#4 on the countdown is Batman: Noel, by Lee Bermejo.
The conceit behind this gorgeous graphic novel by the brilliant Bermejo (who painted the Joker graphic novel with writer Brian Azzarello that was such a big deal around the release of The Dark Knight) is that one of Joker’s henchmen screwed up a job. Batman, then, knows that if he just keeps watch over the lackey, then the Joker is bound to come after him for revenge. So all Batman has to do is wait for the Joker to show up to kill his screw-up henchmen.
However, Batman is also dealing with a horrible illness and has begun to hallucinate a bit. The idea is that the henchman is, in effect, Bob Cratchit from A Christmas Carol and his son is Tiny Tim.
Batman is visited by “spirits” of the past, the present and the future in the persons of Catwoman, Superman and the Joker. Superman visits his friend to tell him to cool it with the whole “treating a man and his son as bait” routine…
Naturally, in the end, the henchman proves himself to Batman and Batman, like Scrooge, has a change of heart.
This is a pretty straightforward, but well done, variation on A Christmas Carol and the artwork is just outstanding. In the Catwoman sequence, they discuss the past and wow, Bermejo’s depiction of classic Batman and Robin heroics is simply visually stunning.
He uses the Joker design that he came up with for the Joker graphic novel, which predated the makeup design for The Dark Knight. It is still a striking look for the Joker. Very disturbing stuff. The sort of thing that haunts your soul.
All in all, though, this is an off kilter, but ultimately satisfying Christmas tale, with a message of hope and forgiveness and understanding.
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