Like most families, mine has a long history with both the DC and Marvel characters and universes. We’ve seen the movies, and, in addition, my now 18 year old son and I have waded through the entire Justice League of America graphic novel collection, and battle as the heroes themselves while playing Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and other video games (though my son never lets me win).
So when the offer came up from the SF Signal team to review Mr. Anderson’s forthcoming novel about the first meeting between Batman and Superman, I decided to depart from the norm and do a tag team review with my son Josh (the self-proclaimed expert in this area). The following conversation ensued:
*** WARNING: There are some SPOILERS in this review ***
Larry: Josh, the SF Signal guys gave me this new book about Batman and Superman.
Josh: What’s it called?
Larry: Enemies and Allies, by Kevin J. Anderson. He’s written a bunch of those Dune novels I’ve been trying to get you to read. He’s also written a lot of Star Wars stories as well.
Josh: What’s it about?
Larry: Dunno, I haven’t read it. From the cover it looks like the first meeting between Superman and Batman back in the 1950’s.
Josh: Sweet. I’ll read it.
Larry: You’re done?
Larry: Did you like it?
Larry: That’s all I get is one word answers?
Josh: I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Larry: Hey, I finished.
Josh: You sure read slow. I’ve already finished all of the Justice League of America comics and you’re only halfway there.
Larry: I’m not Superman. But it was a good book. I was expecting it to be redundant.
Larry: Let’s see: Batman and Superman movies, all of the JLA comic books we’ve read, animated cartoons; Superman / Doomsday in print and on film.
Josh: Yeah, I see what you mean. But this was different…first meeting between the two, neither is sure who’s side the other is on, neither wants to trust that the other is who they say they are.
Larry: True. But they come together in the end. I enjoyed the 1950’s cold war setting…
Josh: You would, old man.
Larry: Redo your math, kid, I wasn’t alive in the fifties. But that time frame worked for me, though I could see where the different timelines for the movies, books and comics could throw someone off. I also liked that Lex Luthor was shown teaming up with the Communists, and that Wayne Enterprises and LexCorp were business rivals, bidding on the same contracts, with LexCorp winning most of them.
Josh: Yeah, it brought the separate worlds of Gotham City and Metropolis together.
Larry: What was your favorite part?
Josh: I had a few: when Batman saved Superman, when Batman fights Superman, …
With a flick of his other wrist, he flung a pointed Bat-shuriken, but the tiny throwing bat ricocheted off Kal-El’s chest and fell to the ground. The sharp barbs did not penetrate his blue suit, nor did the tranquilizer toxin come into contact with his skin. Batman paused only a moment before the same hand let fly a bolo string, and the weights wrapped around Kal-El’s arms and torso. With a flex of his elbows, though, the high-tensile-strength cables snapped like cotton threads.
Larry: Sounds like you’re a Batman fan.
Josh: Do you remember in the cartoons where Batman beat Superman in a fight?
Larry: No way! Really? No one can beat Superman. Must have been some Kryptonite involved.
Josh: Yeah. Superman doesn’t lose in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe either.
Larry: So you’re a Batman fan?
Josh: Definitely, Bruce Wayne (a.k.a Batman) compares himself to James Bond and James Bond rules. Batman’s smarter than Superman, and he’s an Earthman, not an alien.
Larry: Superman would always win, as long as no Kryptonite was around. What else did you like?
Josh: Well I definitely liked the part where Bruce Wayne, who was pretending to be the sleazy playboy, catches all his board members selling out to Luthor. So he comes in and scares all of his board members and makes them his spies against Luthor…and they give Luthor bad technology, which almost leads to the destruction of the United States.
Larry: But Superman saves the day. Then he got a medal from President Eisenhower and that was pretty cool too.
Josh: Yep. And then Batman saved Superman. So what did you like?
Larry: There was a unique part where Luthor used the Commie “red scare” mentality, and tried to turn it into “alien scare”, with Supes as the head alien. That prejudice or fear angle would be interesting all by itself, and Lex is the perfect one to sow the seeds of paranoia. I also think Mr. Anderson did a good job contrasting the two super heroes. Like this passage, where Batman is wondering about Superman:
As Batman, he used his cape for protection, disguise and operatic intimidation. Superman, on the other hand, wore his bright red cape for…what? Just to show off? Color coordination?
Josh: Dad, I’m 18. Do you have to read to me?
Larry: We read Harry Potter together.
Josh: Dad, that was Harry. This is Batman and Superman, I mean, they are the super heroes everyone knows! You can’t possibly compare them to Harry Potter.
Larry: So who would you recommend this to?
Josh: Anyone who’s read any of the comic books, seen the movies or played the games would like this one.
Larry: I agree, it fills a hole in the history of the two, and it is well written and fast paced as with most Kevin J. Anderson novels. How many stars would you give it?
Larry: John at SF Signal is pretty adamant that we give stars on books we review.
Josh: I don’t do stars. Tell John to come by Potbelly’s Sandwich shop across from where he works and I’ll make him a sandwich…but no stars.