jump to navigation

Soon I Will Be Invincible September 18, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books, Reviews.

Here’s the question: if one were to take all the elements at the core of superhero comics — the cliches, monologuing, plot devices and imagery — and put them together across three hundred-odd pages, would it work as a novel capable of standing on its own? If Austin Grossman’s debut Soon I Will Be Invincible is any indication, the answer for the most part has to be in the affirmative.

It’s an interesting undertaking, to be sure, and one that works well enough given characters conjured mostly out of thin air. While I would hazard to guess that such a thing has been done by other writers in the past, there’s something about Grossman’s take that just demands attention. Maybe it’s because he makes it work as a novel. Maybe it’s because the novel oozes fan service — heck, each chapter is named after one comic book cliche or another (“Maybe We’re Not So Different, You and I”, for example). Or maybe it’s all in the name: with a title like Soon I Will Be Invincible, you just know exactly what to expect from the book — and you would be right.

It’s a fairly straightforward superhero mash-up. The novel alternates between the perspectives of a nefarious evil genius, Dr. Impossible (love the name), hellbent on ruling the world, and a neophyte cyborg superheroine, Fatale, who joins a team of fellow heroes sworn to stop him. In typical fashion: plans are hatched, the chase is on, and everything builds up to a climactic final battle, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

Obviously, the novel may not be for everyone. If anything, the book’s main failing is that it isn’t exactly a page-turner (unless, perhaps, you’re already a fan of the genre source material). The problem is perhaps the pace. Grossman’s work reads as if it has only one setting in this regard, and that is steady. Not that it’s uninteresting; indeed, it’s entirely possible this is just what happens when one attempts a wholesale port of material from one medium (graphic) to another (text). However, this juxtaposition works best in at least one particular respect: Grossman is able to get readers well inside the heads of his two main characters, and as a result the story comes across as very human, very real. In fact, if the novel accomplishes anything exceedingly well, it’s in the way it gets readers to empathize with the plight of Grossman’s pet character the arch-villain Dr. Impossible, because, hey, who hasn’t at one time or another wanted to rule the world?

There’s enough to like about Soon I Will Be Invincible for casual reader and comic book fan alike, even if others have done much the same (and arguably, better). Book columnist Dave Itzkoff put it best in his New York Times review of the book: “I mean it as the highest possible compliment when I say that it would make a damn good comic book.”



1. gem - September 22, 2008

how do you find time to read novels and dissertate? i can barely keep up with the reading i give my students.

2. Brian L. Belen - September 23, 2008

I know what you mean: when I was teaching, the sheer amount of materials I had to go through to prepare for class tended to be a bit…much.

However, I make it a point to read novels (among other things) for two reasons. To begin with it keeps me creative. Naturally, a lot of this has to do with what exactly I read. But more than that there’s the how: I particularly enjoy the exposure to different narrative styles.

Aside from that, I just have to get some reading done lest I go crazy. If all I had to read were materials related to my dissertation, I’d lose my mind.

3. Books of 2008 « BRAIN DRAIN - December 30, 2008

[…] Soon I Will Be Invincible […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: