Enemies & Allies: A Very Short Review

For a change this is a novel, not a comic book.  However it is a novel about Batman meeting Superman.  This is a popular subject, handled many many times in the various Superman and Batman titles — the most dynamic and exciting one was in the ’50’s-style Justice League: The New Frontier #1 special which came out last spring, well worth looking for.


I should say right away that I have never yet read a successful novel based upon a comic book.  (Recommendations, anybody?)   Novelizations of existing comic books or graphic novels are sometimes done — I have the Kingdom Come novel which was based on the famous Alex Ross/Mark Waid graphic novel.  The print version completely failed to capture the charm and excitement of the graphic original.  To have a little more explication of some of the more cloudy points in the graphic novel was no compensation.

It is, alas, the same for Enemies & Allies here.  This actually is an original work, in the sense that it is not based on any single version of the first meeting that I have read in the comics. All of the incidents and characters are familiar — spunky Lois, Luthor and the plot to do in Superman, the piece of Kryptonite hidden in a lead box in the bowels of the Batcave.  And the ancient gimmick, “We meet! We fight!  Then we become buds!” is resorted to.  I don’t know if the editors just selected from the comics and then let Kevin Anderson string the beads together, or whether they kept a tighter grip on the whole process.   But no matter who is to blame, it is undeniable — met on the text page, both Superman and Batman lose credibility.  No description of Superman in flight can be as cool as the art on the page.  To see their images is obviously central to their appeal.  Unsurprising — I don’t know what else you would expect from comic book characters; their power and creative juice is so tied to the visual medium that cutting that part away is like taking away one of the wheels from a Toyota.

It is probably only fair to add that I have done this — I have written a short story about Dream (a.k.a. the Sandman) which appeared in an anthology of similar works titled The  Sandman Book of Dreams.   Instinctively I think I fixed on the only way to do it — I wrote a free-standing short story, original plot, character, and setting all complete, and let the unlucky Dream be a bystander, the Rosencrantz or Guildenstern in a new Hamlet.  I did not try to out-Gaiman Gaiman on his own turf.

I am tell that Bill Willingham, creator of Fables, is writing an original Fables novel — the first chapter is up on the DC site somewhere.   I do not have a good feeling about this.  I don’t say the transfer can’t be done, but it obviously is not as easy as it appears.



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.

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