Time once again for another alternative holiday title to get you in the spirit! This week, we look at Batman: Noel.
I stop and start with the Bat family comics, but they’re consistently the only DC I really keep up with (though not so much once New 52 hit). In general, I prefer titles like this or trade paperbacks of arcs to individual issues. I have my own thoughts on what Batman is and isn’t, but one thing I love is that within the title, there are so many different facets to the character and to Gotham, itself. It makes ideas like this not only work, but become something really interesting and special.
The basic gist is that this is A Christmas Carol put through a Batman filter. We see Bob, one of Joker’s henchmen, be used as a potential pawn by Batman, whose world view has become even more black and white after the death of Jason Todd. Different heroes and villains take on the role of the ghosts as Batman/Bruce slowly succumbs to pneumonia, while also trying to take down the joker and deal with what he’s becoming.
Because Batman can be so many things, it’s interesting to see him as Scrooge, and not all that unbelievable. It’s also interesting to see Batman as not benevolent hero or hardcore badass, but something in the middle, someone who will do a lot to support their view of the world that’s slowly been affected by grief. You also get to see how others view him, plus there’s the obligatory action and fight sequences and solving the problem of the moment. Yet it still keeps to theme, still feels like a Christmas title. I also like that you do get a character arc from Bruce, you do get the sense that he’s working through things and learning somewhat, but it’s also believable and not something cartoony to fit the source material.
For me, especially, it vaguely reminds me of the animated series episodes where you’d take a brief look at some poor guy stuck in the middle of Batman and Joker’s constant battle, or see the main action through a side set of eyes. I love choices like that, and they really work for this title.
The art is just gorgeous, too. There’s a haunting quality to it, a cold realism that transcends typical comic book looks for me. I rememer not going into this one with any real expectation, because so often for me gimmicks like this just don’t work. I have to admit, I was very pleasantly surprised and read it a few times in a row – and got a different take each time I paged through it.