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#15 – Soon I Will Be Invincible

October 28, 2008

Superheroes are a very easy target for mockery.  The more you know about comics, the more the plotlines start to look like overwrought soap operas.  And the characters themselves are so ridiculous that it doesn’t take much to push them into comedy – look at how many Dark Knight sketches appeared online this summer, or the fact that every geeky stand-up has a joke about how useless Aquaman is.  To say nothing of the godawful Superhero Movie.  On the other hand, there’s a lot of depth to be found in subverting those comic tropes without resorting to mockery – The Incredibles is my favourite non-Christopher Nolan directed superhero movie, and the graphic novel Watchmen is one of my favourite books of any kind.  It’s a thin line to walk – deconstructing comics while still taking them seriously.

When I started Austin Grossman’s debut novel Soon I Will Be Invincible, I expected to see it fall into one camp or the other, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it’s somewhere between the two, to great effect.  It’s a pretty standard comic story of superheroes fighting a supervillain, eloquently narrated in turns by the villain, Doctor Impossible, and a member of the book’s version of the Justice League.  Grossman doesn’t try to turn any comic book clichés on their head, or to make fun of them – he embraces each and every one of them, and treats them as straightforwardly and realistically as he can.  The result is kind of like a Director’s Cut of a comic, with all the behind the scenes footage left in.  We would usually see Doctor Impossible restoring his criminal empire after escaping from jail, but not him living in a cheap motel and robbing a Radio Shack until then.  We always see the heroes making plans in the conference room of their headquarters, but not them sitting around the kitchen at 3 AM trying to figure out what the hell to do next.  It’s very refreshing, and really helps to draw the reader in.

While Soon I Will Be Invincible reads like a love letter to comic books, I’d recommend it even if you’re not a fan.  The book is genuinely funny and touching on its own merits, and legitimately exciting when it gets down to action.  Plus, everybody’s familiar with the Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman figures at the head of the superhero team here, and it’s a rare thing to see them humanized this well.  Worth taking a look.

(PS: While the synopsis I heard did sound intriguing, I was sold the instant I heard this book’s title.  Soon I Will Be Invincible.  How awesome is that?  Austin Grossman clearly knows that sometimes clichés are the best for a reason.)

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5 comments

  1. I too picked this book up based almost entirely on its title. It is pretty awesome. For a while there I was going around annoying everyone by injecting “Soon I will be invincible” into every conversation I could. The first chapter excerpt on NPR didn’t hurt, either.

    I thought this book was wonderful. Though I did tend to like Dr. Impossible’s storyline more than the other hero’s whose name I can’t remember.


  2. I’ll agree with that – just like in the movies, the villains are always more interesting. And I loved how the chapters were all named after bits of stereotypical dialogue like the title, and how Doctor Impossible would periodically break into villain-speak like “Who dares?”

    Have you seen Joss Whedon’s webseries Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog that came out this summer? It really reminded me of this book, in the way it looked at the mundane inner workings of supervillainy. (It is also completely awesome, and my Halloween costume this year.)


  3. Bryan Hitch’s art helped sell me too though 🙂

    As for your mention of the ‘behind the scenes’ moments, I was reminded of that moment in Watchmen with the Under The Hood extracts and there is a description of the superhero base smelling like a gym locker.


  4. Hey, Calum. I wish you’d come back. Please?


  5. Thanks, Sasha. I just logged in for the first time in MONTHS after seeing a book I want to add to my list, I appreciate the comment. I’m reading far too slowly to update regularly now, but I keep meaning to get back into writing reviews. I’ll be sure to let you know if I ever get off my ass.



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