Austin Grossman got his start in video games and has also written for the New York Times. He has taken those experiences to a logically illogical conclusion here with his debut novel, a graphic novel without the “graphic”, a comic book without the illustrations. And he’s thrown in a bit of whodunit and topped it off with a clever twist.
Soon I Will Be Invincible is narrated alternately from the points of view of a supervillain genius and a half-woman/half-machine cyborg superhero. Meet Doctor Impossible: a genius in the top half percent of his class who gains his superpowers, inhuman strength and hardened skin in a lab accident while researching his doctoral thesis. Like many extraordinarily intelligent people, he suffers from “Malign Hypercognition Disorder” - or, simply put, he’s an evil genius. After all, genius follows its own path; it can’t be restricted by the law.
The superhero is Fatale. The only one of her kind, Fatale is a joint experiment by the government and a technology corporation. A victim of a terrible traffic accident while traveling Brazil, she is now flesh and metal and high-tech computer components. She thinks fast and moves even quicker. Fatale has been made a member of the New Champions, a league of superheroes recently formed out of the ashes of the Champions.
Of course, Doctor Impossible is on the loose again, having recently escaped from prison with a plan for world domination, the most recent in a long-running series. It is up to the New Champions to put their differences aside, cut the bickering, and stop him from bringing his dastardly plan to fruition.
Grossman tells his story with tongue firmly planted in cheek. All the clichéd elements of a comic book story are here. Supervillains are thrown in jail over and over, each time on the verge of taking over the world when the heroes arrive just in time to save the day. Evil geniuses must hold their tongues to keep from revealing their plans for world domination in long-winded monologues. Each superhuman has a far-fetched creation story. All the traditional superpowers are here, plus the odd hero without any powers, merely an iron will and incredible athleticism (think Batman). But Grossman takes these clichés and makes them fresh. He also throws in a little bonus character and relationship development not normally found in comics.
Unfortunately, there are a few small complaints. The story bogs down a bit in the middle third. Unnecessary details are provided which can be a little tiresome, and the reader will likely be looking forward to the next big superhuman throw-down instead of focusing on the present. However, this is a minor irritation. The creation stories of the two main characters, Doctor Impossible and Fatale, can be tedious but provide an unexpected depth to the story. The finish, although built to the traditional comic book showdown, is also somewhat of a disappointment. Fortunately, these problems do not detract considerably from the story.
Soon I Will Be Invincible is outrageous and entertaining. This is a novel for comic book fans and non-fans alike. There are a few minor faults, but it is a fantastically fun ride nonetheless. There aren’t many stories out there like it. It will be intriguing to see where he goes from here. Austin Grossman’s novel is a refreshing addition to the literary bookshelf.