ďHoly Kryptonite, Batman!Ē One expects that would be the reaction of Robin from the camp 1960's TV show Batman might exclaim upon reading Enemies and Allies by bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson. Among many other things, like the background of the burgeoning Cold War between America and Russia and the space race, this is a novel about the first and greatest comic book team up-of all time Ė namely when Batman and Superman first met and combated Lex Luthor together and how they discovered that a green radioactive rock called kryptonite saps Supermanís powers. Itís a nostalgic look back at both Americaís history and the origins of two of the most iconic comic book heroes of all time - and a must-read for aficionados of DC comics.
Making a novel out of comic books is probably easy in some ways; you already have a lot to work with, and you donít have to begin from scratch. However, you also donít have the benefit of being able to tell a good portion of your story by using colorfully drawn and inked pictures detailing actions and emotions. I missed that as I was reading the novel, and Iím sure many other readers will, too. But you gots to take it for what it is, not what it ainít - and, for what it is, a novelized version of when Batman and Superman first met, itís pretty darn good.
The chapters are short and the action is terse, shifting primarily between Metropolis, Gotham City, and Lex Luthorís Caribbean island where he has a secret base where he builds and tests out LuthorCorpís most cutting-edge military weapons, UFOs, and, oh yes - he has his own nuclear reactor to help power it all. Being a crazed genius sometimes means using enormous amounts of energy, and saying ďNO!Ē to going green.
Bruce Wayne finds himself losing military contracts to LuthorCorp and wants to discover why. Through his investigative work and by breaking into the houses of the officers of Wayne Industries, he learns that his officers are corrupt to the core. All but one has been blackmailed and/or bribed into handing over Wayne Industriesí latest inventions to Lex Luthor. They believe that Bruce will never find out, thinking him to be a flighty rich playboy who doesnít have a good business mind. To their chagrin, they are sadly mistaken, but Wayne doesnít fire them: he gets them to feed incomplete and inaccurate information about Wayne Industriesí inventions to Luthor, to get him to expose himself by churning out faulty products.
Batman and Superman face a common enemy in Luthor, who is usually thought of mainly as Supermanís nemesis. Luthor has contacts with ruthless Russian general Ceridov, and they have plans to exploit their countriesí fears of mutual nuclear annihilation and rule the world together (or so they say - each plans to dispose of the other once their plans meet success). Ceridov runs a prison camp where the kryptonite-rich meteorite crashed down in Siberia, called the Ariguska Gulag. He utilizes the prisoners as a slave labor force, working them until they either drop dead or become transformed by the eerie radiation from the kryptonite into rampaging, practically mindless hulking monsters. Luthor, for his part, is not concerned with radiation or health violations himself, not concerned in the least that his workers are dying from radiation resulting from the construction of his nuclear power plant.
Lois Lane tries to interview him about the mysterious illnesses and disappearances of his workers, but he tries to turn the tables on her by getting Senator McCarthy (yes, the Communist witch-hunter McCarthy) suspicious about Superman, as Supeís an admitted alien. She is, of course, in love with Superman and clueless that Clark and Superman are one and the same person. She gets captured by Luthor, and Superman has to come to the rescue as only he can do.
Though at first Batman and Superman are suspicious of each other (Superman thinking that Batman is a lawbreaker and Batman believing that Superman might be a product of Luthorcorpís attempts to create the ultimate soldier), Batman eventually trusts Superman enough to come to his aid when Superman is exposed to the kryptonite after flying to Siberia to learn what General Ceridov is up to. He becomes so weakened that heís captured by Ceridovís guards and chained up in the meteorite crater. Batmanís rescue of Superman is one of the main highlights of the book.
Enemies and Allies is not the first novel Anderson has written about Superman - he also authored the bestselling The Last Days of Krypton. If youíre a Batman and/or Superman fan, you will really get into Enemies and Allies. Itís a fun, action-filled read that will make you nostalgic and which will probably make a good movie, if anyone ever decides to make one.