The Way of the Word

5. March 2010

Review: Kevin J. Anderson – Enemies & Allies

Filed under: review — jensaltmann @ 10:35
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Originally published in 2009.

It is the 1950s. Gotham City is plagued by a vigilante who dresses up as a bat to fight crime in the most corrupt city in the US. Bruce Wayne, technically in charge of Wayne Industries, discovers that a competitor, LuthorCorp, has bribed or coerced the members of his board. Because of this source, LuthorCorp owner Lex Luthor defeats Wayne Industries at every point. Once Bruce Wayne has gathered proof of this, he decides to turn the tables on Luthor.

Enter Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter in Metropolis, and Lois Lane, his co-worker at the Daily Planet. They also discover that Luthor is up to something, but what could that be?

In their efforts to find out, Superman and Batman repeatedly get in each other’s way. But in order to stop Luthor and save the free world, they need to work together.

Kevin J. Anderson dives deep into the pools of DC history and of actual history. His versions of Batman, Superman and Lex Luthor are not the versions of these characters as they had actually appeared in the 1950s. Rather, Anderson mixes and matches the various versions, taking whatever he feels works in this story. For example, his Luthor owes more to the “evil businessman Luthor” of the 1980s than to the “mad scientist Luthor” of the Golden Age.  The references to the 1950s are equally a grab bag. While Superman is very much the Golden Age version of the character, the influence of the Richard Donner movies (for example) is unmistakable.

But, since this is the fictional US of an alternate DC Universe, it works.

The novel’s story is a mix of what X-Files would have been if it had been made in the 1950s, and the adventures of James Bond (more the movies than the novels, though). Up to and including the evil madman’s secret island base. (I admit I was a bit disappointed when the James Bond aspect wasn’t followed through in regards to the secret island base.) Batman and Superman visit a Siberian gulag, they break into Area 51, they run afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and need to stop Luthor from triggering a nuclear war. Throughout, the novel is peppered with references and nods to the entire history of these characters. Clearly, Anderson knows what he writes about.

All in all, Enemies & Allies is not the Superman, Batman and Luthor that anyone knows. It is, as DC used to call it, an Elseworlds Tale. The story doesn’t suffer very much because of it. It does prove, however, that “evil businessman Lex” makes a much better Batman villain than a Superman villain. It also proves that Kevin J. Anderson needs to write James Bond.

If you are a DCU continuity nerd, you want to stay away from this. This story is outside of continuity. If you like superhero action in general, and pulpish action adventure in particular, then this novel will serve you nicely.

Verdict: recommended


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