Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible is a book about superheroes that is neither a comic book nor a graphic novel. Drop the comic, drop the graphic. It’s simply a book, a novel. About superheroes. And it is awesome.
The story is told through the alternating viewpoints of a literal evil genius, Dr. Impossible, who suffers from the brilliantly named Malign Hypercognition Disorder, and an aspiring superheroine, the cyborg Fatale.
Grossman’s prose wisely plays off of a long list of superhero tropes: ridiculous superhero names and costumes, supervillains escaping imprisonment only to be captured again and again, and secret island lairs fortified by robotic defenders all make proud appearances in Soon I Will Be Invincible. All the more remarkable is that the story never lags despite its treading over such well worn ground.
The book succeeds because, while super-battles, dangerous getaways and mysterious heists all take place within its pages, none of those things is truly the focus of the story. Soon I Will Be Invincible is really a book about finding yourself, about the self-acceptance that comes with maturity. Part of the brilliance of Soon I Will Be Invincible is how it turns a mirror towards its readers, asking them to look for pieces of Dr. Impossible and Fatale in their reflection. Looking at these complex and flawed characters it becomes clear that, as one of the book’s chapter titles suggests, maybe we are not so different, you and I, from these super men (and women). And maybe they are not so different from us.
Interestingly, while the genius Dr. Impossible struggles with knowing what he really wants (although he would disagree with that statement), Fatale – a young and initially childish character who is no longer even fully human with all of her cybernetic implants – seems much more mature than her nemesis by book’s end.
The success of the Marvel empire and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films is such that superheroes are everywhere right now. But it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a superhero story as much as I enjoyed Soon I Will Be Invincible, which I highly recommend.