Worm is a completed Web Serial Novel centered around Taylor, a teenager with a superpower that lets her control bugs.The story follows Taylor as she quickly gets swept up in the chaos and complexities of the 'cape' community of Brockton Bay by joining with a group of villains known as The Undersiders. Cape politics, factions, rivalries, information warfare, and the individual problems of the people beneath the costumes put even the heroes in something of a gray area. Taylor's actions in the midst of this leave her in a situation where she's forced to make some hard choices, facing the reality of having to do the wrong things for the right reasons.Bullying has also been featured as a major element in the plot and character development of the main character. Over the first few plot arcs, though, the story shifts away from the hellish landscape that is contemporary high school towards the more uplifting setting of a bombed out city at the mercy of a roving band of psychopaths.Worm launched in June, 2011 and updated regularly on Tuesdays and Saturdays (and some Thursdays) until the final chapter was posted in November, 2013. The story has earned much praise, with reviewers citing the creativity of individual powers, flow of writing, detail and action scenes as selling points of the work. In the blog post discussing the completion of the story, the author has expressed intent to re-edit the story and try to get it published. The author plans to write a sequel.Something of a bonus feature, if you're into story analysisnote And if you're reading this, you probably are One of Us, is the staggering amount of stuff in the comments to each episode. They span from meta analysis, WMG from spot on to crackpot, Dark Comedy, to short stories in their own right. Since it's all jumbled up and not indexed, Archive Panic does not even begin to describe it.Worm has several character sheets at Worm for the tropes applying to specific characters.A complete, spoiler-containing timeline of the setting can be found here.Spoiler Warning: Worm is extremely heavy on Wham Episodes, and has a fast moving Godzilla Threshold. Both this and the cast page are heavily masked by spoiler tape; WMG, Quotes, and the Moment pages (Funny, Heartwarming, Awesome, and Tearjerker) are not. Open them at your own risk.
This series provides examples of:
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Abusive Parents: Rachel's mother abandoned her, Aisha/Brian's mom is negligent and uncaring, Alec's dad turned him into a sociopath, Panacea's adopted parents never wanted her, and Lisa ran away from a rich background to live on the streets just to get away from her father due to him exploiting her for her powers ever since her brother committed suicide. Taylor is the only Undersider who had caring parents, and it shows in how she acts.
Adults Are Useless: Played straight with Mr. Gladly and Taylor's head teacher. It's played with in regards to the other adult characters.
Agony Beam: Bakuda turns the table on Taylor and her team using a grenade that has this effect.
The Alcatraz: The Birdcage, a prison fitted into a mountain where a hole in a wall creates a deadly vacuum. It is designed to only have people go in and not come out. Despite the powerful people it holds, no one has ever escaped. At least, not until Taylor got around to breaking people out.
All There in the Manual: The cast page describes the powers of several characters who haven't been seen much in the story.
All Up To You: Taylor is forced to take the initiative and lead the fight against Behemoth as everyone else who could lead is either dead or incapacitated as the fight grows increasingly desperate.
Alternate Timeline: Scion and other powered individuals started to show up during the early 80's and the Endbringers' presence has caused some major changes.
Japan isn't a world power due to a past attack, several parts of the world are simply gone, and the US has a lot of Asian immigrants from devastated parts of the world.
On a more positive note, it's also hinted that thanks to Scion the events of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina were averted.
Perhaps on a more mixed level, comics in the Wormverse never quite got to the bronze age, likely due to the presence of parahumans.
Alternate Universe: A multitude of parallel versions of the main setting, Earth Bet, have been confirmed to exist. Earth Aleph was contacted via an accidental hole torn in reality by a Tinker. There's communication and an exchange of news and media between them, and yes, they botched the Star Wars prequels too. Doormaker's power enables movement between Earths, while living off of multiple versions of planets is how the Worms survive. Additionally, Scrub and Labyrinth made Tattletale's gate to a world without people.
Ambiguous Innocence: Bonesaw in a nutshell. She's one of the worst serial killers in the Wormverse, but she doesn't necessarily do what she does because of malice. Rather, she feels the idea of a concrete moral system is absurd and doesn't apply to her, and she does what she does because she finds it fun and interesting.
Bonesaw laughed, and it was a sound without reservations, not shaped by social constraint or culture or self-censorship. It was the laugh of a child, free and without a care.
What Shadow Stalker must have been feeling when Regent had control over her.
And, oh god Grue after he was caught by Bonesaw.
Cherish, after she was caught by Bonesaw.
And Blasto after he was caught by... yeah. Pretty much everyone she catches, in fact.
When we see Gray Boy's power, we see that it is obviously suited to the purpose. Aside from the fact that his victims can still scream.
Everyone ever after Skitter's power is jailbroken, at least for a while.
And the Adventure Continues: The last epilogue shows the Undersiders gearing up to kick Teacher in the balls, metaphorically and probably literally as well.
Animal-Themed Superbeing: Averted in the present day but Taylor mentions that in the past many heroes went the easy route and stuck -hawk or some other bird of prey on the end of their names. Laserhawk, Flame Falcon, Steel Eagle, Cockatoo etc. before it became unfashionable.
Another Dimension: The story takes place on Earth Bet, which has a certain amount of communication with Earth Aleph thanks to a cape named Haywire — limited to data, but enough to transfer (among other, more important things) the alternate-universe versions of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Episodes 1 and 2 of which the Undersiders watch in Agitation 3.4.
