Christmas Review – Batman: Noel
I picked this one up as a Christmas special. Figured it would be a nice little diversion as most DC graphic novels are. Azzarello and Bermejo’s Joker hardcover was fun and I still have the Teen Titans: Games hardcover sitting on my desk. I’ve often had debates over why DC and Marvel don’t invest more heavily in single-serving graphic novels considering how easy they are to promote and build buzz around. The general public is far more likely to pick up a graphic novel than get hooked on individual monthly issues. I remember when Earth One came out everyone seemingly lost their shit over it and it went to multiple printings. It seems to me if you want to entice new readers you should try to cater to them in a format they enjoy. I don’t think that DC and Marvel need to curb their monthlies altogether but I’ll be damned if they’re not shooting themselves in the foot by dragging their feet on graphic novel production. I know artists are somewhat hesitant to jump on-board graphic novels because they would rather get paid their monthly page-rate but I’m sure there’s a compromise there somewhere that could mean big business for the comic publishing world.
Batman : Noel is a pretty good little graphic novel. Lee Bermejo does double duty on writing and art, though Charles Dickens should get a writer credit seeing how this is a pretty direct adaptation of A Christmas Carol even if they didn’t use the title. The story centers around Bob, a lowly runner for the Joker who has a chance run-in with Batman who in the context of this story exemplifies the persona of Scrooge. They really play up the “Batman is a bastard” angle here. I have to say that it’s not the sort of Batman I normally enjoy reading. Too dour, too tied to Frank Miller’s insanity and grumpiness. It would have been a complete turnoff if not for the fact that it was done to serve the purpose of the narrative. I mean, we’re all familiar enough with Dickens’ work to know that he’ll have a change of heart in the end.
The fun of Noel is in Bermejo’s use of Batman’s cast of characters to fill slots in the Dickens lore and the beautiful artwork that he does it with. Say what you will about the book, it is hard to deny that the artwork is anything less than stunning. The layouts, the finishes, the colors…all of it comes together to create something that truly pops. If you were to show this to someone who doesn’t read comics regularly, you can bet your sweet ass they would be impressed. It is some of Bermejo’s best work. It’s vibrant and eye-catching in a way that his work in something like Joker wasn’t. While that artwork was still impressive, it was a muddy, dark blotch. It was too dark to truly impress. Here you get a real feel for how good Bermejo really is.
I admit that the pricetag is a bit hefty for the story content, but it’s a good read and something that I’ll probably pull out around this time each year just for a lark. I would say that’s enough to give it a hearty recommendation.