“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.
Along the way, 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.”
There is no other place to start than with this: The art in this graphic novel is magnificent. Other words and phrases apply, of course, like atmospheric, and nuanced, and fraught with honest-to-goodness, palpable emotion. And that’s not to mention the color palette, which feeds the story’s tension, the mood, the underlying drama of its main themes. If you were to pick up a copy of Batman: Noel for no other reason than to trip your fingers over rooftops and window panes, to draw a nail along the rigid lines of Bruce’s revealed face, or to catch a bit of snow on the pad of your index finger, that’s all right; that’s all the reason you’d need.
It should come as no surprise, then, when I tell you that during the entire first week of having the book in my possession, I did nothing more than open to a page, it didn’t matter which one, and look. Reading the thing was a distraction I wanted to put off, and, beyond that, the art tells the story so completely on its own. If you have even the slightest notion of what Dickens’ Christmas Carol entails, it’s all there, in this book, in line and shadow, visitor after visitor.
At this point, I should probably fess up: I’m not a fan of Dickens, per se, and was subjected to perhaps one too many viewings of A Christmas Carol as a child to take any measure of enjoyment from it as an adult. And still? The story, as reimagined here – draping the miserly mantel of Scrooge on Batman’s broad shoulders – works. Little Tim will break your heart; moreso, even, as Tim’s hero worship of Batman is so apparent, and so painfully at odds with Bruce’s own inner struggle: is what he’s doing still right? Is he becoming the very thing, the type of person – monster – he’s vowed to take down? And the visitors…I don’t want to give too much away, but one of them is another iconic superhero, and he stole the scene, my complete and utter attention, when he was on the page, because of the way he was drawn, yes, and because of the expressions etched on his face. Bermejo pulled off his homage to Dickens beautifully and entirely in keeping with, as I’ve come to understand him, who Batman is, what he stands for.
One last thing about this graphic novel that I enjoyed was that it provided me with an opportunity to learn a bit more about Batman’s history. For instance, I was unaware, prior to this, that Batman had multiple Robins, and that not all survived partnering him. Honestly, I’ve come to comics of this ilk late; I have a lot to catch up on before I can consider myself even slightly versed in the world of superheroes. But I’m trying, and I find myself loving each new piece that opens up to me. That said: you do not need to have a thorough comprehension of Batman’s background and history to understand or enjoy this book. It stands on its own merits.
In my humble opinion, Batman: Noel is an impressive piece of work.