Shadow Stalker, a former vigilante hero in Brockton Bay, became a probationary member of the Wards after nearly killing someone pinning him to the wall with one of her crossbow bolts, and as such restricted to using nonlethal bolts. (That said, as such, she didn't always obey said restriction, and she had as a vigilante and was willing to as a Ward kill with her bolts.)
Flechette's superpower allows the bolts from her arbalest (and the throwing-knives which inspired her hero name, and anything else) to pass through or embed themselves inanything, up to and including Endbringers and Scion.
Anti-Villain: The Undersiders and the Travelers. In some ways, Cauldron.
Anyone Can Die: The Wormverse is a dangerous place. Supervillains play for keeps, and the Endbringers are guaranteed to have a huge bodycount every time they show up.
Appeal to Force: Somewhat played with. Skitter likes to resort to threats because she does not really like to hurt people, and hopes that scaring them off would avoid lethal consequences.
Skitter: It won't be pretty. Brown recluse venom makes your muscles necrotize. That means it decays while you're still alive. It takes days, but the only real cure is taking a knife to the area around the bite. That might be okay if you have one bite, carve out a half-pound of flesh, let the wound drain, stitch it up. But what if you have three or four bites? Or ten? It's excruciatingly painful. Nothing you experienced during your initiation into the ABB even compares, I can guarantee it. You're rotting alive, your flesh turning black as it liquefies. So maybe you shoot me. Maybe you even kill me, though I doubt it. Either way, whether I walk away from here alive or not, you get bitten. They're already on you. All three of you.
Arbitrary Skepticism: In a world where huge numbers of people have powers that flat-out defy the laws of physics, everyone still thinks the capes who interpret their powers as magical are completely bonkers. While they're technically correct to dismiss magic, this still bites them in the ass — aside from a very thin coating of supernatural interpretation, Glaistig Uaine was one of the few people who knew exactly what was going on, and everybody ignored her solely because she used the word 'fairy' instead of 'alien'.
Armed Blag: When the Undersiders are contemplating a Bank Robbery in Agitation 3.3, Alec asks why they don't hit an armored car instead. Tattletale points out that it's no easier than just knocking over the actual bank.
Ascended Meme: Not so surprising, given the abundance of comments each episode. The author even takes time to address minor points that get asked a lot (e.g.: how does the invincible Alexandria cut her invincible hair?) when it does not break the flow of the story.
Another recurring meme: the worst possible way to tempt fateIn-Universe is saying "meh, I could take her" when confronted with Taylor. No matter how overpowered you are it's a guaranteed curb stomp. And then a Big Bad — Jack Slash — says "Eh, I can take you" to her face.
Asshole Victim: The first people attacked by the Slaughterhouse Nine are the Merchants. Your heart bleeds.
Assurance Backfire: Weaver's attempt to reassure Cuff that wearing metal won't make her vulnerable to Behemoth's lightning attacks doesn't come out so well.
Weaver: I don't think you're any safer or worse off than anyone else. His lightning doesn't follow regular channels. We're all lightning rods to him. (Beat) Wanton:Not reassuring.
Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Averted, almost everyone with powers starts as a physically normal person, while the others have monstrous appearances typically unrelated to their powers. While some change appearance later or due to their power(s) most don't even go that far, instead faking stuff like fancy hair as part of their disguise.
Badass: Any successful cape, but there are a few that stand out even among that crowd:
Taylor, the protagonist. She has gone toe-to-toe with — and come out victorious against — opponents ranging from local supervillains to local superheroes to internationally-known mass killers like Leviathan and the Slaughterhouse Nine, and she has done so with literally bug control powers.
Armsmaster may be a self-centered overconfident jerk, but he can make almost any opponent look like a chump using nothing but his ferocious training and Gadgeteer Genius tech — even Leviathan, who needed to break the laws of physics to defeat him.
Badass Army: The Dragon Teeth. The best PRT soldiers armed with the best of Dragon and Defiant's gear.
Badass Bystander: When Skitter is fighting Mannequin, a unnamed man runs over and helps drag away and smash his head. That took major guts to do. The guy later gets a major rank in Skitter's organisation just because of it.
Badass Normal: Coil's mercenaries and the PRT, all of whom fight alongside and against capes with only training and (relatively mundane) technology. Special mention goes to one of Coil's snipers who is pushed off a three story building and breaks his leg, but still manages to follow Skitter's directions and snipe the teleporting bastard that did it to him.
Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: A recurring theme, starting when the villains of the town (excepting the Merchants) ally to take down the Azn Bad Boys after the ABB starts its bombing spree. The fact that the Undersiders and the Travelers do so much to defend the city from the Merchants and the Slaughterhouse Nine in the wake of Leviathan's attack ends up becoming a major plot point when a large fraction of the highschoolers of the town ally with Skitter over the Protectorate when the latter try to capture the former at Arcadia High.
Big Bad: Several exist in Brockton Bay. Lung, Kaiser, and Coil are the resident big bads at the beginning of the story. Skitter later turns into one.
Bigger Bad: Class S threats which include the Endbringers, Echidna, Sleeper, Nilbog, Cauldron, and the Slaughterhouse 9 as a group. As the scope of the story expands, some of these groups take on a more conventional Big Bad role.
Scion is becoming one to the Endbringers by means of his greatly enhanced potential for devastation.
Big, Badass Wolf: Bitch's newest pet, a wolf cub she named Bastard, can turn into one.
