Although I came across this title in my library’s Sci-Fi section, it is something a little bit different than my usual fare. Published in 2007, Austin Grossman essentially has written a superhero comic in the form of a novel. Despite having never really been into this sort of comic, I decided to give it a read.
The book is an intimate portrait of the two characters through whom the story is told. Fatale is a down on her luck cyborg who may have just caught her big break. She has been offered an audition to the join the New Champions, an Avengers-like supergroup, that has reunited to investigate the disappearance of prominent superhero, and former team member, Core Fire. Although it is an excellent opportunity, fitting into the group’s dynamic is difficult and she struggles to find a place for herself within what had once been a tight-knit team of friends. The other character, Doctor Impossible, is a man who, in combination with enhanced speed and strength, has a condition referred to as Malign Hypercognition Disorder – aka Evil Genius Syndrome. Reflecting on his past exploits and the circumstances that lead to his life of supervillainy, he is planning as always his next world domination scheme. Upon learning his old nemesis Core Fire is missing in action he senses that now is his time for ultimate victory, provided of course he can defeat the New Champions.
I had a hard time putting this book down, though not necessarily for the reasons that might be expected from a superhero story. While there were a few action sequences, most of the entertainment came from the introspective narratives of the main characters and seeing how they come to terms with the day-to-day realities of their extraordinary circumstances. The characters were always at least in part aware of the dynamics of the genre in which they exist and the dry wit and nonchalance with which they dutifully embrace their roles as heroes or villains and accept things like magical artifacts, superpowers, alternate timelines, and awkward supervillain hangouts as part of their internal monologues was written to good effect. These narratives, combined with the tangled backstories and relationships between the characters that gradually unfolded, were really what made the novel standout. I don’t have too much else to say about this one other than it was another fun, quick read worth checking out.