Austin Grossman’s novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible, makes you think things are going the campy superhero route with the meglomaniacal title, which almost begs to be spoken aloud with a defiant fist thrust in the air, but in truth the book is an inventive and absorbing story about the inner lives of supertypes in a supertypes world, told from two points of view: Doctor Impossible, the Lex Luthor/Doctor Doom-style evil genius who escapes from prison and hatches yet another plan to rule the world, and the newly-minted hero Fatale, a female cyborg who is recruited to the world’s greatest – and most dysfunctional – superteam when the earth’s mightiest hero, CoreFire, goes missing.
Doctor Impossible is the most interesting character of the two (villains usually are) and we find out his reasons for being a world-conquerer when we find out about his humble origins as a frustrated grad student looking for social acceptance. Fatale, the cyborg with no memory of her previous life, gives us a outsider’s view of the Champions superteam and the conflicting personalities and infighting that happens in the absence of the alpha hero.
Anyone who has a stack of old Silver Age comics in the basement will immediately recognize the tropes Grossman uses here, and it’s fun picking out the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman analogues in his fully-delevoped universe, as well as the scene where the heroes meet the villain in his lair, guarded by giant robots spitting laser beams. But Grossman’s focus is always on character, and he speaks in his villan’s voice so well that by the end of the novel you’ll find yourself almost rooting for Doctor Impossible to unlock the secrets of the zeta beam and, indeed, finally succeed in taking over the world.