A fun, rather endearing little novel by Austin Grossman (this is his first), Soon I Will be Invincible offers us a “generic” superhero milieu that does as much to honor its comic book forebears as it does to satirize them. Grossman gives us a real loser of an evil genius (Doctor Impossible, who suffers from “malign hypercognition disorder”) that is every inch the protagonist this story needs — considering that he’s the villain being chased by the cattiest, bitchiest bunch of superheroes that ever seemed patrol the wild blue yonder.
There seems to be two themes at work here.
The first is a question of origins: where are you from? how did you get here? where to next? and why not the other way? Grossman’s characters flirt with this throughout the text. Doctor Impossible seems to be perpetually questioning his motives; Blackwolf seems little better than a bullying thug with some government sanctioning; and all of the superhero secret identities and weaknesses fanfare. It’s the discourse we’ve always suspected (known?) was taking place in the whitespace between comic book frames. Only Grossman brings it out in its full banality: a supervillain taking a bus to a Roy Rogers to then hike a few more blocks to beg favors of other supervillains in an abandoned shopping mall only to be laughed at — what better example do you need?
The second seems to be isolation — but more loneliness than solipsism. This second theme seems to reinforce and inform the first rather strongly. The question goes around in the text about being alone and how much of that is bearable or desirable. While on the one hand this could quickly slip its threads and go skittering off into an adolescent existentialism, Grossman finds a way of keeping it mature1.
Grossman’s stylish and witty prose earns him high marks here. The Doctor Impossible parts of the story come damn close to a perfect score from me. The Fatale bits ran a bit thin at times. Still one hell of a novel though.
- Well, mostly mature. And even when it slips, there is that sense of humor to rescue it. [↩]