Faster than a speeding bullet, and almost as unique — Enemies & Allies by Kevin J. Anderson

This will be the first Sure as Shiretalk book review. Yes, I do indeed still enjoy books from time to time, even though no one’s forcing me to read them and requiring me to buy a specific edition from the local extortionist… erm, excuse me, campus bookstore. Anyway, here goes.

I’m a sucker for all things Batman. You guys know that. So when my uncle got this book from the fam for his birthday last year, I was intrigued (I borrowed it from him because I’m poor and cheap and I generally shy away from buying things I’m not absolutely sure I’ll like). I also really enjoy pretty much anything about the UFO scares of the 40s and 50s (hence why I liked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull more than others seemed to), and I find the Man of Steel tolerable, and sometimes even interesting, when he’s juxtaposed with the Dark Knight. And besides, the only other Batman novel I’d read was No Man’s Land, which was suspiciously, annoyingly lacking in Batman (as were the original comic versions). I was also psyched for another novel by Kevin J. Anderson, whom I had read and liked long before for his work in the “Star Wars Expanded Universe” or whatever they call the non-canon (and therefore good) Star Wars lore these days. I was hoping the late 50s setting would add some new interest to the meeting of two superheroes who tend to run into each other in the comics almost as often as Clark Kent runs into kryptonite on Smallville.

Well, despite the fact that Anderson sends both Batman and Superman to exotic locales such as Siberia and Area 51, the heart of all UFO conspiracy theories, there was almost nothing new or interesting about any of their interactions. Even in the key moment, when they meet each other for the “first time” (how many times can that happen in one universe, anyway?), Anderson can’t seem to think of any scenario other than what has probably been written a hundred different times by as many authors since the late 1930s: Superman is all hands-on-his-hips, spouting his “halt evildoer” nonsense, and Batman is gruffly having none of it and disappearing into thin air. Oh, and the dialogue is flat and fails to say anything worthwhile about any of the super important differences between the two characters.

Sigh… So you just biffed the most anticipated moment in your epically-staged but disappointingly-executed novel about the two most popular superheroes in history. Any reason I should read on instead of picking up The Dark Knight Returns again to wash the awful taste from my mouth? I guess I couldn’t really think of one at the time, but I kept going anyway (I’m apparently just loony enough to stick it out to the bitter end, but sane enough to be irritated with myself afterward). Lex Luthor is the supervillain for this go-around, and he’s without doubt the most enjoyable figure in the novel. Anderson does get the character right here; Superman’s nemesis is quite sufficiently despicable, and his final line in the book almost makes it worth the three or four hours (tops) it’ll take you to read it.

Anyway, the whole thing comes off as more of an outline in need of serious expansion and revision than a complete, polished novel. I would’ve welcomed another few hundred pages if it meant the story would be long enough (and good enough) that I’d actually have the time to get invested in it. And, though this is certainly personal preference speaking, more Batman is never a bad thing. But as it stands, the entire novel zips by about as fast as the Man of Steel rushing to save Lois Lane falling off whichever tall structure she decided to climb today, and you’re not going to find any situations or sentiments here that aren’t better said somewhere else in the vast DC canon. Take a look at this .gif about these two bruisers of comic books instead of reading Enemies & Allies — it’ll save you some time, and it’s definitely more enjoyable.

2 stars of 5.

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