Late to the Party: Batman Noel

This week my friend Josh Bowe, @Boweman55, lent me his copy of Batman Noël, so while it was released on Nov. 2, 2011 I wanted to share my experience with the graphic novel.

Writer and artist Lee Bermejo has created a Christmas-must read for comic fans. In this graphic novel, Bermejo takes his shot at Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and does so stunningly. Noël is one of the greatest creations to come from A Christmas Carol spin-off since the creative birth of Scrooge McDuck.

While audiences ultimately like McDuck at the tale’s end because he’s a duck with glasses, a top hat and leg warmers, readers will surely hate Batman at the end for not believing in the spirit of Christmas.

Let me clarify, Noël, is a Bruce Wayne story. Bermejo examines how donning the cape and cowl has affected Bruce from the comical Silver Age Batman and Robin to today’s hard-boiled Batman.

Bermejo’s adaptation is smart. He avoids obvious fill ins for Dickens’s characters. His work tells the classic tale of why Bruce continues as Batman, while keeping parallel to A Christmas Carol. In Noël, Bruce takes Bob Cratchit’s role and Batman fills in for Scrooge. Bermejo teases the Joker/Scrooge parallel early, but quickly gets to the meat of the story, which turns out more rewarding than a Batman vs. Joker plot. After all, that’s what Christmas Carol is about — a man rekindling his Christmas spirit.

The other parallel choices are just as creative. I don’t want to spoil too much but Bermejo’s choices for the three ghosts are very fitting without being obvious.

The graphic novel’s dialogue is limited with most of the plot being told through a narrator telling the A Christmas Carol tale. Bermejo takes a page from his work in Joker and has a henchman narrating. It’s campy at times but neatly wraps up Christmas experience.

What truly helps this work standout among other Batman books is the artwork. Bemejo’s style is real, gritty and detailed. His art makes each page or spread a beautiful experience. For the most part, rather than reading panel to panel, the story is told in full-page art with minimal breaks and pop-out boxes. Somehow Bemejo still accomplishes full context and flow in his pages without the panels. As I said early this is a story about people and Bruce Wayne and Bemejo puts a lot of effort in faces. Characters are easily understood without dialogue because of the expression.

Another plus is Bemejo’s take on Batman’s costume, it’s real, detailed and awesome.

I’m two months late from the holidays but I’m glad I got my hands on Batman Noël. It’s a great Bruce Wayne story I’ll make sure to read each year around Christmas time.

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