Hi and welcome to what I hope will be a new semi-Regular Feature at the MPM (Provided Reader feedback is positive) that is dedicated to comic Plot Devices have become overused in modern times, and should probably be retired for a while.
So, Plot Devices that need to go Away #1:
THE GUY SO SMART THAT HE ACCURATELY PREDICTS THE FUTURE
Also known as: The Techno-Prophet, The Futurist, The Ultimate Predictor, Etc.
What is it?: Many consider this the Sci-Fi version of The Prophet or Mystic; through mechanical means, or just being really, really smart, the character is able to accurately calculate the future, and thus, is able to make plots that move like clockwork.
Why do writers use it?: This particular device is usually used for one of two reasons
- It's an easy way to show how intelligent the character is by allowing the reader to go Holy Crap! This guy predicted the future! With Maths!
- It's an easy way to write your character out of a jam
Recent Offenders include but are not limited to: Iron Man, Darkseid, Reed Richards, Amadeus Cho, Black Panther (Christopher Priest Era-only), Dr. T.O. Morrow, Dr. Gregory House (House), Linderman (Heroes), Batman, Layla Miller, At least one character in every Mark Millar-penned comic.
Patient Zero: Ozymandias from Watchmen. While some would suggest that you could use the concept of psycho-history from Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, I would argue that in most comic stories, most writers use Ozy here as the base case for what they are trying to achieve.
Why it has to go Away: Generally, having a main character who can accurately model the future at every turn doesn't work out very well for serialized fiction because it either makes him look like a God or an idiot, and usually nothing in the middle. Tony Stark here is probably the worst offender of the current batch here, and he shows aspects of both failings. Civil War? He comes off as a god, and a petty one at that, that can't be bothered to explain the rationale for his actions. It doesn't help that "Math told me this would happen!" isn't exactly the best reasoning under the sun when it comes to predicting human behavior. Given the constant sniping back and forth in the real world about Global Warming, something that has a lot of like, hard science behind it, it's a little insane to say that you can concretely prove human behavior with math. Hell, even in the Foundation series, the existence of a an x-factor (The Mule) was shown to throw off the entire concept of psychohistory and it's predictions. Saying that you can predict the actions of an entire species undercuts the belief that the individual matters in the grand scheme of things, and that's kind of a dour prospect in superhero fiction.
The other downside is that because of the nature of serialized fiction, the hero cannot always be right, otherwise there is no drama. When a "Futurist" fails, it generally makes him look like an idiot for not foreseeing this eventuality, like Tony in World War Hulk here:
Angles for Redemption of the Plot Device:
Actually, it's probably for the best to retire this one for a while, as it's showing a hell of a lot of wear and tear. But if you are bound and determined to use it, just keep in mind that individual characters matter, that they can always do something that the futurist won't predict. Gregory House is a great example: While he understands what people will do, and how they will lie and cheat and contradict themselves, he also shows a remarkable inability to expect people to try and rise above their failings.