Kevin J. Anderson’s novel, Enemies & Allies, is hard to describe from a reviewer standpoint. The book features the first time meeting between Superman and Batman, which is pretty cool even though it’s been done several times over the years. I was looking forward to seeing how the author would handle the two characters and be able to bring them together from their respective worlds. Since Anderson has written in several licensed worlds before, such as Star Wars, X-Files, I knew he would bring a lot of expertise to the project.
The thing that really threw me was the fact that the novel is set in the 1950s. I don’t know why the choice was made to do this because it removes the heroes from the worlds we’ve seen them in recently. In the comic book industry, DC Comics created what became known as “imaginary stories” that told tales of heroes in the future or past. The Batman Junior and Superman Junior stories are some of the best of the lot and indicative of what could be done with the characters.
The thread that binds the two heroes in the story is Lex Luthor. Luthor hates Superman for personal reasons, but his company is stealing technology from Wayne Industries, which is owned by Bruce Wayne (Batman).
In the story, Superman and Batman have recently begun their superhero careers and the public is just starting to take notice. Both of them believe the other is an urban myth, which is kind of humorous for a while. In fact, Batman is even trying to figure out where Superman got the advanced technology he’s using that allows him to fly and increases his strength while making him apparently indestructible.
Anderson keeps the pages turning quickly by building a racing pace while shifting gears through the plot and various characters. Although I didn't much care for the 1950 setting, Anderson makes the most of it and even throws Senator Joe McCarthy and his fear of communism into the mix and makes it play. Luthor uses that fear adroitly, pushing McCarthy beyond simple fear of other countries into the fear of other worlds.
The book is a romp, a mixture of adulation and adrenaline, that never takes itself seriously or tries to reinvent the two iconic heroes. I think Batman fared better than Superman because Anderson seemed to have a better handle on the character.
Longtime fans are going to find plenty to quibble over regarding the mythologies of the two characters, but they’re going to find plenty to love as well. This is the first of several novels featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to come, and obviously what readers get is going to be a mixed bag because I can’t imagine sticking with the 1950s versions of these heroes.
There hasn’t been a category for superhero beach reads, so Enemies & Allies is blazing a new trail. While you’re waiting for the next blockbuster superhero movie to arrive at your theaters, this novel will definitely help tide you over.