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Awesome But Impractical / Comic Books

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"A flashy feature that has limited usability for victory."

  • Aquaman, commander of the seas, king of Atlantis. He can summon whales, sharks, and the like to save the day. The problem is that most of the crime he fights is on land so his only useful power is Super Strength. Is it any wonder why most fans of DC often mock him?
    • Credit where credit is due, just his Required Secondary Powers such as super strength and toughness are actually a pretty impressive package, if a little on the flipside of this trope. Depending on the Writer he also may have access to impressive Atlantean magic or technology. A lot of the mockery for Aquaman is really a result of holdovers from early superhero cartoons such as Superfriends where he was a lot closer to this trope, as his Super Strength was essentially ignored, relegating him to the unenviable status of "the guy who talks to fish", and some really contrived situations were required to make any use of him at all.
  • Marvel's premier Cloak & Dagger organization, S.H.I.E.L.D., prefers to operate out of a Helicarrier. It's an Airborne Aircraft Carrier and is exactly as cool as it sounds. Unfortunately, it tends to crash. A lot. This typically causes about as much destruction as you'd expect from dropping something the size of an aircraft carrier from about a mile up, and usually has the inadvertent effect of releasing whatever superpowered psychopaths, alien viruses, etc. that happened to be locked up there at the time.
    • Helicarriers fall victim to The Worf Effect so often that in Secret Avengers, it is shown that S.H.I.E.L.D. actually has a sign counting down the number of days since their last Helicarrier crash.
    • Two out of three Helicarrier appearances in MCU films (The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) feature them either crashing or very nearly doing so. Though in Winter Soldier the Helicarriers being shot down was actually a good thing.
  • The Quinjets used by The Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. are probably some of the most advanced aircraft in the Marvel Universe, and are miles ahead of any aviation technology used in the real world. In the first issue of Captain America: Sam Wilson, we find out that they're also insanely expensive to maintain and refuel, meaning that when the Avengers end up falling on hard times, they have to be very selective about using the Quinjet. That last little bit is shown in All-New, All-Different Avengers when Iron Man decides using the Quinjet just to get to Atlantic City is a waste when 4/5ths of the team (him, Sam!Cap, Female Thor, Vision and Nova) can fly and he tells them to just carry their non-flyers (Miles Morales Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel)
  • Nite Owl II was the embodiment of this trope in Watchmen, spending millions on awesome but impractical hardware. His famous quote:
    "Who needs all this hardware to catch hookers and purse-snatchers?"
    • The most awesomely impractical invention was his exoskeleton, which did grant him super-strength but also broke his arms the first time he used it.
    • In fact, this is a major part of Watchmen's deconstruction. Yeah, the superheroes are skilled, flashy, and can round up criminals like nobody's business... but you don't need a superhero to do that, and beating up muggers one by one is a massive squandering of the talent, money, and effort needed to become a superhero in the first place. By the time the story starts, most of them have quit the crimefighting business to either live out retirement or channel their talents into more effective areas - the Super Soldier is now a covert agent, the Genius Bruiser is focusing on his corporation, and the Physical God is putting his reality-breaking powers to scientific use.
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    • In the same mythos, there is old-timey superhero Dollar Bill who is shot to death by common crooks when his corporate-mandated cool-looking cape gets caught in a bank's revolving door.
  • The Cosmic Cube... you can do almost anything as long as you are thinking about it. Want D.C. to be a lake of fire? It will be, until you fall asleep. Then everything's back to normal and the heroes are kicking your teeth down your throat. In fact, anything you allow yourself to think about will take on some degree of reality and if you dream, that becomes real too. Even Doctor Doom couldn't handle it for very long.
    • Lampshaded by The Falcon at one point, who noted that the damn thing never works right and almost always backfires on whoever is trying to use it. He went on to suggest that there may be some Monkey's Paw-style karma involved.
    • Depending on the Writer, the suckers aren't actually that hard for alien civilizations to make. The Skrulls had one. Even us humans have made a couple. It's just a matter of learning the hard way that the little suckers are id monster factories, and then you don't make them any more.
  • The Ultimates for a while. A multi-billion dollar super-squad just sitting around because they caught all the bad guys? Well, rescuing people from a fire is cool but we got guys for that.
  • Batman:
    • Of all of the Batsuits made, Jean-Paul Valley's suit during Knightfall fits this, especially the final variation. Massively flared out armored cape segments, built-in flamethrower, armor from head to toe. Can't fit through small spaces, easily ignite yourself from leaking gas and you gotta be superhumanly strong just to move around in that thing like you were Bruce Wayne himself.
    • Ironically, Jean-Paul would discover this with Batman's cape - long and billowy, but it has way too much drag. Dick Grayson, during his second tenure as Batman, would complain about the cape as well as it got in the way of his more acrobatic style.
