Here’s an interesting equation: What do you get when you combine James Bond, Batman, and Sherlock Holmes into one character? A power-fantasy archetype that’s not very compelling.
From a certain point of view, there are three types of characters that an author can create: A character who is as intelligent as the writer, a character who is less intelligent than the writer, and, in Mark Millar’s (author of Prodigy) case, a character who is more intelligent than the writer.
The last character type, which I’ll simply call the Pallas character, is the most risky in an author’s hands. The consequences of writing a pallas character are A). Having the protagonist be so intelligent that there isn’t any dire threat to challenge the hero. B). The writer relying on stereotypical “Smart guy” stuff, that makes the character feel unoriginal at best and unrelatable at worst.
One way an author can ground a Pallas character is by applying human weaknesses to that character. Even the three icons mentioned in the first paragraph have human faults. Batman with his fear of losing control of any situation, James Bond with his instability with women, and Sherlock Holmes with his drug addictions. Now as any well-meaning artist who meets someone new, I tried my darndest to find the most debilitating flaws in Edison Crane, the protagonist of this story. The closest aspect that could be seen as a relatable flaw was his undeniable hubris, but he doesn’t really receive any fallout for it. Crane’s pride doesn’t hinder his work or put him in any form of danger that it can’t handle.
Another way of making the reader believe that your character is the smartest snowflake in the oven, while still having a human element, is done through having a normie character tell us how special that Pallas character is. I’m looking at you John Watson. I thought the sidekick to Crane was going to function as a stand-in for the reader. Sure, she’s also technically above the regular person in strength and intelligence, but she would still be shocked and amazed by everything Crane did… That was until it was revealed that she has mega ultra fantastic intelligence too. Yeah, she was secretly the sister to the main villain, and she was functioning as a double agent. She even managed to fool Crane… for like a few seconds before he kills her.
Okay so this book doesn’t have any components to make Edison more realatable, but what about the villain? A good villain not only challenges the hero physically but also tests him mentally. They provide another perspective on the hero’s philosophy, in some way.
(sigh) You might want to take a seat for this. So the main bad guy is a childhood bully to the main character. He grew up in a rich family that loves to hunt and kill orphaned children, while taking part in a satanic, religious cult. Also, in this wealthy, orphan hunting family, you can only receive your full inheritance by murdering the previous person in charge. Yeah, I thought that was a lot too, but then it turned out he’s also from an alternate reality that plans to invade our earth. Let me further marvel at the absurdity of this premise; he’s got all that backstory and their only connection is that he was kind of a jerk to Crane as a kid. I normally love outrageous origins like that, but this comes across as weird for the sake of being weird.
I think Mark Millar attempted to get that unique spark he must have felt whenever he saw such nearly invulnerable characters flashing on the screen in his youth. You know, broad-chinned adventurers who ultimately served as a power-fantasy for little boys. Even though I don’t really think this will resonate with the readers of this generation, I kind of respect him for dong something that at least he would get a kick out of.