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Friday, July 10, 2009

Enemies & Allies by Kevin J Anderson (reviewed by Cindy Hannikman and Fabio Fernandes)

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(Cindy´s take)

Many comic book enthusiasts have wondered what a big meeting between the "man of steel" and the Dark Knight would be like. Would the two of them work together for the greater good? When the two got together would they work under their aliases or would they know each other on the level of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne?

Enemies and Allies takes place in the 1950s when the US was at odds with the Soviet Union. Lex Luthor,
Superman's enemy, has teamed up with the Soviet Union in order to try and build a bigger and stronger nuclear weapons. Luthor´s main competition is that of Wayne Industries run by Bruce Wayne, Batman.

As tensions build between the companies and worldwide, Batman and Superman come face to face for the first time. While Batman's main goal is to rid Gotham City of criminals, Superman believes in helping those that need help and leaving the criminals to law enforcement. The two opposite views of how things should be handled leads to a lot of personal conflicts. However, Batman and Superman must soon put aside these opinions in order to help a greater good before the US is destroyed for good.

Enemies and Allies is a very quick read. At 336 pages the novel is separated into 65 chapters, each chapter on average 5-10 pages. Kevin J Anderson's great ability to make a plot flow smoothly and quickly is also another major factor in the readability of the novel.

While this novel is based off of the comic book superheros, readers unfamiliar with the background of Batman and Superman will have no problem following the story line. There is plenty of provided background and a big enough lead up to the meeting that fans and non-fans alike will be able to understand. This does lead to a slight drawback as many die hard fans may become tired of reading something that they are already familiar with.

Along with the background of the characters is the lead up to the big showdown. There seems to be an overabundance of background provided and a lot of times Batman is separate from Superman. Although the characters do meet up and work together more then half of the novel is spent on the separate adventures of the two heroes.

Although Enemies and Allies' main plot line is that of "The dark knight meets the man of steel", there is very little of the Dark Knight throughout the novel. In a way there is a feel of a Superman storyline with Batman helping here and there. The main enemy in the novel is that of Superman's and the only other character that is related to Batman is that of Alfred. This could be a result of the fact that there is a feel that more novels involving the two could be in the future. I would have just liked to see a little more involving Batman, as it seemed it was Superman's enemy and therefore Batman was just "helping" out.

In the end this was an easy, quick read. There is a great build up for the characters and the plot is strong enough to stand on its own. Although there appeared to be a lack of Batman in the novel there is plenty that fans and non fans of comics will enjoy. Hopefully in the future there will be another meeting between the two superheroes. Until then, there this is a great novel for a summer read.


(Fabio´s take)

Enemies and Allies is not the first incursion of Kevin J. Anderson to the DC hero canon. First, he brought to light The Last Days of Krypton, where he retold the story of Jor-El and Lara since before their marriage, along with the story of General Zod and his insatiable thirst for power, and the intrigues and power play which ultimately led to the utter termination of life with the destruction of Krypton – save for its last son, whose story we all know very well.

In The Last Days of Krypton, Anderson pays homage (both in title and intention) to Bulwer-Lytton´s classic novel The Last Days of Pompeii. And it is a very good, satisfying novel, with plenty of information from the canon. There you will find Superman lore from the Golden Age (1930s) and the Silver Age (1950/1960s). Not from the major John Byrne 80s revamp, though – even though I missed that, the story Anderson chose to tell most probably wouldn´t have worked if he had chosen that part of the canon to work. And it was a fine story.

In Enemies and Allies, Anderson made his choice all too clear right from the start. He chose to tell not the 80s revamping, but neither the original 30s´ Siegel and Shuster original story. What he did was starting from a well-established corpus: the fifties – to be more exact, 1957, right after Sputnik was launched. Superman had almost two decades of publishing – and, therefore, a treasure trove of stories from which to get inspiration.

But there is also a certain Batman to be considered. As Cindy already noted above, Batman does play a minor role in here. This is clearly a Superman novel in which Batman is a guest – although a very special guest, no question about that. But it is a page-turner all the same, no matter which hero gets more mileage. Anderson captures the zeitgeist and delivers a good story, throwing Tunguska (here disguised as Ariguska) and its famed meteor into the mix with Area 51, McCarthyism, and sci-fi classic movies.

All of this without steering from the Andersoniana for which he is well-known: the fast-paced narrative, vivid characters (The “soviet supermen” reminded me of the adin in his novel Climbing Olympus), airtight worldbuilding, and a good story. Enemies and Allies is a novel for Superman fans and for Kevin J. Anderson fans as well. And this is good.


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