Comic Review: Batman Noel is a Classic Christmas Tale from a Remarkable New Angle

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This was a slow release week, so in lieu of doing a review list of new issues, I thought I’d welcome in the Christmas season with what is easily the biggest holiday-based comic book release of the year. Batman Noel is the impressive undertaking of writer and artist Lee Bermejo. Bermejo dueled two narratives, twining them together within the framework of the artwork to form what became a tribute to Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Batman was Scrooge, pessimistically coming to the rescue of humanity in a way that often lay in areas of gray morality. The ghosts of Christmas past present and future were not ghosts at all, but people in Batman’s life that were able to embody and pass on the lesson that each of those spirits passes onto Scrooge in the original classic.

While Batman’s adventure is occurring with its own action and dialogue, a simultaneous simplistic narrative of the classic story is also being told in a voice that indicates it is a parent talking to a child. This is a hell of a lot to smoosh together into one, albeit good sized, graphic novel.  The attempt could have gone horribly wrong … but it didn’t. Instead, it was brilliant.

In the introduction to this book, Jim Lee comments on Bermejo’s work. “A true contradiction in styles, Lee’s neo-Gothic work operates on the surface level to entice and please while painting a darker more disturbing world just underneath that very same scintillating surface.” I’m glad Jim Lee put it to eloquently, because I could not have captured the intricacy of Bermejo’s work so effectively. Saying it’s beautifully detailed or emotionally charged just doesn’t cut it. While his storytelling ability is linguistically very good, artistically it is astounding.

The story itself is an interesting way to parallel A Christmas Carol. The “ghost” of Christmas past is Catwoman. She is able, in a way that no one else can, get through Batman’s stubborn mental shields to make him listen to her reason. And since it is Catwoman, her reason always seems completely nuts, until you realize that in her own way she makes perfect sense.

Batman pursues his quest, determined to ignore the lessons of the night and continue his mission. He is Batman and that is just what he does with an almost blind determination. Then he runs into the second “ghost” – his old friend, Superman. Superman is the perfect second visitor for Bruce because he is in his very essence a symbol of hope, acceptance, and brotherly love. He shows Batman a side of Gotham hat isn’t about crime and greed.

Finally the joker makes an appearance as the “ghost” of Christmas future. Just like in the original story, no dialogue is traded in this scene, but it is integral to the story and I don’t want to tell you why.

The book is $22.95, and it is worth every penny. This is a great Christmas present (even for yourself).  Merry Christmas, Lytherians!

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