By Kevin J. Anderson
ENEMIES & ALLIES takes us back to the Cold War, a setting the Batman and Superman will always feel natural in. Thankfully, this book contains nothing about the reverse course (aka what I was studying while I read the book). The focus is on Gotham, Metropolis, a gulag, and a Caribbean island. What connects these places? The machinations of Lex Luthor.
Since Lex is the big bad, most of the focus is on Superman. This makes me a little sad as the Batman and his rogues' gallery own my heart, but it worked for me because Kevin J. Anderson's characterization of Superman is stronger than his of the Batman. (I should note that there are many valid characterizations of both men, but as a fan of the Batman I have a characterization I am partial to, which is not the one Anderson chose to write.
Anyway, Bruce Wayne is pretending to be an uninterested playboy and Clark Kent is still trying to prove himself to Perry White and to Lois Lane. (Wonderfully, this ends up with him trying to write a column to the lovelorn. The subplot lasts just long enough to be entertaining without being annoying.) It's early in the mythos, so don't expect Robin or Power Girl to show up, though there are cameos by figures like Catwoman and the Penguin. (People not familiar with the comics won't feel lost. They serve their purpose and move on, whether you know their identity or not.)
To me, the story felt a little bare. Anderson wrote the characters competently but didn't explore anything new about the friendship of the Batman and Superman. I also feel like there could be some more play with the fact ENEMIES & ALLIES is a novel rather than a graphic novel. What can a novel do better? One of the great things about things like the DCAU is they explore what you can do artistically when you move the characters into a different medium. I think fans will enjoy ENEMIES & ALLIES, but it has the potential to be more.
It is fun to go back to a world where Kryptonite is rare, instead of available on every street corner, in every corner you want. (I'm looking at you Smallville.) And, as I said before, the Cold War will always be a good time for these two to strut their stuff. There's detection, action, corporate struggles, and the American Way. It's an enjoyable story, but I'd recommend waiting for the paperback. At the hardcover price you could buy a trade of some of the best issues.
Kevin J. Anderson is also the author of THE LAST SON OF KRYPTON, as well as THE SEVEN SUNS SAGA, and the co-author of many DUNE prequels/sequels. (I first read several of his STAR WARS books.) His newest novel, THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, will be released soon. You can find out more on his MySpace and website.
One commenter will receive the 2008 FCBD edition of All Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Contest ends Memorial Day. (As does this one.)