    • Batgirl's latest costume have her a cap-like cowl that just slipped over her head. Nice, simple... easy to lose when you dive into the water. Even worse, it was 3D printed, which means it also suffers from the same things printers does.
    • A few of Batman's Batmobiles can be noted here as well. One of the Batmobiles he used when teaming up with Judge Dredd had its nose so tall that you couldn't even drive it realistically.
    • Interestingly averted in the lead up to Batman: No Man's Land — it was revealed that Wayne Enterprises' buildings were designed to withstand earthquakes up to 8.5 on the Richter Scale. When many of the board members complained about the costs, Lucius Fox promptly fired them.
  • Ant-Man:
    • If Hank Pym is any example, turning yourself into a giant seems to be a rather impractical power for a hero. You never have enough room to move around, you're always in danger of breaking stuff or hurting someone by accident, and you're a target the size of a barn. Then again, if you're a villain who just wants to randomly smash stuff, it's pretty awesome.
    • Emphasized even further in The Ultimates, where it's shown that the very act of getting his costume on (which unlike his 616 counterpart, does not shrink or enlarge itself to accommodate his changes in size and thus must be stored in a nearby warehouse when not in use) requires several hours of preparation. If he wants to use his powers as a spur of the moment action, he has to do it in his birthday suit.
  • Adamantium. Sure, it's indestructible, but it's incredibly rare, prohibitively expensive, and almost impossible to work. You can't recycle it, either: Once it's been worked and set into a particular shape it can't be reworked. Oh, and it's highly toxic, too. The only reason Wolverine can even live with his indestructible skeleton is because of his Healing Factor, and the very presence of the adamantium in his body greatly impairs his ability to heal. Oh, and it's magnetic, so indestructible or not, it's pretty much worthless if you're up against someone like Magneto.
    • The toxicity thing only gets applied to Wolverine though, as several other characters have been laced with Adamantium without the benefit of an advanced healing factor (Bullseye, Hammerhead, Lady Deathstrike) with no ill effects. Occasionally handwaved by them taking medication to counter the poisoning. And in Deathstrike's case, the fact that she's not only a cyborg but one created at least partially by magic.
  • In an Archie comic story, one day an elf-like wizard appears out of nowhere and bestow on Archie a gift of "magic sneakers" that enable him to run at lightning speed (think The Flash). Yet none of Archie's friends are impressed; Jughead says that he'll just have to wait for everyone else to catch up when he gets to places first, and Betty scoffs at the whole thing, that one shouldn't be in such a rush all the time and stop to smell the roses. But Archie decides he really has no use for the sneakers when his chief love-interest, Veronica, refuses to go out with him because the speed would cause windburn and mess up her hairdo.
  • At one time, Spider-Man wore a special Spider-Armor to battle the New Enforcers when he found himself overpowered. While it did protect him, it was too bulky and it killed his legendary speed and agility. Later Spider-Armor were much more compact and allowed him to keep said speed and agility.
  • The Transformers franchise zigzags this with the gestalts, five or six smaller Transformers that combine into one larger warrior. The gestalt Transformers are always very strong and can make for dangerous opponents...but the gestalts often also become Dumb Muscle, Mighty Glaciers or Ax-Crazy because of the problem of trying to combine the mentalities of the five or six component Transformers into one. Sometimes the different mentalities have difficulty agreeing on what to actually do as a single robot and are slow to act or are very limited in what they can do. Sometimes the mentalities outright hate each other and the resulting combiner is more of a hindrance than a help to his faction. That said, the component Transformers are often able to cooperate by overcoming their hangups or because they all enjoy doing what they do. When that happens, the gestalts often give impressive results.
  • The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers has the cerebro-centric bullets Ironfist makes. They're bullets with a small onboard computer that allows them to specifically target an enemy's head. The result is a One-Hit Kill weapon that automatically headshots targets. This is decidedly awesome in theory, but it prevents the person using them from wounding a target rather than killing, making them useless for anything other than battles against overwhelming forces and sniping. Further, the 100% kill rate led to the use of them being declared a war crime and the manufacturing process is complex enough that they probably aren't easy to mass produce; why waste time and money on such a complicated and limited bullet system when you can just use normal bullets that are cheaper and have a far wider range of uses?
  • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye:
    • Mnemosurgery. It's essentially a form of mind melding that lets the mnemosurgeon read and alter the memories of others. This is incredibly useful for interrogation, psychological warfare, and autopsy. Problem is, it's also insanely dangerous; one or two slip-ups can result in the surgeon frying their nervous system and surgeons sometimes "inherit" memories from their patients or autopsies, which manifests as severe PTSD and nightmares. The process is also addictive for the surgeons, meaning it can extremely difficult for them to stop performing. For these reasons, most mnemosurgeons die young and it's usage for anything other than autopsies is banned by intergalactic law, being considered a war crime.
