Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Lee Bermejo
Artist: Lee Bermejo
Colorist: Barbara Ciardo
Letters: Todd Klein
There’s a majestic dichotomy with Batman and Christmas. The Dark Knight of vengeance finding his way through the joyous holiday season. White snowflakes drifting onto his black cape as he watches over the city. In Batman: Noel, Lee Bermejo pays homage to Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol, giving it a glove fitting Gotham City spin, capturing the imagery and emotion that we love best about a Christmas eve with the Caped Crusader.
An omniscient narrator opens this tale over a familiar Gotham winter night as the Batman aggressively hunts his prey. The Batman/Scrooge metaphors waste no time, and even by Batman/Scrooge standards, this main character is a very angry rich guy. But I can’t blame him. Even those who have never read a Batman comic before can understand that the Joker loose on the streets makes Batman one disgruntled crime fighter. One who doesn’t allow even the smallest of Gotham scum a day off for Christmas.
As with any A Christmas Carol rendition, the three ghosts make their foreboding appearance, but this time in the form of three very familiar faces. All the classic Dickens elements are represented, from Scrooge’s deceased partner, Jacob Marley — or Robin, in Batman’s case — and even Tiny Tim, who is in a much more unique position of poverty than we’ve seen for the Cratchit family, and it all still feels very Batman-like and not at all like a rip off, which I appreciated most. And even with all the themes of good Christmas will saturating the cracks, we still get Batman caper worthy of any season or denomination.
The star of this graphic novel is undoubtedly Bermejo’s sculpture-like artwork. Heavy textures are the priority of each design, and it comes through organically from the leather buckles on Batman’s boots to the skin crinkles on each finger’s knuckle. Every page is exquisitely painted, yet does not take away from the visual storytelling a great comic thrives on. Some of the facial features and expressions can be a bit exaggerated at times, but it only adds a bit of caricatured charm.
The museum quality art and extremity of which Batman’s anger is pushed makes this a great read regardless of when you pick this story up, but my favorite part of the whole book is how definitively the Batman/Christmas relationship is represented. I can easily see reading Batman: Noel becoming a new annual tradition.