Author: Austin Grossman
Publisher: Penguin/Michael Joseph
288 pages • £16.99
In a way, having Bryan Hitch – current king of the superhero comic – draw the cover for Austin Grossman’s debut novel is a bit of an ill-judged choice. Yes, the cover is attractive, making evil genius Dr Impossible (the protagonist) look suitably enigmatic and impressive. But its vibrant colour and imagination also clarifies that a vital part of what makes superheroes work is the visuals. By comparison, a novel’s black and white pages seem a somewhat uninspiring medium for tales of capes and flying men.
Fortunately, Grossman doesn’t let such thoughts hinder him. He’s in love with the genre and that enthusiasm translates to the page. The book succeeds for two reasons. One is that the writer treats the subject matter and his characters with total respect, even if they are time-travelling femme fatales from the 35th century. The other is that he writes with an understated wit that elevates the book way above fan fiction. Grossman isn’t mocking the idea of superheroes – his laughs simply come from the fact that he writes so well. This is primarily a straight adventure story (the search for the missing CoreFire, the planet’s foremost hero). And Grossman knows the genre’s clichés well enough to subvert them.
Soon I Will Be Invincible is hindered slightly by the confines of the genre that it celebrates, but it’s still an entertaining read. And Grossman’s affinity for his megalomaniac villains is refreshing and fun. If only all superhero stories could be written this well.