I’m a comics fan, though I don’t read them much any more, and I generally enjoy superhero prose. Other than Marvel and DC novelizations and adaptations, this genre used to be pretty hard to come by, save for George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series and John Varley’s old Superheroes anthology. In the last few years, we’ve seen a resurgence of superhero fiction – which I’m glad to see – and this is one of the most popular and widely-known of these recent efforts.

Please note that some mild plot spoilers follow.

Soon I Will Be Invincible is really two interlinked stories, told in first-person perspective in alternating chapters. The first concerns Dr. Impossible, a super-villain “evil genius” who has been defeated a dozen times by the super-heroes of the setting and begins the novel in prison. As an evil genius who always has a plan, he quickly escapes to try to take over the world again. The second story is told from the perspective of Fatale, a novice cyborg superheroine who has just been invited to join the world’s premier superhero team. She and her teammates are desperate to find and stop Dr. Impossible, not the least of which because he is suspect numero uno in the death of the world’s most powerful superhero.

Grossman examines and in some cases deconstructs the various tropes we have come to expect in all comic-book superhero stories. Present here are analogues of all the major superheroes (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc.), along with some unexpected ones (e.g., there is a retired superheroine who is an adult analogue of Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia). Everyone in the book is flawed, heroes and villains alike – which adds to the book’s charm – but it’s clear that Grossman loves the genre, unlike some authors (who shall remain nameless here) who set out to deconstruct and thereby destroy the genres they dissect. Characterization is thorough and vivid, the plot is clever with plenty of action and plotting, and the dialogue is witty. Grossman is an extremely talented writer and I hope we see some more fiction from him soon. Soon I Will Be Invincible came out in 2008 – what’s taking you so long, man?

The novel is action-packed, insightful, funny, and at times, poignant. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I give this one 4 stars out of 5, and I’d have rated it higher had the ending been stronger. If you enjoy superhero comics or prose at all, you should check this one out, as it made quite a splash when it came out, and is a strong entry in the genre.

Review copyright 2011 J. Andrew Byers