Taylor first meets the Undersiders when they attack Lung before he recovers from being pepper-sprayed enough to be able to see her.
In Interlude 14, a group of ex-ABB thugs were about to attack some of Skitter's other minions when Skitter arrives and drives them off.
Bittersweet Ending: Scion's attack was devastating, but humanity is shown to be well on its way to rebuilding. And Taylor wins — and even survives — but she has to give up almost everything to do so, including her powers and all her friends.
Black and Grey Morality: The protagonists are (morally grey) supervillains while the main heroes are working for a mysterious and unethical organisation (also grey, as it does create superheroes) and plenty of other superheroes are seriously messed up. However, although these heroes and villains fight, they all are willing to team up against the really evil threats like the monstrous Endbringers and mass murderers like the Slaughterhouse Nine.
Blessed with Suck: While being a parahuman grants you extraordinary abilities, you have to have something truly awful happen to you to get them, many have nasty side effects, they can turn you into a target or resource to exploit for others, there is massive societal pressure for you to fight the Endbringers, and it's been revealed that the entities that grant abilities are intelligent and might be exerting some negative mental influence on your actions. The majority of parahumans shown seem to have quite a few issues.
Blown Across the Room: Leet is blown so hard into a wall by one of his own light bombs that Taylor briefly thinks he died.
Bluff the Impostor: The fact of Regent's People Puppets power leads to Weld subjecting Shadow Stalker to this test when she shows up with several members of the Undersiders in custody.
Bodyguard Babes: The twins Menja and Fenja fufill this role for Kaiser. Until Leviathan shows up and Kaiser and one of them die
Body Horror: There are quite a few sources of this in the Wormverse; the most prolific is probably Bonesaw, who calls it 'art'.
Boring but Practical: Skitter's extendable baton is surprisingly effective against various capes and villains.
Boxing Lessons for Superman: Members of the Wards are required to take lessons (e.g. in the theory of parahumans) as well as do patrols. Many villains train or research to improve their powers as well.
Break the Cutie: So many get broken in this setting. Parian is probably one of the more prominent examples.
The speech that Eidolon's clone gives to the entire army of Protectorate and Wards heroes in Scourge 19.6 does this by driving a wedge between the Case 53s and the rest, as well as undermining their confidence in the entire organization they work for.
This is Tattletale's usual battle strategy when she has to deal with opponents personally.
It is later revealed that Contessa is capable of this as part of her powers and so is Scion, who takes out an opponent with just four words.
Breather Episode: Between the action the Undersiders just hang out and shoot the breeze with each other.
Burn the Witch!: It is mentioned that there are more trigger events in third world countries — witch burnings in Africa are mentioned by a professor giving a lecture on them.
The Bus Came Back: Faultline's crew decided to leave and look for answers on Cauldron after the Endbringer attack. Although they're featured in several interludes, they're absent from the main story for several arcs before they return and assist in banishing Echidna.
Bus Crash: Grue, who hadn't made it off the oil rig.
Cape Busters: The Parahuman Response Teams — PRT — are organizations of unpowered humans trained and equipped to fight supervillains.
Cardboard Prison: "The amusing but relatively harmless villains get a regular jail cell, they inevitably break out before the trial concludes, and the cat and mouse game starts again." The reason for this is that the safe villains are popular, entertaining, and occasionally helpful against the Endbringers. However, the actually evil villains get sent to The Alcatraz.
Cassandra Truth: Skitter and the Undersiders are greatly distrusted by the heroes when trying to inform them about greater threats. Perhaps justified as the heroes see them as somehow corrupting various people or using disasters to further their own powerbase.
The Cavalry: Just when it looks like Mannequin is about to crush the immobilized Wards, Skitter rides to the rescue on a flying beetle bearing grenades.
Cell Phones Are Useless: Shatterbird's scream destroys all the electronics in the city, including cell phones. This makes Brockton Bay even more dangerous since no one can call for help in the city, and it's much harder to get news about where villains/gangs are.
Changed My Mind, Kid: In Extermination 8.5, when Leviathan has just left the shelter and knocked Skitter — at that instant the only cape in position to track Leviathan's movements — face-down into the water with a broken back, Bitch turns up with a pack of empowered dogs, rescues Skitter, and keeps Leviathan tied up fighting on the street long enough for Scion to arrive.
The insecure, nervous, near-suicidal girl aspiring to be a hero that Taylor was at the beginning is very different from the supervillain who calmly executed Coil and felt bad for not feeling any guilt over it ... who is in turn different from the antiheroic loose cannon of a superhero that Weaver becomes, who is little like the omni-controlling borderline insane entity that Khepri ends up as.
Bitch has noticeably improved in social situations, by her standards, thanks to Taylor's friendship.
Cheap Costume: Since anything bought can be tracked, those parahumans who do not join the government superhero organizations have put their own costumes together, with varying results. Taylor is one of the exceptions — she uses spiders to weave one out of spider silk.
She plays this trope to an extent when she needs to have a completely different costume due to joining the Wards. The new costume is essentially made out of spare costume parts they had on hand; Taylor eventually makes a new spider-silk costume, however.
In Extermination 8.1, the leader of a contingent of kid heroes brought in to fight Leviathan is "a shirtless, muscled boy with metal skin, eyes and hair" whose name is never given. The tags on the bottom of the entry, however, confirm that this is Weld, who is brought in to lead the Wards in Sentinel 9.1. (Fletchette, featured in Sentinel 9.2, is also present during the Endbringer fight.)
