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Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
Book Name: Soon I Will Be Invincible
Author: Austin Grossman
Publisher(s): Pantheon (US) Michael Joseph (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Superheroes
Release Date: January 1, 2007 (US) August 2, 2007 (UK)

So, with the release of Steelheart I thought it might be interesting to look at another piece of superhero fiction from the past. Published in 2007, Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman is a duel narrative piece that charts the stories of Dr Impossible, world smartest man and feared supervillain, along with newbie superhero Fatale, the cybernetically enhanced victim of an accident. The book shows the reader both sides of the story as they watch the newly escaped supervillain set about his evil plan from conception to fruition, side by side with the heroes’ attempts to track him down and foil the scheme.

As the title suggests, the writing is somewhat tongue in cheek, utilising many of the typical conventions of superhero fiction, from doomsday devices to bad puns. Dr Impossible is the classic mad scientist, possessed of incredible intellect, but also serious ego issues and a penchant for monologues. He possesses some minor superpowers, but not enough to stand toe to toe with The Champions. Instead, Dr Impossible uses his intelligence to give himself an edge. One of the great things about the book is how Grossman portrays the character. Yes he may be a bit clichéd, but that doesn’t stop Dr Impossible from being dynamic, funny, and relatable. Throughout his narrative the reader is sucked into the supervillain’s worldview, Dr Impossible’s outlook and perceptions are made to seem almost reasonable, and it becomes a question of who you want to side with.

Fatale is an amnesiac cyborg filled to bursting with weaponry and high tech gadgets that react faster than she does. Her narrative focuses on her personal development, coping with the changes in her life now she’s a superhero and her struggle to fit in with The Champions (Grossman’s equivalent of the Justice League or Avengers). Her chapters show a more human element to the larger than life Champions, looking at their relationships and lifestyles. She sees them more as a bickering family than a super-powered law enforcement team.

The plot is fast paced with a nice mix of mystery and action as events draw together. The reader usually has more information than the characters, but that doesn’t stop Grossman throwing in a few twists, some of them fitting with the genre conventions, while others providing an original counter to tradition.

The superhero side of the plot has the standard mix of detective and action elements common to the genre, balancing out the “downtime” where Fatale gets to know the other Champions from an outsider perspective that the reader can share. Grossman has worked to ensure The Champions do feel like a team with a history in the world, though some of the characters are a bit archetypal and underdeveloped.

But it’s Dr Impossible’s story arc where Grossman really shines. The reader follows Dr Impossible as he gathers the components for his doomsday device, his first person narrative somehow providing both a charismatic and sympathetic character, even as he commits a series of crimes, deepening the mystery about what exactly he’s planning. The build-up in his chapters shows a good sense of progression, interspersed with revealing flashbacks about his development: how he received his powers and how he created his nemesis, CoreFire.

By the end of the book, Grossman really has you rooting for Dr Impossible, even though you know he’s a bad guy, and racing through Fatale’s chapters so you can read more of his narrative. With his witty lines and a drive for world domination, Dr Impossible is everything you want in a supervillain. And such is the quality of his character, that the others maybe seem a little flat by comparison. This is perhaps Grossman’s intention, proving the classic comic book idea that villains are more interesting than the heroes.

Grossman has managed to set up a reversal of traditional roles in the book, we see Dr Impossible progress through his own version of The Hero’s Journey, struggling against setbacks and hopeless odds, but sticking to his guns with a defiance that the reader can’t help but admire. The heroes are in some ways made to seem petty and small minded, while Dr Impossible is the charismatic rebel defying society.

The book is a great read for comic fans and general readers as well. It has some brilliant writing and characterisation, and the ideas it explores will get the reader to think about the perceptions of villains in a new way. You’ll find yourself reaching for your cape and cowl after reading it, and getting ready for some dastardly plot, because evil is more fun anyway.


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