Friday, May 1, 2009

Worlds Collide

Enemies and Allies 
2008



Anderson takes us back to Superman and Batman's roots in this action-packed novel set in the late 1950's. I must confess, I haven't read very much of the original DC Comics, always having been a little better acquainted with the Marvel stories. I couldn't help but picture Christopher Reeve though, especially in those scenes where Clark is a nervous bumbler.

I felt Anderson ably rounded out the character of Superman, portraying him as a shy charmer with a big heart. Superman's loneliness as the only surviving member of his planet is emphasized. Even though he always referred to himself in his own thoughts as "Kal-El" he felt equally at ease as Clark Kent. Serious consideration is given to his life as Clark Kent, his honest desire to be a successful newsman, and his genuine attachment to his adoptive mother. And of course, he's klutzy around Lois Lane. He's also earnest to a fault.

Anderson struggles a bit with the character development of Batman, leaning on James Bond cliches to round him out, including having Bruce Wayne drink martinis, drive the same model car and wear the same wristwatch as Bond.

Lex Luthor is depicted as a hard-nosed mafioso, an impetuous and a cold-blooded killer. There's no sly wink that makes him the villain we love to hate, a la Captain Hook to Superman's Peter Pan. Luthor is in bed with the Ruskies, as he cooks up schemes to intimidate and frighten the American populace with faked flying saucers and nuclear threats which will further his business interests. Luthor is quite misogynist and ageist, sending his elderly and female employees to certain deaths working in radiation mines. I was only surprised that Anderson didn't portray him as racist too, but perhaps that was a can of worms that he didn't want to open.

Probably the most surreal were scenes where Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor meet for business dealings, or where Clark Kent and Jimmy Olson chat with Albert the butler before interviewing Wayne for a newspaper article. Worlds collide!

There are several cameos from several famous world figures of the day, more to remind readers that the book takes place in the 1950’s than anything else.

While the two heroes initially mistrust each other, they quickly realize it will be to their mutual advantage to join forces. Batman is extremely jealous of Superman’s unearthly abilities, having to rely on gadgets himself; but it turns to his advantage when Superman is crippled by a enormous Kryptonite meteor, and the unaffected Batman is able to save the Man of Steel.

While some reviewers will certainly declare this novel another “workmanlike” production, Anderson does strive for deft phrasing, often eschewing simpler terms. In the busy newsroom, Clark Kent focuses on "the sheet of bond rolled into the platen." of his manual typewriter. Cigar-chomping Perry White's office is described reeking of "resinous, pungeunt smoke."

It appears that the book has been through a couple of design changes. The latest version I've seen features a black cover with the iconic Batman and Superman symbols outlined in red. The advance reader copy I read had the same black cover, with the symbols in full color. I’m curious if the back cover will retain the cartoon images of Superman and Batman splayed across it... it certainly sums up the appeal of the book. Those who grew up on Superfriends Saturday morning cartoons as well as teen comic book fans will be glad to return to a universe familiar to them with a fresh twist. Enemies and Allies will be released on May 5, 2009.

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