Thomas Calvert is introduced in the first bonus chapter of arc 16 (told from Piggot's Point of View) as the second survivor of the failed Nilbog mission. Cue another, later chapter of same arc which reveals that Coil's civilian name is Thomas Calvert.
Oliver, the Non-Action Guy of the Travelers, turns out to be the key to defeating Scion.
Chekhov's News: The day after the Undersiders rob the bank, that event is pushed off the front page of the local paper, the Bulletin, by a report of a kidnapped child — specifically, Dinah Alcott, targeted by Coil for her precognitive abilities.
Chest Insignia: A few superheroes and supervillains. Every member of New Wave has their own stylized one.
Clark Kenting: The government keeps the identities of heroes secret to protect them and their families from retribution of villains. Averted by New Wave, who have gone public with their identities, though they seem to be the only ones for the foreseeable future due to the unbelievable terrible luck they have experienced since going public.
Colony Drop: One of the Thanda uses this as his primary means of attack.
Content Warnings: The author warns that this is a dark story and not your typical superhero setting.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: After a few thugs hurt a Japanese couple in her territory, Skitter introduces them to the wonderful anatomy of bullet ants.
Cooldown Hug: In Prey 14.8, when Skitter is trapped in the agnosia fog and deeply paranoid about trusting anyone, Grue gives her one. Wait, did we say "Grue"? We meant Jack Slash.
Coordinated Clothes: The Travelers all dress in black and red, New Wave dresses in similar white and their preferred color costumes, and the Wards wear identical concealing body suits to help surprise the 9.
Cornered Rattlesnake: When the PRT send Dragon and Defiant to capture Skitter in a cafeteria full of people, part of their reasoning is that by using this trope to drive Skitter to threaten the lives of hostages, they will undermine the Undersider's good will among the people of Brockton Bay.
Flechette considers Skitter one after she convinces Parian to work with her.
Several of the Slaughterhouse Nine seem proficient in this to some extent or another, most notably Jack Slash, at least partially because of his hidden Thinker power that lets him spot weaknesses and communicate with other parahumans' passengers.
Cosmic Retcon: When Buzz 7.9 was rewritten, wildbow said the previous version was "canon in many respects" ... because the previous version was an alternate universe that Coil terminated.
Costume Copycat: Coil i.e. Calvert replaces Skitter with a highly convincing body double as part of his plot to keep Dinah over Skitter's objections.
America and Canada have formed the Protectorate, which is the largest gathering of heroes in the world and also has the powerful of them in its ranks. They provide support and leadership to other heroes all over the world and generally act more like police than a military unit. They cover all of North America and are in talks to cover Mexico as well. Parahumans are generally treated well, and they seem to have quite a few parahuman immigrants. Though the US in particular has a lot of villains, and they have had to deal with more S class threats than anyone else.
Europe has many individual teams of heroes in different countries but they aren't united like the Protectorate. They have only one other S class threat to deal with besides the Endbringers, the mysterious Sleeper, who primarily stays in Russia but does roam around.
South America has many villains being government controlled or working for Cartels. The few heroes working to help people are treated like villains by many goverments.
Shatterbird's interlude shows that at least a few Middle Eastern countries' heroes act more like military than police.
India's "capes" are divided into two groups, ‘hot’ and ‘cold’, with very strict rules on who falls into a category. Hot, is about flash, color, appeal, and engaging the public. Villain or hero, they are treated as cape celebrities. Cold, deals with bloodshed, violence, assassination and secrecy. Capes of the underworld that the public doesn’t see or hear and the media does not speak of them. Those between the two groups get the worst of both.
Africa is mentioned as having some of the greatest concentration of Trigger Events and Parahumans in the world with witch burnings against them being mentioned. At least a few areas have no government to speak of and are ruled by powerful parahuman warlords who rise and fall quickly with one notable exception.
Japan in the past had many heroes and even a large group of them that dressed like Sentai Rangers. Though Leviathan's devastating attack killed over 9 million people, left millions more homeless, killed most of their heroes, and reduced Japan to a third world country that requires a lot of aid from the rest of the world. As a consequence they only have a small handful of heroes in the entire country.
China has a very negative view of parahumans. They have many parahumans, including a few American villains that were sold to them by others, brainwashed and forced to join their military organization called The Yàngbǎn. It's members are given a number, wear the same concealing costume, and they are not treated as individuals. They have found a parahuman that can have most of it's member's powers weakened and shared between each other, with all of them being trained to fight as a unit. Anyone who acts differently is shunned.
Due to how trigger events work, villains greatly outnumber the heroes, with the imbalance getting worse as more heroes are killed trying to limit the damage of the Endbringers. Many of them have quite a few mental issues and have very dangerous powers. Mass killings, attacks against civilians, killing heroes, and large amounts of destruction are treated as shockingly common things. In other parts of the world, things are even worse with some places being true hellholes run by parahuman warlords. Trickster states that buildings in the Wormverse are built to be much tougher than normal because everyone is expecting an attack of some kind.
There is a vast, and powerful conspiracy of people that can give people powers and are committing large crimes against humanity on a regular basis. They claim they are doing it to save the world and have been doing it virtually unopposed/in secret for almost thirty years. They have had a hand in creating some of the worst monsters in the series, have potentially tens of thousands of victims they have killed, kidnapped, brainwashed, and worse. Despite it all, their efforts might have been for nothing.
