Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Review: Soon I Will Be Invincible

Tonight we'll be reviewing Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. I suppose I'm the last one to the party on this one. After all, when it came out a while back, every comic blogger and their uncle was talking about this one, and how it spawned the current generation of new superhero prose and...


I mean, really?


OK, perhaps that's a bit too harsh. This novel is a technical marvel and the storytelling is particularly strong. I just wish the plot and the characters had a little more vitality to them.

The novel focuses on the intertwining of two narratives: Evil supergenius Doctor Impossible, currently in prison and striving for something greater, and amnesiac cyborg Fatale, trying to make ends meet. They are both drawn into the plot by the disappearance of the world's greatest and most powerful hero. During the course of events, the history of our two main protagonists, as well as that of Earth's greatest superteam, is unearthed and we find out there's a large cost to the costumed lifestyle, for the good guys and the bad.

Does that sound familiar? If so, congratulations! You own at least one issue of Kurt Busiek's Astro City, or any of a dozen other comics, novels, essays or movies. Now, you could say that, hey, anything that can be compared to Astro City is pretty goddamn good, especially for a first time author. And that's a fine opinion to have, but to say that it is revolutionary in any way is an overstatement at best, and pure crap at worst.

Now, that said, the writing is GOOD. The technique is polished, smart, and the pacing is even and rapid. There's a real sense of weight and action and even personality, at least in Fatale and Impossible. The problem is that everyone else comes off as a complete cipher at best, or at worst, the author presumes you'll do the mental mapping of "Just like character X from a major comic company but with this slight tweaking!" and I don't know about you, but I'm long past sick and tired of analogues of famous superheroes and stand-ins being used over and over again.

Soon I Will Be Invincible is a well-told tale, and it has its charm. The problem is that it depends too heavily on what has come before, and offers very little new to the genre it is in.

1 comment:

Phil B-W said...

I think your interpretation may be driven by your extensive comic book knowledge; perhaps as follows:
1. You encounter the supporting character who, as a supporting character, is not well fleshed out.
2. You know of another character who is pretty similar.
3. You are already sensitised to the use of analogues and dislike it.
4. The book makes clear use of some analogues, such as Superman and Batman
5. You draw the conclusion that all (or at least the vast majority of the characters), excepting the main two, are intentionally analogues.

I don't have your extensive comic book knowledge. However, I've read a fair few comic books over the years and I can spot the major analogues, especially the ones used to set up expectations in the reader. Yet I still found the supporting characters interesting and useful. Surely if all they were was analogues, then I wouldn't have "got it" and I wouldn't have enjoyed the book.

As it was, I thought it was excellent.


PS: I really enjoy your blog, especially because I don't always agree with you. :-)