Saturday, April 28, 2007
Translating one genre into another is difficult, and more often than not, you end up turning off the fans of genre one while failing to capture genre two. Instead of crossover appeal, you have lost an audience. This is especially true with cult genres like comic books. Comic fans are very protective, and wary of outsiders. Likewise, the general reading public gives little weight to the literary merit of the ‘Funny Papers.’
In the last few years however, comics have attracted the talents of established fiction writers like Brad Meltzer and Greg Rucka. The comic fans have found their way to sample fiction works by these authors and fiction fans have begun to pick up their comic work.
Austin Grossman has taken this a step further in Soon I Will Be Invincible, his debut novel. A work of fiction with no interior art, the story is none the less a perfect comic caper. Invincible is the story of Dr. Impossible, the world’s greatest villain, and the superhero team known as The Champions. Grossman employs a first person narrative, but from opposing sides; half the novel is told from Dr. Impossible’s perspective, while the other is told from the point of view of Fatale, the newest member of The Champions. Zigzagging back and forth between the two, the plot is tight, and fast paced, sucking the reader in from page one. The action sequences are superb and show Grossman’s command of language.
Grossman’s secret weapons, however, are his characterizations. People with ridiculous names like Damsel and Blackwolf (and crazy outfits to match) are revealed to be all too human, with inner conflict, socialization issues and occasionally a sense of humor. Damsel and Blackwolf come from the Fleetwood Mac School of Relationship Adjustments. They are divorced (from each other) and still fighting on the same team, while they try to adjust to working with someone you don’t want to be around anymore. While there aren’t any Top 40 hits penned by them, the duality of their situation does permeate the exchange they have, and create a more realistic portrait of both of them. These are the things that will appeal to the general reader, a great story told through a fast paced plot and excellent characterization.
Invincible does not abandon its comic roots though. Many comic fans will rejoice in the plot itself (the team is trying to thwart Impossible’s latest scheme to take over the world) and the wry wit comics are becoming known for. Without spoiling a major scene, there is a hilarious exchange between Impossible and his arch-nemesis CoreFire.
A tough balancing act is accomplished as the novel winds to its inevitable conclusion. The reader cannot help but marvel at how completely Grossman has created a new world. It’s kind of jarring to come back to reality when it is all over. That is the hallmark of a great writer. One hopes Soon I Will Be Invincible will usher in a slew of new books by Austin Grossman in the future.