Superheroes have been around for decades and have been dominating the movies in recent years -- but what's behind them?  What goes on behind the scenes with superheroes, and what goes through the minds of the would-be world conquerors?  Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman is a loving, amusing peek behind the curtain at some comic book tropes/cliches familiar to everyone.

Soon I Will Be Invincible alternates chapters between the new heroine Fatale and the older villain Doctor Impossible.  Fatate is a cyborg, a former NSA agent whose body was largely destroyed (along with a lot of her memory) in a car accident and was rebuilt by a mysterious organization.  She's recruited by the remnants of the Champions, the world's greatest superhero group: partly because their last tech expert, Galatea, died in space, and partly because CoreFire, their most powerful member, has gone missing.

Then there's Doctor Impossible, "the smartest man in the world."  A super-genius (diagnosed with Malign Hypercognition Disorder) with some super-strength and toughness.  He's completely ambitious ("I tried to conquer the world and almost succeeded, twelve times and counting"), starts the novel in prison, and soon escapes to embark on world domination attempt number thirteen.  His ex-girlfriend Lily is a reformed supervillain who joined the Champions.  Oh, and he's both the nemesis and creator of CoreFire.  He may not know what happened to the world's most popular superhero, but Doctor Impossible wishes more than anything to defeat the hero who's beaten him every time.

While Fatale (and her new team) deal with internal issues while searching for CoreFire and Doctor Impossible, Doctor Impossible roams the criminal underworld in his latest world-ruling quest.  Naturally, these two paths wind up meeting, with cliches and unexpected results.

Soon I Will Be Invincible is somewhere between the fun-loving cliches of Astro City and darker behind-the-masks grittiness of Watchmen.  Grossman made an excellent choice with his new and experienced protagonists, giving us not just the good and evil sides but also the novice member seeing the world and the old pro knowing what to expect again.  The characters are homages to famous superheroes (Blackwolf, the rich man with no powers but a near-perfect fighter; Elfin, the mystical warrior from a faraway land; heck, CoreFire has not only Superman's powers and fame, but a writer-love interest named Erica who he's always rescuing) and chapter titles embrace superhero and supervillain cliches: "Earth's Mightiest Heroes," "Maybe We Are Not So Different, You and I," "And Now for Those Meddling Children."

Soon I Will Be Invincible isn't a deconstruction of the superhero genre as a fun treatment of it.  This book is funny ("The ability to stretch your limbs or secrete acid can wreak havoc on the human metabolism.  There's a fine line between a superpower and a chronic medical condition."), exciting, thoughtful, and thoroughly entertaining.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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