Enemies & Allies: A Novel
by Kevin J. Anderson
Review by Drew Bittner
William Morrow Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061662553
Date: 01 May 2009 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
At the height of the Cold War, as Sputnik asserts a Soviet claim to space, two heroes make their mark on the United States.
In Gotham City, Batman is a wanted vigilante, despite his success at catching criminals and shaming the city's corrupt police. In Metropolis, Superman is earning public approval, even as he yearns to discover another alien like himself.
Now these titans meet in Enemies and Allies by Kevin J. Anderson.
Bruce Wayne has perfected his image as a careless, shallow playboy--an ideal mask to hide his work as Batman, driven by the death of his parents to fight crime in all its manifestations. But when he narrowly avoids a trap and discovers some unwelcome news in the halls of Wayne Enterprises, he comes to an important realization.
Meanwhile, Clark Kent is struggling with his career as a journalist for the Daily Planet. Although he has landed some good stories, he's relegated to doing an advice column--which challenges the Man of Steel in entirely unexpected ways. He has to confront his alienation from humanity, a problem that super-strength and invulnerability cannot overcome.
Behind the scenes, industrialist Lex Luthor is conspiring with a Soviet general to accelerate the arms race between the US and the USSR. Luthor has an ingenious scheme, one that will push America and Russia to the brink. Unless Superman and Batman can solve their differences and work together on this case, the entire world may end up a nuclear wasteland--or worse, under the thumb of Lex Luthor.
Throw in a mysterious flying saucer, atomic mutants, Cold War nuclear hysteria, and a sinister conspiracy, and you're talking big screen action packed into every page.
Anderson takes an á la carte approach to the DC Comics superheroes in this novel, with bits and pieces taken from the 70+ year careers of the duo. Set in the 1950s, he evokes the paranoia of the times with skill, slowly but surely crafting a problem that will challenge the abilities of both men.
Bruce Wayne must re-think his approach to his work, when evidence of industrial espionage surfaces, while Clark Kent has to get in touch with the "-man" in Superman. Anderson uses his Kryptonian name "Kal-El" to reinforce this gap between the hero and those he hopes to protect--a neat touch that deftly makes its point.
He also makes great use of the supporting cast, with Alfred, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen contributing strongly to the story. Lois is the intrepid, headstrong reporter, fearlessly chasing her story into the lion's den, while Jimmy is a young and rather naive photographer who treasures his friendship with Kent. He follows Clark into trouble without a second thought, even when it leads to a secret government base and some very unusual sightings out in New Mexico...
The climax of the story is sweeping, with Superman making a terrible discovery or two in Siberia and Batman grappling with problems on multiple fronts in Gotham City. And let's be honest, we might know that the heroes will win--but Anderson makes them work for every victory. He splices together the substance of superhero mythology with tropes of '50s-era atomic horror for a surprisingly effective tale.
Fans of Superman and Batman will enjoy this excursion, as will fans of fun, adventurous science fiction. Anderson shows a real flair for writing these larger-than-life characters, and multiple sequels would be very welcome.