The head of the main government hero organization is under the aforementioned conspiracy's control and have carefully controlled it's leadership with the top three heroes in on the conspiracy. The last three PRT directors in Brockton Bay were a racist, secretly a murderous super villain, and a Knight Templar warmonger who was willing to cross any line, respectively. The other directors seen have not been much better. The organization itself has displayed numerous examples of needless stupidity, short sightedness, and questionable morals in its decisions. A few of the "heroes" aren't much better than many of the villains they fight.
The fringe elements that in our world are effectively powerless are much more dangerous in the wormverse if they can recruit parahumans. Cults, hate groups, even random drug dealers are much more powerful and influential.
The Birdcage has been called a monstrous, unfair, and terrible place by its creator, other PRT Directors, and many readers. You are not given a chance of parole and are at the mercy of the inmates. Many prisoners do not deserve to be there but are sent there because it is the only place that can hold parahumans.
As Taylor explains when she infiltrates Nilbog's territory, the people in the Wormverse have to always wonder if this is the day someone terrible gets a terrible power and a lot of people get killed. Nilbog is so dangerous that he got away with killing thousands of people because the government is afraid of provoking him into expanding from his small town, the Nine have been in operation for at least a decade and have killed thousands, including children, without ever being stopped, and then there are the many other S class threats in the world which are exceptionally horrifying and powerful.
The Endbringers are slowly, systematically, and inevitably destroying the world piece by piece. They have killed tens of millions of people, and caused an unbelievable amount of destruction, pain, and suffering. When the world begins to celebrate when one of them is finally killed, many people fall into despair when another three show up.
It's all but stated that the Endbringers specifically target anyone who could make the world a better place in any meaningful way. Sphere, who was about to solve world hunger and the world's energy problems was corrupted into the serial killing Mannquin, Dragon's father was killed before he could make more AI like her or ease her restrictions, and Panacea was silenced before she could get the word out about the passengers and what Scion would ultimately do.
The source of parahuman abilities seem to be intelligent and are believed to be negatively influencing the actions of parahumans as they seem to crave conflict.
All that up above and it actually gets worse. Scion, the only being who could fight off the Endbringers is actually the source of half of the world's parahumans and his goal all along was the destruction of the world. He decides to try and kill humanity off early thanks to Jack and starts blowing things up left and right. Billions of people are killed by his rampage, and many of the major factions went into hiding or started to fight one another believing that nothing can stop Scion.
Cauldron has this as a service. They will kidnap someone, turn them into a case 53, wipe their memories, and program them to lose to a specific person. An innocent gets sent to the birdcage/killed so a client can look like a good hero.
Crisis Crossover: Despite being a stand-alone series in its own closed continuity, the major fights against the Endbringers (and to a lesser degree other S-Class threats) give of this vibe. This is partly because of the many interludes that show us brief glimpses into the lives of Heroes of Other Stories and the large amount of worldbuilding being done.
Cruel Mercy: Skitter mentions how Shatterbird and Cherish probably wish that they were dead.
Curb-Stomp Battle: The Undersiders completely dominated the second fight they had with the Chosen, and they didn't even have all of their members at the time.
Cute and Psycho: Both Bonesaw and Imp fit this in different ways. Bonesaw because she looks like a 12-year-old girl with golden ringlets, who performs horrifying biological experiments on her victims, and Imp because she is described as a pretty teenage girl who shows great enthusiasm for walking up to people and stabbing them under the cover of her power.
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: It is almost impossible in the wormverse, because Tinkers are the only ones who can create and repair their own equipment and they have a very specific area of expertise. While in the past a few did nothing but build their devices and play tech support for them, it didn't work out due to severely limiting their ability to innovate and come up with more useful/powerful equipment and they just couldn't build enough of them by themselves to really change things. With a few exceptions such as Dragon tech, mass production is all but impossible.
Dark and Troubled Past: Just about everyone with powers in the setting. There's a reason for this, however. For a character to unlock their latent powers in the first place, they need to have what's termed as a 'trigger event' in the setting. As Alec phrases it, "For your powers to manifest, you're going to have to have something really shitty happen to you." The only real exceptions come for children or siblings of parahumans and Cauldron's clients.
Dark Is Evil: Legend states that most heroes wear brighter colors as per this trope.
Dark Is Not Evil: Taylor and Alexandria both wear darker colors despite their heroic intentions. Although Taylor becomes a villain and Alexandria's interlude casts some doubt on her 'not evil' status.
Dark Secret: In 14.1, when Cherish offers to help the Undersiders and the Travelers fight the Slaughterhouse Nine in exchange for being given two minutes to air their dirty laundry first, it becomes clear that someone in the Travelers has one.note Later chapters suggest that this is probably Trickster covering up for Noelle's Horror Hunger.
A Day in the Limelight: The majority of the story is told in the first person from Taylor's perspective, but each arc includes at least one third-person-limited Interlude chapter following another character's perspective on the situation, and a few arcs (9, "Sentinel"; 17, "Migration") are told entirely from the perspectives of other characters. (As a rule, no character gets more than a single interlude chapter from their perspective; the major exceptions up through Arc 26 have been Armsmaster/Defiant, Francis Krouse i.e. Trickster, and Theo/Golem.)
Deadly Dodging: Contessa uses it to great effect against Weaver and the Chicago Wards.
Used by Skitter to take down Triumph with an ambush of bugs falling from the roof over the steps out of his house. She noticed from being ambushed by Mannequin that humans almost never look up.
