (there has yet to be a Batman title in which Alfred was anything but excellent – be it dispensing wisdom or witticism, he is always great).
The art is absolutely gorgeous (as you can see from the samples included in this review, not to mention the cover art). It’s certainly the thing that jumps out most immediately. It’s easy to be distracted by the stunning artwork, but the writing is great, too, and everything goes together to form one of the best Batman graphic novels I’ve read. This is easily the most attractive and striking Batman art I’ve ever seen, and perhaps even the best comic art I’ve ever seen. It’s like an entire comic drawn to the level of the best cover artwork.
This is a triumph on every level – the art is peerless, and the story engaging and interesting. Very highly recommended.
Full Cover Art