Having only recently added Soon I Will Be Invincible to my list of books to read, it seemed an unlikely coincidence that I would stumble upon another curious-looking novel about superheroes. Intrigued, I decided to try it.
Don’t waste your time. Minister Faust, be that a pseudonym or the poor bastard’s real name, reaches for the stars and only makes it to about 14th Street. I understand what he intended: by chronicling the travails of a team of superheroes in therapy, he’s making points about history, race, politics, and fiction. The book, told as though it is a self-help book written by the therapist/narrator, Dr. Eva Brain, depicts the psychological troubles of superheroes after Götterdämmerung1, which, as I take it, is supposed to represent the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of a clearly unified and labeled threat. Left to their own devices, superheroes become bored and disillusioned and descend into racial and political political squabbles which I’m sure Faust intended to mirror those of the world at large.
But it’s all so un-subtle and pedantic. Add to that the constant psychobabble of the narrator (purposefully oblique, I’m sure, but it gets damn old after 400 pages) and you’ve got a book that I felt like chucking after 100 pages.
At its simplest, From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain is a satire of comics themselves, but in the most unimaginative way: Faust makes obvious analogs of known characters and then gives them a fetish of some sort.
|Faust’s Hero||Original Hero||Note|
|Flying Squirrel||Batman||A multi-billionaire septuagenarian who’s a racist and an ultraconservative|
|Iron Lass||Wonder Woman||A superwoman who struggles with tenderness|
|Brotherfly||Spiderman||An insect-powered stereotype of black people|
|X-Man||?||A Malcolm X with extraordinary mental powers|
|Omnipotent Man||Superman||A dumb-as-dogshit hero with incredible strength and potency|
|Powergrrl||? (Jubilee?)||Teenage brat who’s one part superheroine, one part Britney Spears|
&c. Faust drops so many names, as well as so many acronyms, that it gets hard to keep track of them all. It fact, it gets downright tiresome, and I feel like the book is a parody of itself by the end. The author tries for so many different tricks all at once that none of them work to their full potential. The epilogue drives home the idea of narrator reliability, which had languished for the entire novel under the weight of parody and exaggeration.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh: Faust, after all, at least aimed high, and I can hardly fault him for that. And perhaps you’ll be more appreciative of his buckshot narrative devices than me. I just can’t recommend it personally.
- Götterdämmerung, also known as Ragnarok to the Nords, was the battle of the gods which signaled the end of the world. In the context of this novel, it is a consolidated effort by Superheroes in the early 1990s to rid the world of sueprvillains once and for all.[↩]