Batman vs. The Christmas Spirit Opossum

Trust me, he looks worse than he is...

Ah, the opossum. The Frenchmen of the Animal Kingdom. While that surly-looking fellow seen above is just chilling on a fence or something, the opossum are famous for laying down and pretending to be dead as a way to escape predators. What they do when they come across a predator who has no problem eating something he didn't kill himself, I have no idea. Still, "playing possum" seems to work for these little guys. And right now, it seems to be working for my Christmas spirit as well.

Last Monday, I posted a blog kicking off the Christmas season for me, a season I very much look forward to every year. Twenty-four hours after that, life sort of went to hell in a handcart, and my Christmas spirit was tied to the bumper of the handcart like tin cans to a wedding limo. A few days ago, though, I was catching up on some of the comic books I had missed over the last two weeks ago, and came across a graphic novel that maybe... just maybe... started pulling my Christmas spirit back from the depths of Hades...

Batman: Noel is a graphic novel that just came out recently from DC Comics. I'll pause for a minute to let any of my friends who know how I feel stop and gasp over the fact that I'm about to say something nice about a DC project. This roughly ninety-page story is basically a version of A Christmas Carol that puts Batman squarely in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. There will be spoilers ahoy here, so if you don't want to know, get out now while the gettings good.

The story starts with an unknown narrator telling someone that he's going to tell them a story, but that he isn't good at that kind of thing. As he starts telling us the story of Bob Cratchit and his son and his horrible boss Scrooge, we see a man who is a small-time bagman for "The Clown," being terrorized by Batman, who lets him go to use as bait. He pauses to notice the bagman left the money he was supposed to be carrying behind and, without concern, notes the the Clown won't forgive him for that. We then see an example of Batman in his Batcave, being mean to trusty Alfred, showing just how driven and Scrooge-like he is. He sees a Robin suit in his display case (I presume it's the suit of Jason Todd, the second Robin who was killed by the Joker, but they never specify). This is his Jacob Marley moment, folks.

Or the Marley Brothers, if you prefer the Muppets. That's Michael Caine as Scrooge...
didn't he play Alfred too? Wait a minute...

Soon after that, he receives a tip from Commissioner Gordon, which leads him to Catwoman, his Ghost of Christmas Past. She leads him on a merry, flirtatious chase which he wants no part of, as she reminds him of how much fun they used to have when they were younger. At the end of the chase, he takes a nasty tumble off of a gargoyle and is rescued by none other than... Superman. Who better to be the Ghost of Christmas Present for Scrooge McBats than his friend, the Big Blue Buffoon? He flies around with Supes, taking in the happier sights of Gotham, like Commissioner Gordon celebrating Christmas with his wife and an on-duty cop as they say nice things about the Dark Knight. He even checks in on the bagman he terrorized earlier and watches as he plays with his son. Superman drops Batman off at the Batmobile and flies off, right before the Batmobile explodes.

No, Superman, with his super-hearing, doesn't hear that and fly right back. Sure, that would make sense. But this is the world of comic books, people, leave sense at the door. Besides, if Supes flew back, Bats couldn't be confronted by the scariest of the visions, the Ghost of Christmas Future. And really, who else could that vision for Batman be but the Joker?

Why so serious? It's Christmas!

Joker, as silent at the Ghost of Christmas Present should be, drags Batman off and drops him in an open grave, where he experiences visions of Gotham's future without him... Alfred lost and alone, gang warfare everywhere, Gordon in chains for harboring a fugitive vigilante... before finally dragging himself out as a better man. He hurries to the home of the bagman from the beginning, arriving in time to stop Joker from killing the man's son to make up for losing his money at the start of the story. After a brief scuffle, he looks up to find the bagman with a gun to the Joker's head, wanting to kill him for threatening his son. Batman, in his full-on changed Ebenezer Scrooge moment, goes from thinking earlier the bagman was scum and his son had no hope of turning out any better to saying to the bagman, "Put down the gun. Show your son what a real hero, a real man, does." The bagman listens, Batman takes Joker away, and everyone is happy. We also find out, although it was fairly obvious, that it was the bagman narrating the story of Scrooge to his son the whole time.

The story has it's drawbacks; namely, the writing, by Lee Bermejo, is pretty simplistic, but that's because Bermejo is mainly an artist, and his art on the book is beautiful (he also worked on another Batman graphic novel, The Joker, which was written by Brian Azzarello and might be the second greatest Joker story ever, behind The Killing Joke). The story itself is nicely done though, and is a good adaptation of the classic story.

In the end, how did Batman fare against my opossum-like Christmas spirit? Not well. Even with reinforcements from a great Glee Christmas episode last night, the soundtrack of which I'm listening to as I type this, current events still have my Christmas spirit nearly nonexistent.

But the Caped Crusader never gives up, and neither will I.