Title: Enemies & Allies
Writer: Kevin J. Anderson
Cover Artist: Alex Ross
Publisher: It Books, imprint of Harper Collins
With decades of countless new elements, story lines, and of course the New 52, it seems that DC Comics has become a complex, if not convoluted, universe that at times feels far different than its humble roots. Especially when it comes to Batman and Superman. With innumerable allies, plentiful deaths and resurrections, Kryptonian cats and dogs, and several reboots and retcons, sometimes it feels like the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight are in far different territories than they were yesterday in the heyday of the golden age. So it was a welcome opportunity to get a chance to see both taken back down to their roots in novel format, especially with a Batman and Superman veteran like Kevin J. Anderson.
It takes place during the 50s with the Cold War serving as much of the backdrop. This might sound similar to Justice League: New Frontier for all you DC animated fans out there, but rest assured that while the two share the same decade, they’re apples and oranges. I think what makes the 50s in Enemies & Allies work, is that Anderson takes the era seriously without making it drab, throwing in plenty of familiar faces (from Arthur Miller to Joseph McCarthy) without turning them into forced cameos. And as expected, Batman takes on an old detective pulp feel, while Superman brings about a brighter shade of apple pie Americanism. Not only do they fit into their appropriate time periods, but the contrast between Batman and Superman makes for a nice flow of pace as Anderson switches between the two from chapter to chapter.
The plot also has a nice pace of development. It unfolds evenly with a good balance of action and character building. Although it’s a superhero, action, and arguably pulp novel, if there’s one genre Enemies and Allies doesn’t have, it’s mystery. Oh sure, there are some nice twists and turns here and there. But most of you will have probably figured out the majority of the plot before you even read the novel. And if you’re still scratching your head, I’ll give you a hint. Lex Luthor is the main villain. Now you know the plot. Lex Luthor makes an unethical piece of technology, plays devil’s advocate with both sides of the fence, tries everything to tarnish Superman’s reputation, fakes an attack in order to pretend to be hero, the plan backfires, yada yada yada. Point is, if you’ve read a Superman story or even some of the Batman stories, then you know what to expect here.
However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Quite the contrary. It’s a welcome old familiar feel that sometimes seems forgotten in today’s comics. More than just Batman and Superman teaming up in the 50s, it strips things back down to when it was just Batman and Alfred, Superman, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen, and stories not requiring knowledge of the vast DC history. Enemies and Allies might be a prose novel, but don’t disregard it as simply adaptation fiction; it’s an original Superman/Batman story that easily stands up alongside some of the great DC superhero comic books. And who knows? Maybe Anderson will continue this alternate universe and explore how Superman and Batman (and perhaps more enemies and allies) shape the 50s and 60s. And if they continue on with the same quality, I’d be more than happy to put them on my shelf alongside Enemies & Allies.