Later used when she comes across a cape that has a PowerNullifier ability. She ties a string of silk to the handle of a nano-knife and has her bugs carry it to where she estimates the center of the effect to be. After swinging it through a few blind passes, the effect (and presumably the cape generating the field) drops.
De-power: In Battery's Interlude, Doctor Mother mentions that someone in Cauldron can permanently remove parahuman powers. It gets used on Taylor at the end of the story.
Despair Event Horizon: Cherish passed hers not long after being trapped in a life-support unit with her negative senses cranked up to the max and forces anyone who comes near her prison to feel it too.
Taylor crosses it after failing to prevent The End of the World as We Know It, rendering all the sacrifices she has made for the past two years meaningless, and learning of her father's death. She would have killed herself if not for Tattletale.
Differently Powered Individual: People with powers in general are known as "parahumans," while those who put on a costume and try to become a villain or hero are referred to as "capes." Parahumans who try to use their power for neither crime nor crime-fighting (e.g. Parian, who takes paying jobs animating cloth mascots as promotional stunts) are referred to as "rogues."
Dirty Business: A running theme of the story. A straightforward example occurs in Interlude 15 when Triumph wants to point out that Defiant is Armsmaster, a known criminal and fugitive from justice, but is convinced to pretend he didn't notice in order that Defiant can fight the Nine.
Divided We Fall: Following Scion killing off half the world's population and everyone's efforts being incapable of stopping him, various groups decide to fight amongst themselves believing it's hopeless to resist.
Doomed Hometown: Defied — Brockton Bay sure gets more than its fair share of trouble, but those invested in the city go to great lengths to save it from being destroyed. That is, until Scion razes most of it to the ground, along with much of the rest of the area.
Do Not Go Gentle: The Undersiders decide to do this after failing to stop the end of the world. They talk over their priorities a little first.
Canary: This is us? We're whiling away the time until the world ends? Giving up like everyone else? Tattletale: What? No. Fuck no. Imp: No. Wait, did anyone think that? Because I was thinking this was more us trying to decide what the hell we need to do before we throw ourselves into one final, suicidally reckless attack. Taylor: Basically. Minus the suicidally reckless part. There's other stuff we can try first. But yeah. I think we're mostly on the same page here. Bitch: Go out fighting. Tattletale: Go out fighting. Taylor: Nothing held back. Right. I'll need my stuff.
Dope Slap: Grue subjects Regent to a few of these when he won't stop wisecracking during the fight against Behemoth, partly because many of them are about how Grue is going to die.
Double Standard: The double standard between heroes and villains really pisses Skitter off when she argues with Flechette about how people dismiss the many mistakes the heroes have made (to say nothing of their occasional but outright crimes) while dismissing most villains' good deeds as for some underhanded purpose.
The Drag-Along: After the Undersiders rescue Panacea from Siberian, she decides to come with them — but is very uncooperative during the fight against the Nine.
To ordinary citizens, the Slaughterhouse Nine seem like unstoppable horror movie monsters. The heroes treat fighting them the same way they do the Endbringers or other class S threats.
Speaking of which, the Endbringers have killed millions of people, destroyed entire islands and cities, caused a water crisis, are one of the main reasons that Heroes are always outnumbered because so many die fighting them.
Skitter, of all people, became this, as did the rest of the Undersiders to a lesser extent.
Turns out the reason Tattletale was so intent on defying this with Taylor was because her brother had committed suicide. She'd noticed he was acting differently before he died but didn't know why and, as they weren't particularly close, didn't really care about finding out. She got her powers from the stress of trying to figure out why he died, what she could have done, and her parents blaming her for not speaking up when she noticed how her brother was acting.
Dwindling Party: Unsurprisingly, given the body count, a few cape organizations undergo severe attrition:
The Brockton Bay Wards — which only had seven members to start with — is possibly the clearest example: even before the Time Skip, Aegis and Gallant are both killed by Leviathan, Browbeat moves to another city, Shadow Stalker ends up in juvie after Regent gets through with her, Chariot (their only recruit) was a traitor to start with and vanishes in the aftermath of Coil's arc, and Weld (transferred in to lead them) leaves the Wards altogether when the truth about Cauldron comes out. By Venom 29.2, Vista is the last member of the original group who didn't leave the Protectorate and/or die.
Legend is the only member of the Triumvirate that survives the story.
The Undersiders team up with the other villains of the city to deal with the ABB, whose reckless destruction was disrupting business and bringing down too much heat on the city.
When fighting class-S threats like Endbringers or Echidna, it's (theoretically and usually) standard for heroes and villains to set aside any differences.
Everyone ends up teaming up to stop Scion. It fails.
Entertainingly Wrong: The events of June 20th (Arcs 18 and 19) end up being classified because the evil clone of Eidolon created by Echidna revealed the truth about Cauldron to everyone. Then Interlude 19 (Donation Bonus #2) shows us a thread from the In-Universe Parahumans Online forum, where from the sketchy data they have they come up with theory which is not only false, but leads them to specifically rule outthe existence of evil duplicates of prominent superheroes.
Equal-Opportunity Evil: Unlike the ABB which only accepts Asians, and Empire Eight Eight which only accepts whites, both Coil and the Merchants only care about how useful you are.
Everyone Can See It: It is obvious to all the other members of the Undersiders—even Alec, who doesn't pay any attention to such things, and Rachel, who is literally as blind to such things as a human being can be—that there is something between Taylor and Brian.
