Superman and Batman are two iconic characters. No matter how many comic books you have or have not read, you’ve heard of Batman and Superman. Their first meeting (told in Superman #76 in 1952) marked the beginning of a partnership – and a friendship – that lasted decades.
Today, both characters are very different from their 1950s counterparts. Batman is far darker, and Superman is much less of a stereotypical Boy Scout. Their first meeting would be far different from the friendly “let’s team up to solve this mystery and save Lois Lane” story told back in the ’50s. And now, that story has been told.
Kevin J. Anderson tells the story of the first meeting between these two prototypical superheroes. Anderson sets his meeting in the late 1950s, very shortly after each hero has made their public debut. Batman refuses to believe that Superman is actually an alien, and has the engineers at Wayne Enterprises trying to duplicate the technology that gives Superman his powers. Superman believes Batman is a criminal. The first meeting does not go so well – Superman catches Batman in the middle of stealing something from Lex Luthor’s home, and takes him into custody. Batman comes to the conclusion that Superman is employed by Lex Luthor.
Anderson’s story is firmly set in the paranoid world of the Cold War. Luthor works alternately with a KGB general and Senator Joe McCarthy to further his agenda. People seem genuinely frightened at the prospects of an alien invasion – exacerbated by popular movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Day The Earth Stood Still. Superman worries that everyone will ultimately turn on him – mistrusting the alien from Krypton who only wants to help humanity.
While I like Superman, Batman has always been my favorite. Anderson delves into Bruce Wayne’s personal life in Enemies & Allies, showing how his playboy image conflicts with his business sense (and, of course, his extracurricular activities). Wayne’s struggle to reclaim his company from a board that has forgotten why Thomas Wayne started it was probably my favorite part of the book; it gave an insight into the character that isn’t often shown in the comic books.
Comic book heroes and their stories don’t always translate well into straight prose. But Anderson creates a believable story that comic book fans will enjoy, but that is also accessible by people who don’t read comics at all. In fact, there is some danger that Enemies & Allies will become a gateway drug that introduces people to the world of comic books — or reintroduces those who left comics behind years ago. An outstanding plot, excellent characterization (including some great cameos that comics fans will appreciate), and a gripping pace all make this book a must read.