July 09, 2007

BOOKS: Soon I Will Be Invincible, Austin Grossman (2007)

Doctor Impossible is up to his old tricks, trying to take over the world again. But what can you expect from a certified evil genius? (To be precise, the Doctor suffers, as do so many supervillains, from Malign Hypercognition Disorder; sadly, there is no known treatment.)

Working against him, as they have so many times in the past, are the Champions, the current reigning team of superheros. They are at something of a disadvantage, what with the recent disappearance of longtime Champion CoreFire (think Superman, and you won't be too far off). In his absence, the team is led by Blackwolf and Damsel (roughly, Batman and Wonder Woman), who have recruited some younger heroes to join the team.

Among the rookies is Fatale, a young cyborg; she and Doctor Impossible narrate the novel in alternating chapters. (These names, I think, are something of a misstep on Grossman's part; surely Fatale should be the name of a villainess and Doctor Impossible that of a hero?) The chapter titles alone give you a good sense of the book's tone; the Doctor's chapters include "Foiled Again," "My Master Plan Unfolds," and "But Before I Kill You."

Grossman's characters are, as superheroes and villains tend to be, a bit on the two-dimensional side, but he has more space to flesh them out here than he would in comic book form. He writes with great flair and a nicely understated sense of humor. He never forgets that there's something a little silly about superheroes, with the tights and capes and such, but he's not out to ridicule the genre; it's more of a gentle ribbing. There's nothing particularly surprising here -- it's been nearly fifty years since Stan Lee gave us superheroes who were just as dysfunctional and neurotic as everyone else -- but it's a charming diversion.

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