There are a few classic stories that get told and retold this time of year. One is A Christmas Carol, which has already made an appearance on this list by way of The Muppet Christmas Carol. Batman Noël, too, owes a great debt to the story of redemption through ghosts originally told by Charles Dickens. In it we see the Caped Crusader go on a whirlwind tour of his hometown, Gotham City, with commentary by 3 familiar faces to DC Comics readers acting as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. While I was initially put off by the comic’s reliance upon the well trod story, writer Lee Bermejo (who also does the drawing) uses the cliche to illuminate some of the roads less traveled in terms of Batman’s psyche.
This story takes place after the death of one of the Robins and Batman is real shaken up about it. He hallucinates a vision of the dead Robin warning him of 3 visitors which will do all the standard Christmas Carol things. Catwoman is the Ghost of Christmas Past, reminding Bats about the way he used to be, more fun and less black and white. Superman arrives in the show-stealing role of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Bermejo writes and draws him as a kind of heavenly being with a glow surrounding him. It’s a great turn. Finally, the Joker is the Ghost of Christmas Future and he’s atypically silent, conforming to the tale’s creepy description. But the thing that makes this all work is the framing story with one of the Joker’s lackeys, Bob, telling the story of how Batman changed in one night to his son, Tim. It’s at once a clever use of the source text and an interesting way of framing a story about superheroes and villains. It takes the sometimes silly things that happen in those stories and makes it more human. That the art is as gorgeous as I’ve seen in a Batman book certainly helps as well, with a great Christmas vibe tinged by the grit and grime that permeate the modern Batman panoply.