There’s a reason nobody recognizes that Clark Kent is Superman, and it’s not the powerful disguise of a pair of square-rimmed glasses. He’s hiding behind the fact that he is BORING. The same holds true for other heroes: Batman. Wonder Woman. Spiderman. Let’s face it, the only thing colorful about these folks is their clingy outfits. Everything else about them is strictly off-white with a hint of beige.
Give me a good supervillain anyday. OK, they’re evil. And they talk too much. And they always lose in the end. You probably say the same thing about most of your friends behind their backs, and you still hang out with them.
Austin Grossman understands that the average superhero has the personality of pressed-wood, oak-finish furniture. That’s why he has written most of the delightful Soon I Will Be Invincible, a blend of superhero fantasy and literary fiction, from the perspective of the villain Dr. Impossible. Even though he’s the smartest guy in the world, Dr. Impossible knows he will probably lose. He knows he has a problem with making speeches before he has completed his evil plan. He’s got lots of other flaws too, flaws that make him funny and interesting.
In Grossman’s alternate history, heroes have corporate sponsors and military contracts. A superhero team called the Champions is the reigning power, but Corefire, its strongest member, is missing in action. The brains behind the team, Blackwolf and Damsel are distracted by their recent divorce and the next strongest Champion, Lily, is only recently reformed from life as a villain. Their best hope may be Fatale, a cyborg and the newest member of the team (who alternates narration with Impossible), but she’s still busy trying to fit in.
Grossman uses all the clichés of the superhero story to great effect, and still manages plenty of surprises for the reader. It’s like Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel Watchmen but much cheekier. This fine first novel that should please anyone who has ever cracked a comic book or watched a superhero movie.
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