Thursday, April 26, 2012

What's the Best Superpower? part III: And the Winner Is...

Alright, it's time for me to finally answer the question that all comic book geeks will inevitably ask of themselves and each other: what is the best superpower?

I started writing about this question a few days ago, and have since followed it up with another post as I realized how complex and nuanced this question actually is.  Now that I've set up the terms and conditions, it's time to finally pick a winner.  So, let's get down to it!

So, I've established a few things up to this point:

  1. It's not all about the powers.  It's also about environment, your tactical cognition, and some other external factors, like luck.  No one ability can trump another all the time, in every possible situation.
  2. You will be placed in a comic book or other fictitious world or setting, where there are other super-powered individuals to work with or against.
  3. You will be given a power set as opposed to a single superpower.  For instance, super-strength could have a direct relation to enhanced durability.  It doesn't mean you automatically get multiple powers; you would have to develop or discover all but the first, which would emerge spontaneously.
With all this in mind, here are a few favorites I've considered, and why:

This one is a favorite of many Jedi aspirants and Jean Grey devotees, and it certainly does have its appeal.  The ability to move things with your mind would give you a potentially huge advantage over just about anyone in a fight.  Hulk too strong for you?  Levitate him and toss him back a few blocks.  Need to fly somewhere?  It might take a lot of training and concentration, but you could probably use this ability to develop flight as a power stunt.

Plus, consider the possibilities here.  You can move things with your mind, not just objects.  This could be a possible gateway to other power stunts, such as elemental manipulation (earth would be easiest, but fire?  That would take talent), energy manipulation, and so on, depending on how advanced you go with it.  With enough imagination and training, this psionic ability could allow you access to a multitude of other powers.

Drawbacks?  At least one big one comes to mind.  First off, you need to be able to concentrate and focus when you use these abilities.  I would imagine that the more advanced your tricks are, the more you'd need to concentrate.  If an enemy uses abilities or circumstances that disrupt your ability to do this, you'll become pretty useless in a fight.  Storm has very slyly used this tactic on Jean Grey during at least one Danger Room session, to astonishing effect.

Another favorite among aficionados of this debate, this potentially devastating power set could allow you to defeat your opponent without even lifting a finger.  Forget being able to read their thoughts to anticipate their moves--already a very cool thing.  Imagine telling your opponent to simply stop attacking you and to restrain themselves--and they do.

Aside from the ability to read and send thoughts, there's a lot of room here to develop power stunts that will expand this awareness and exert external control over the minds of others.  Astral projection, anyone?  Or, instead of just being able to make opponents follow your mental orders, you simply take control of their minds, and through that, their bodies?  I've even seen instances where telepaths develop a kind of mental blast, basically frying their opponents' brains through telepathy in combat.  Personally I think that's a bit of a stretch, but I can't argue that this precedent hasn't been set.

Drawbacks?  Like with telekinesis, and really any ability that involves fine external manipulation, you need to be able to concentrate.  Also, telepaths are often targets of the first wave of any attack, as a savvy strategist knows how they can often take out multiple opponents at once.  Defenses are often developed specifically against them--think Magneto's helmet, for instance--which would render them otherwise powerless against an opponent.

Gravity Manipulation
I think what appeals to me about this set is the number of practical uses you could put it to.  Need to move a heavy piece of furniture?  Reduce the gravity around it, and suddenly you can move it yourself!  Want to piss off your little sister?  Subtly increase her personal gravity so she mysteriously gains weight when she steps on the scale!

Obviously there are a multitude of powers you could develop from this set.  Flight, by manipulating, deleting, and directing gravitons.  Stuns, by increasing someone's personal gravity by a lot and essentially rooting them to the ground.  Mimicking of super-strength by reducing the gravity of objects and other people.  And I'm sure there are plenty of imaginative types out there who can think of even more uses for this set.

Concentration is a major drawback of this power set, just like with telekinesis and telepathy.  Another glaring weakness is that you need... well... gravity to use this superpower.  Essentially, this set is useless in outer space.  Stay out of the spaceways if you have this power set and want to use it effectively.

Energy Blasts
Come on, who hasn't thought of this one?  Having the ability to call forth a destructive burst of energy is one of the simplest, yet most viscerally appealing ideas in comics.  Something in your way?  Just blast it into a million pieces. Don't like close-quarters fighting?  Get back and pick people off from far away.  It's a simple, but effective power set.

The big weakness of the energy blast is that it doesn't really allow for much in the way of development.  If you're lucky, over time you can learn to control and manipulate the type of energy to blast, but history generally relegates energy wielders to being blasters.  There's also the issue of your reputation for destruction, which, while it may not directly affect a fight, may have huge ramifications about the circumstances of any conflict.  Finally, energy wielders usually have some big limitation on their destructive ability, be it the inability to control it or the need to store it up for a long time before building up enough energy to release effectively.

While all these powers are great, and I considered them strongly, there can be only one set that's a winner.  And the winner is...

Power Mimicry
Call me a glutton for punishment, but I think this power is the most versatile and potentially useful of all other power sets out there, particularly if you can figure out a way to extend and develop it.  It calls for an extremely high level of tactical cognition to use effectively, and effectively gives you a taste of virtually every superpower out there.   

In the short term, it essentially puts you on (somewhat) equal footing with any other super-powered opponent you come  up against, with the one big caveat that they're likely to have used their own superpower a lot longer than you have.  Sure, you might be able to mimic Superman's strength and ability to fly, but he's been using them for decades, and likely knows how to use them more effectively than you will.  

In the long term, it could make you one of the smartest and most effective fighters in your world--assuming you survive enough battles and take enough lumps.  Think about it.  You'll have learned to change tactics quickly, play to your strengths by adjusting and improvising quickly, and know how to use a wide range of abilities wielded by other super-powered individuals.

If you want to go all Peter Petrelli with this, the possibilities become limitless.  Imagine being able to summon any power you've mimicked in the past, at will.  Imagine being able to work with and develop any of them.  It'd take a lot of training and a lot of time, but potentially, this power could rule them all.

In the interim, though, you'd have to be a clever fighter.  And I'm a fan of any ability that makes you have to constantly push your own boundaries to be effectively used.

Power mimicry, for the win!

1 comment:

  1. Well Amaz-o did prove that Power Mimicry is freakin crazy awesome if you get to KEEP said powers, and with the right amount of intelligence to use them it would be awesome...

    However I always felt Telekinesis would require much less concentration than comic books and movies gave it, especially as you got more skilled in it. They just have to SHOW said superhero concentrating in order for the Audience to understand 'their using their invisible superpower to let us know what's going on'