Evil Versus Oblivion: When the Endbringers attack the heroes and villains will call a truce to fight against them.
Exact Eavesdropping: Subverted in Gestation 1.3, when Taylor hears Lung ordering his followers to murder children and attacks, only to discover that what she heard was Lung laying out the rules of engagement for a fight with a gang of teenage villains.
Extranormal Prison: The Birdcage was specifically designed to be proof against escape even by the most powerful parahumans.
Eye Scream: Some of the most disturbing acts Taylor has committed fall into this category.
After Taylor and Lung's second fight, the latter's eyes are cut out of his head.
Skitter and Valefor's fight ends with the latter being blinded when his eyes are filled with live maggots.
Faking the Dead: The supervillain Coil attempts this as part of his plan to take power in his other identity, Thomas Calvert.
Foil uses a similar tactic to get the drop on Gray Boy.
The Simurgh also employs it in the final battle against Scion.
False Flag Operation: In Monarch 16.13, we learn about an operation in which Coil used a young child solider and a device made by Leet to fake a betrayal of the Undersiders by Skitter, thereby allowing him to both kill Skitter and keep Dinah, whom Skitter wanted freed. Unfortunately for his plans, Skitter survived.
Fate Worse Than Death: What happens to Cherish and Blasto when the Nine catch them. Also what Shadow Stalker and Shatterbird must have felt while under Regent's control.
First Episode Spoiler: Taylor joins a team of supervillains, instead of becoming a superhero like she sets out to do.
Flash Forward: After the appearance of a new Endbringer, the story skips to almost two years later, when Taylor is just turning 18 and about to be inducted into the Protectorate.
Flying Brick: There are quite a number in the setting — it is referred to in-universe as the "Alexandria Package", Alexandria being the most famous flying brick around. That said, their powers work in different ways, even leaving aside the other powers that a number of them (including Alexandria) have.
Flying Firepower: Usually referred to as "flying artillery", this is another standard role that parahumans in the setting — such as Legend, Alexandria's teammate in the Triumvirate — fulfill.
Skitter: There's a sweet spot as far as rep goes. Having a pet Endbringer puts us in the 'too scary to be allowed to live' category.
Earth Bet deviated from Earth Aleph 30 years ago, when Scion appeared in Bet but not in Aleph. The foreshadowing here is two-fold: The fact that Haywire couldn't find anything closer speaks to Scion deleting excess timelines, and the fact that Scion is the only difference at the time speaks to his involvement in the world's powers.
Glory Girl's appearance after getting altered by Panacea turns out to be based on Panacea's vision of Eden during her trigger event.
From Bad to Worse: Taylor and Brockton Bay can not catch a break. The most dramatic examples for the latter are the Leviathan attack followed by the Slaughterhouse Nine.
Another dramatic example occurs when the defeat of Jack Slash leaves him in a position to talk Scion into turning against humanity.
Gadgeteer Genius: People with the "Tinker" class of superpower, such as Armsmaster, Leet, Bakuda and Dragon, though some are more competent than others.
It is revealed that Tinkers actually derive their designs from the accumulated knowledge of their passengers, which have recorded the technologies of alien civilizations.
Gag Penis: The male members of the Chicago Wards decide to prank Weaver in Scarab 25.1 by stuffing their tights in the crotch area and wearing gigantic codpieces.
Gaining The Will To Kill: Skitter first uses lethal force to try and kill Coil, though she admits that he likely has an antidote to her spiders' venom. Later, however, she does end up executing him.
Coil: You're not a killer. Skitter: No... but I suppose, in a roundabout way, you made me into one.
Glamour Failure: Brian mentions in his interlude that Taylor acts more confident than a normal person does due to her power. For example she never looks around when the wind hits her or when she crosses the street because she knows everything that is happening in a several block radius.
Good Is Not Nice: Several of the good guys showcased thus far have not actually been genuinely good people. It doesn't help that most people acquire powers by going through an incredibly traumatic event. The heroes who gain powers from Cauldron fall even harder into this trope.
The story uses this along with all the various related tropes to drive home its divorce between powers and the person's moral nature. Probably best seen in Bonesaw of the Slaughterhouse Nine who is young, cute and has implausible science powers in seemingly any biological field. She can perform impossible surgeries and even bring the dead back to life if their body is intact. Unfortunately she has no apparent sense of morality and her idea of fun and interesting ranges from bad to very bad.
Panacea is terrified that she is doomed to become this despite or perhaps because of the psychological strain of her massive healing powers.
GPS Evidence: Tattletale is able to use to prove Armsmaster's guilt during the Endbringer attack using Dragon's armbands.
Gravity Sucks: Bakuda fires off a grenade that creates a miniature (but thankfully temporary) black hole.
Grenade Tag: Skitter uses a belt of grenades to help save the Wards from Mannequin.
Groin Attack: Skitter used these prominently on a couple occasions:
On her first night out, when she was trying to take down Lung before his Hulking Out reaches a point where she can't hurt him, she sent her flying insects to attack his face and the crawlers (including her spiders) to attack "other vulnerable areas".
I did my best to ignore the feedback that I got from that particular attack, as I most definitely did not want the same kind of topographical map that the swarm had provided just a minute ago.
Second, during the assault on the dinner post-ABB, she aimed her baton at this point on a speedster — who, as she found out to her dismay, had opted not to wear a cup to minimize friction.
