Batman Noel Review – Batman Smells
Batman Noel Review
Written/ Art by: Lee Bermejo
Colors by: Barbara Ciardo
Published by: DC Comics
You ever notice the lack of Christmas Comics? We get the occasional special, single issue or something like Klaus, but overall there aren’t many books focused solely on Christmas (or, hell, even other holidays).
So, today, I’m going to review a Christmas themed Batman graphic novel by Lee Bermejo, from 2011, called Batman Noel. What’s interesting about this book is that while a lot of people are aware of it (at the very least because Batman’s costume was in Arkham Origins), no one actually talks much about it. Is it a lost Christmas classic? Or something to be used as kindling? First, the plot.
This one is a bit harder to explain than most. Y’see, Batman Noel is an indirect retelling of a Christmas Carol through a story about Batman getting more and more unhinged. After the death of Jason Todd, Batman is at his most aggressive and violent, treating all criminals in very black and white terms and never stopping for a rest, especially now that Joker’s escaped Arkham again. But Bruce is getting very sick, and he starts seeing visions, perhaps of his partner, or of his past, his present or even his future… Also, there’s a guy named Bob Cratchit.
Storytelling wise, this book does something that is both interesting and kind of annoying. There is a constant narration by someone who is telling a patched together (as in, not actually reading the book but getting the general events) version of A Christmas Carol, with the details lining up to what’s happening to Batman in the book.
On one hand, this narration is well written and very charming. It feels like when you’re a kid at a family gathering and an uncle who’s slightly tipsy pulls you in to tell you a story or to impart a lesson, but he’s had a little too much to drink, so things can get a little bit lost. On the other hand, while I was reading, I thought to myself “If the narration wasn’t there, what would really be missing?” and I realized the answer was “Not much”. The story is not a direct parallel to A Christmas Carol, but I think the point would still get through without a guy going “So, anyway, it’s like this Scrooge guy saw a ghost or somethin’.”
As for the rest of the story… I mean, it’s hard to screw up A Christmas Carol. It’s basically a perfect story of redemption and it fits Batman well. Considering how dark and brooding he’s gotten in the last few years, this type of story really appeals to me and it’s the kind of thing I would like to see more often, where we acknowledge that Batman being the way he is isn’t good. There is nuance in criminality, not everyone is either a victim or the Joker, and sometimes circumstances get the better of us. It’s an important lesson for Batman (and really everybody) to learn and teaching it through the framework of A Christmas Carol was a great idea.
I especially liked the choices for the “ghosts”, particularly the Ghost of Christmas Present. Without exactly spoiling who it is, it was an inspired choice on Bermejo’s part and it fits really, really well.
In terms of complaints, beyond the previously mentioned narration, there are a couple of lines that felt a bit un-Batman, like when he insults Gordon, but the biggest problem had to do with the direct references to A Christmas Carol. Did the guy who Batman is chasing REALLY have to be called Bob Cratchit? Did we need direct quotes from the actual book? Details like that are sort of unimportant, but they still annoy me.
As for the art, it’s Lee Bermejo on the top of his game and it all works amazingly. Granted, his style is very realistic with subdued colors, so those nice Christmas moments don’t have the warmth that they probably could’ve used at points… But it’s still Lee Bermejo and when Superman looks like that, who really cares?
Still, I should point out that, once or twice, a couple of the faces don’t look great. It’s what happens sometimes with realistic art styles, it can look a bit weird.
In conclusion, Batman Noel is not an amazing book, but I don’t think it’s aiming for that. It’s an atmospheric redemption tale where Batman learns something, with some great artwork and some well-done cameos. Does it stumble at points? Yes, but it’s Christmas, so I’m willing to forgive it. If you’ve been reading Batman and haven’t picked this up, I’d say cozy up to the fireplace and read it.
Batman Noel Review