Let us celebrate, just for a moment, those evil geniuses among us whose perpetually foiled schemes have added such a piquant spice to life on this third stone from a nondescript yellow sun. Their names ring out like an infernal Who's Who: Ming the Merciless. Lex Luthor. Red Skull. Gorzo the Mighty. Brainiac. Green Goblin. The Riddler. Sinestro. Rush Limbaugh.

Distilling the motley spectrum of doomed super-villains from half a century of comics into one impressive anti-hero, Austin Grossman's raucously madcap debut novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible, races along like a roller coaster with its lug nuts loosened. Events conspire to free Doctor Impossible, a 12-time loser with a 300-plus IQ, from his escape-proof prison. It would seem, finally, like he has a shot at taking over the world again due to the conspicuous absence of his one-time nemesis, CoreFire. The puny forces of Earth rally a group of superheroes known as The Champions to thwart Dr. Impossible, but the eight of them are no match for his staggeringly superior intellect. Bwahh-ha-ha-ha! To his credit, Dr. Impossible has tried to learn from his mistakes, not with the intent of recanting, but to sidestep the bone-headed miscues that have landed him in the pokey on a dozen previous occasions. The loose strand that threatens to unravel his latest master plan is a female cyborg named Fatale, a provisional member of The Champions whose background is a mystery . . . even to her. As she and Dr. Impossible alternate chapter-length narratives, we begin to discover (ˆ la James Bond and Goldfinger, Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, among many others) that only a slender thread separates the guardians of justice from the villainous architects of doom.

Light and adhesive as Spider-Man's web, Soon I Will Be Invincible is tailored for summer reading like a superhero's (or super-villain's) form-fitting costume. Thane Tierney, aka The Intermittently Querulous Professor Atomic Brain, wreaks his havoc on the greater Los Angeles area.

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