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Enemies & Allies: A Novel Hardcover – May 5, 2009
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Soon after meeting one another as civilians, Superman encounters Batman when both are working on the same threat from within the country. Brilliant sociopath scientist Lex Luther has collaborated with Soviet General Anatoly Ceridov to take over the world by setting up a nuclear confrontation followed by his firm selling the counter defense, which will enable him to do what Ike would one day fear, control the military-industrial complex.
This is an over the top of Wayne Manor and the Daily Planet tale that is fun as Kevin J. Anderson cleverly brings 1950s symbols together including silver age superheroes struggling with a schizoid culture of post war optimism and cold war pessimism. The support cast is comic book thin even the icons like Alfred and Miss Lane while the two heroes travel the world to prevent Luther's scheme from succeeding. Silver Age fans especially will enjoy the seemingly zillionth "first" team up of Superman and Batman as they seem one step behind diabolically brilliant supervillain Lex.
Anderson sets his story in the 1950's, which adds to the book's charm and character. The plot centers on the two super heroes learning to trust each other in order to stop evil Lex Luthor and a General in Stalin's Russia. I personally liked Anderson's Cold War inclusion, it made the plot believable. Anderson moved the story right along, there never seemed to be a point where the plot dragged.
Though the book Enemies & Allies is not advertized as a young adult novel, I did wonder more than once, if this book was written for 11 year old male readers. The text can be overly simplistic, and the dialog seems to be lifted from older comic books. My 17 year old son read the book the same week as I and found though he liked it, he too wondered what age level Anderson was going for.
The most intriguing aspect of Anderson's book is the development if Batman. Though some of the back story seems to be lifted from the movie Batman Begins, I found Anderson's explanation of why Batman does what he does satisfying. I can not say the same for Anderson's Superman; here Superman comes across as slightly arrogant. The first time we read about Superman saving people Anderson writes "Although it was difficult to show modesty after carrying a giant passenger ship across the sky, the Kents' had taught him to be humble". Throughout the book Superman sees himself as protector of the people, yet Anderson never fully explains why this is. After doing such a fine job with Batman's character development I was a little surprised at this. My son and I had a very interesting conversation about the psychology of both Batman and Superman because of Anderson's portrayal of Superman; we agree that Batman has better reasons to call himself a super hero.
All in all I have to say this is a fine book for those who love old fashion comic book fun. Anderson can be counted among those who add to the super hero genre and now I can say I read something way out of my comfort zone and enjoyed it.
My biggest quibble with this book is that nowhere does the book say it's a grade school/jr. high level story, which it clearly is (except for a few words I don't want my preteens knowing, and I can't imagine them being interested in a Cold War story). The writing it juvenile in every way, from motivation and (lack of) character development to storytelling.
Superman was raised on Earth; why would he be bewildered by humanity? Batman was not a product of the 40's era - other than the references to Joe McCarthy and Sputnik, there was little indication that it was the 50's, certainly none through the characters (a supersonic jet during the cold war? Luthor's armor in the 50's? Why, exactly, was this set in the past?)
All of this has been done before, lightyears better.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. All and all I'd like those hours back.