- Sometimes I think that helping people, saving people, can be just as easy as showing them your face. The face of someone exactly like them.
- -- Superman
Appearing in "Batman: Noël"
- Robin (flashback only)
- Batmobile (Destroyed in this issue)
Synopsis for "Batman: Noël"
In Gotham City, Batman tracks down a man named Bob Cratchit that he knows to be working for the Joker. Bob has a young son, and out of desperation, he took a job doing a delivery for the Clown Prince of Crime. Batman catches up with him, though, causing him to drop his package. The package is full of the Joker's money, and Batman grabs him, interrogating him about his enemy's whereabouts. Bob knows nothing, and knowing that the Joker will want his money back, he uses Bob as bait, and lets him go free - with a tracker placed on his scarf.
Bob returns home to find his son Tim fashioning a makeshift Christmas tree out of a dead plant and some garbage. The boy is excited to show his creation to his father, but the stressful encounter with Batman has left Bob rather harrowed. Tim wanted to add something to represent Batman to his tree, because Batman is a good guy. Thinking of himself, Bob mutters that sometimes good people have to do bad things.
In the Batcave, Alfred notes that Bruce seems to have a rather severe cough, and should probably not be out in the cold so much. He notices that Bruce is performing surveillance on the Cratchit household, and expresses some disgust at his master's invasion of privacy - and in particular his placing a child in danger by using a parent as bait. Bruce believes that if left to his own devices, Bob Cratchit will raise his son to be a criminal like him. Alfred coldly warns that there was once another boy whose future was risked on his watch.
That boy was Robin. As Batman's sidekick, the boy had brought out a side of his mentor that has not been seen in some time. But Robin is dead, and has been for years. And with him went that happier side. Still sick, Bruce has a vision of Robin, and that apparition warns that he will be visited by three more people who will help him to see what he's lost.
Batman responds to the Bat-Signal and meets with his confidante Commissioner Gordon. Gordon tips Batman off to a report that Catwoman plans to knock over an auction house and may have some information about the Joker's whereabouts. Batman thinks it would be a waste of time to check into it, given the games Selina plays, but decides to stop her anyway.
Near Sprang's Auction House, Catwoman jokes that she could hear Batman's laboured breathing from far away, and dares him to chase her. Angrily, he grabs her and demands to know where the Joker is. Coyly, she responds that she made the story up just to get him to come for her. As he leaves in anger, she calls after him that he has changed. He used to be more determined to pursue her, more willing to play. Annoyed, he gives in and chases her, and something about that action reminds him of the man he used to be, the man he was with Robin. However, in his condition, he is not able to do all he should, and when she makes a desperate leap across a gap between buildings, he misses his mark and falls into the alley below.
Down there, he has vivid memories of his parents' murder. His reverie is interrupted by the appearance of Superman. He comments that he heard Bruce coughing all the way from Metropolis, and using his X-Ray vision, he determines that Batman has the beginnings of pneumonia. Bruce shrugs him off, and sighing, Superman takes his friend's hand and offers to give him a lift to his car. Batman agrees on the condition that they stop by the Cratchit house. Superman comments that it is bad for a hunter to use parents or children as bait. Despite the fact that it is clear that there is plenty of love between Bob and his son, Batman is blind to it and treats the family only as a means to capturing his foe.
Superman is disappointed with Bruce's approach, and decides to show him something. Lifting the Dark Knight high above his city, Superman urges him to see the good within Gotham's citizens in their every day life. Gotham's present is full of acts of good will and kindness above and beyond its crime and dirt.
Superman takes Bruce to the home of Commissioner Gordon, where he has invited one of his officers to share some 'cheer' with he and his wife. The officer comments that there were some Batman sightings across the city, but things seem otherwise quiet. Gordon admits that his relationship with the vigilante isn't easy to keep, and his guest suggests that Batman is a necessary evil. Gordon responds that Batman is by no means evil, but that he walks a fine line and occasionally blurs that line too much. He likes to think that he can temper that instability in Batman.
Afterwards, Superman drops Batman off at the Batmobile, warning his friend to take steps to improve his health. As Bruce makes his way to the car, though, it suddenly explodes, knocking him back. Nearly unconscious, Bruce only has enough time to see a figure approaching before he blacks out. The Joker drags Batman from the alley into a cemetery. He kicks the unconscious Dark Knight into an open grave, and begins shovelling dirt on top.
In his unconsciousness, Batman dreams of a future without him. The city is full of riots, and it has been overrun by rival gangs inspired by his example - only more willing to cross the line. These gangs are at war with another gang inspired by the Joker. James Gordon is tried for aiding and abetting a known criminal, obstructing justice, harbouring a known fugitive, malfeasance in office, and accessory. He is found guilty and sentenced to 30 years without parole. Wayne Manor and its contents are sold at auction and Alfred watches his life taken away from him. Everyone who had cared for Batman is worse off - and why should they care if he died when it seemed to them that he didn't care for them at all? Realizing that he has a chance to make this all right, Batman returns to consciousness, and thrusts his fist up through the dirt which had covered him.
That night, Tim answers a knock on his door, and is horrified to find the Joker standing there. He begins laying out tools of torture on the table and demands to know where Bob is. When he threatens Tim's life, Bob gets up the nerve to come out with a baseball bat and threaten his one-time employer. Unfortunately, the Joker dodges the blow quickly and places the muzzle of a revolver in his face. He demands his money, and makes it clear that he will kill to get it.
Suddenly, Batman smashes through the window and knocks Joker to the floor. Before the clown can retrieve his gun, Bob Cratchit grabs it and turns the tables. He cries out that if the Joker wants to play games with his son's life, he will show him how to play, cocking the revolver. Joker dares him to fire, but Batman urges Bob to show his son that he is not a criminal; to show him what a hero is. Reluctantly, Bob lets the weapon drop, and Batman delivers the Joker to the police.
Tim and Bob are brought closer together by their experience, and Commissioner Gordon's faith in his mysterious friend is restored. Batman returns to the cave, and goes to sleep.
The next day, Batman furnishes the Cratchit household with a real Christmas tree, presents, and even a job for Bob courtesy of Bruce Wayne. Later, Bob would tell the story to his son, borrowing motifs from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", hoping to teach Tim that a man can change for the better.
- Dedicated to Lee Bermejo's grandmother Alice B. Fletcher and his wife Sara.
- Features a forward by Jim Lee.
- No trivia.
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- Cover gallery for the Batman: Noël series
Links and References
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