    • The P-6 Worldsweeper starships. They're massive, powerful, and seriously cool-looking ships designed in the shape of the Decepticon symbol, giving them a symbolic factor. However they're also pretty prone to crashing or being shot down, as that symbolic design makes them really hard to maneuver properly in combat and isn't very aerodynamic. Keep in mind that these things were supposed to protect Decepticon colony worlds singlehanded. They were so useless that Decepticon high command eventually decommissioned them, bringing the grand Decepticon imperial era to a whimpering end.
    • Another Decepticon idea that was more cool than useful were the Phase Sixers. Super Soldiers who have had their armature and form enhanced in nearly every way, effectively turning them into living weapons capable of taking on entire battalions single-handed. Unfortunately the element needed to turn a cybertronion into one, ununtrium, is so incredibly rare that only about six were made before it was all used up. Even if it wasn't, only cybertronions with extremely powerful bodies and sparks can survive the process, limiting possible recruits. These cybertronions also tended to be very rebellious and hard to discipline due to their extreme power leaving them with next-to-no fear; by the time of the story, all three of the known Phase Sixers have betrayed the Decepticons at some point and needed to be dealt with (Black Shadow started getting paid on the side, Sixshot briefly joined a group of Omnicidal Maniacs, Overlord went solo to try to kill Megatron). Their role could have easily been better served by heavy artillery and the like, ultimately making them a needless splurge.
    • Really the Decepticons were prone to this in general during the Great War. Skullcruncher argues that it's why they lost; there was so much focus on making big scary things that could kill lots of enemies and decisively beat the Autobots, that nobody was making sure that all those cool weapons and ideas actually worked or were applied well.
  • The Marvel supervillain Razorfist is a martial artist/assassin who's had both his forearms removed and replaced with blades. This helps make him incredibly skilled and deadly in combat, but also means that if something happens to the blades he's helpless. He also needs personal servants to attend to basic hygiene and whenever he gets arrested, the blades are taken away and replaced with prosthetic hands to which he's never been able to adjust. The character is the page image for Crippling Overspecialization.
  • The Venom Serum that Bane used back in his early days. It buffs the user up to insane levels (well beyond what a normal human can exert), making you freakishly strong and fast. However it's also basically a steroid cranked Up to Eleven, with all the nasty side effects that implies. It's beyond addictive, has debilitating mental and physical effects (Bane was the first person to take it and not die a horrible death), and needs to be constantly pumped through your system, meaning if you get cut off from the source you'll lose all that strength in a minute. Eventually Bane realized that the benefits weren't worth the trade-off and weaned himself off of Venom before building up bulk the old fashioned way. He's not quite as physically powerful as he was on Venom, but he's much more effective now that he doesn't have to struggle with the crippling side effects.
  • Judge Dredd gives us the Stub Gun, potentially the most devastating handheld weapon ever made. This laser rifle is capable of cutting through almost anything; concrete, armoured vehicles, you name it. However, it has a tendency to overheat and explode if used in any kind of sustained engagement; in an average firefight, this can potentially happen after only a few shots. During the Apocalypse War, it's still officially classified as "Lethal To User" and Dredd has to determine whether the awesome outweighs the impractical given the desperate situation the Big Meg's judges are in.
  • Played for Laughs in Zits; Jeremy's friend Pierce got his feet tattooed to look like sneakers, so that he can go to school barefoot without the teachers noticing. Jeremy replies that it's 40 degrees and raining outside.
    Pierce: I didn't say it was practical...
  • Superman has the Super-Flare, a massive explosion which jettisons all the solar energy in his body in a concentrated blast within a quarter-mile, what renders it impractical however is its drawback of depowering Clark down to human levels of strength for 24 hours.
  • In Legion Of Superheroes, there's the Miracle Machine, a device that warps reality based on the user's thoughts. It shouldn't take much to explain why this thing's so powerful, but it also happens to be uncontrollable; any thought from the user sets it off. Unless you have spectacularly good focus and a clear head, you'd probably end up turning the entire planet into peanut brittle.
  • In Runaways, the Leapfrog is an incredibly advanced vehicle with cloaking, lasers, holographic projections, and an overdrive slot that can turn it into a time machine. It's also an incredibly distinctive vehicle, very difficult to repair, doesn't move very fast, and its leaping motions can be jarring to anyone who isn't used to it. The team ends up ditching the original for a modified Volkswagon.
  • In a short of Pif and Hercules, Hercules shows his brand new car to Pif. The car is large and very much like a house on four wheels. It has a: TV, a telephone, Hi-Fi, a library, beds, a refrigerator, etc. Impressed, Pif asks Hercules how's the car's performance doing. Hercules then say it can't roll because there wasn't any room left for the engine. This cause Pif to fall down.
  • Most of the Nazi superweapons from Atomic Robo fall under this. Many devices were incredibly powerful or hard to take down, but there were just too many that were left half finished due to poor allocation of resources. As Robo put it:
    Robo: That's fritz for you. Why build one superweapon when you could underfund a dozen of them?


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