Had To Be Sharp: When Taylor visits the high school in Chrysalis 20.2, she instantly notices how different the people who stayed in town during the events of the prior sixteen or so story arcs were from people people who did not — a difference reflected in (for example) their attitude towards weapons.
Healing Shiv: When the Simurgh stabs Leviathan with a black, serrated sword, and he drops from one blow it was surprising enough for the assembled capes. But then he stands up again, with power upgrades.
Heart Is a Terrifying Power: to give an example, one of the most scary serial killers of the setting has the super power of... being a really nice guy. Bystanders would consider him really nice even while he was disembowelling people left and right.
Heel-Face Turn: Bonesaw has a dramatic one when influenced by Contessa.
"Hell Yes" Moment: There's been a few ( The portal and Calvert's death among them) but among the least ambiguous thus far is Chevalier's interlude, number 24. Behemoth down, bitches. And of course, The End.
Helping Would Be Killstealing: Part of the Nine's survival game. They each take turns trying to kill the different candidates, until Skitter and Piggot change the rules.
Heroes R Us: The Protectorate, the Wards, and the New Wave are organizations of superheroes; the former two are backed up by the PRT, which is a non-parahuman organization.
Heroic Host: It turns out that many parahumans get their powers by entering a relationship with some kind of interdimensional being — these are often referred to in story as "passengers". These beings are later discovered by readers to be fragments of a larger being.
Heroic Safe Mode: In 20.5, Skitter drops into this when she realizes the Protectorate has co-opted Dinah to use against her, after everything she went through to make sure her powers would not be abused by anyone.
She Who Fights Monsters: It becomes easier and easier for Taylor to commit violence over the course of the time she spent in the Undersiders; readers were shocked at how vicious she was when she beat Triumph.
Holding the Floor: In 13.9, Skitter strikes up a conversation to try to give Parian time to ambush Bonesaw.
This is mentioned as a typical tactic for Endbringer attacks when the target can stand it: Stop the Endbringer from destroying too much until Scion arrives.
In Arc 8 (Extermination), after Clockblocker freezes Leviathan, Armsmaster explains that Plan A (winning the fight on their own) is no longer feasible, and all they can do now is hang back and try to minimize the damage until Scion arrives.
In Plague 12.7, Skitter's plan to tie up Mannequin with spider silk relies on doing this.
In Crushed 24.5, Exalt orders the surviving capes to make a stand at the temple to gain enough time to evacuate the wounded.
Brian: I worry about you. You throw yourself into these situations like you don't care if you die, like you've got nothing to stick around for except for those people you insist on protecting. Dinah, the people from your territory. People you barely know, if at all. And then you actually make it out okay, so you do it again, only more so. Riskier stuff. I start thinking about how I'm supposed to protect you, get you to stop, get you to focus on a goal that's actually attainable, because you're so capable that you could be amazing if you stopped acting suicidal.
Hope Spot: Interlude 26b, when the heroes manage to defeat most of the Slaughterhouse Nine and Jack Slash is trapped in an infinite time loop ... right before Jack convinces Scion to wipe out humanity in the next chapter.
In case that wasn't different enough, Atlas serves as such to Taylor, while many of Parian's creations are used as transportation.
How Do I Shot Web?: While most parahumans have a learning curve for their power, this comes into play most when people with powers like Grue's or Regent's are trying to use someone else's.
Hyper Awareness: Possibly because she spent so long avoiding bullies, and partly because of her power, Taylor doesn't miss much that happens around her; a good example of this comes when she notices that Bakuda's jeep didn't have any dent on it from hitting Grue.
I Just Want to Be Normal: Members of the Travelers like Noelle and Sundancer wish they had a nice, normal life without their powers. Presumably this holds true for many others of those who gained powers from trigger events.
Identity Amnesia: "Case 53s" are people with powers, no memory of their pasts, and tattoos in the shape of a stylized U or an upside-down Omega.
If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Aisha has acknowledged that she doesn't know how to help Brian, so she is trusting Taylor to do it instead. But warns that she will make her life a living hell with her powers if she screws it up.
Inherent in the System: Canary's "trial" showcases why there are probably more than a few villains/parahumans who refuse to surrender or work with the authorities because they know they won't be treated fairly.
In Medias Res: Scarab 25.4 opens with Taylor desperately dialing Glenn — with her reason only revealed after she gets off the phone and joins the rest of the Chicago Wards walking onto the set of a morning chat show.
Done by Skitter again to herself when she figures out that Dragon survived their fight. Skitter had always said "Fucking Tinkers" out of frustration as they send yet another weapon to harass the Undersiders. This time it's out of relief, that Taylor hadn't killed her favorite surviving person to get at the resources she was guarding.
Skitter lures Echidna/Noelle into a trap this way in Scourge 19.6.
Later, several characters think Skitter is pulling this when she surrenders to the PRT. She isn't.
I Work Alone: The lack of a strong support network is a big predictor of trigger events and most parahumans are loners by nature. Taylor believes this is the reason that parahumans are so screwed up as a community.
Despite this, very few heroes and only slightly more villains actually do work alone.
Kaiju: The Endbringers are basically superpowered giant monsters, Leviathan being a giant scaly monster with the power to control water on a scale that can destroy cities and Behemoth being a one-eyed colossal creature with energy manipulation powers (heat, lightning, sonic, etc) and is known as "The Herokiller". Simurgh is somewhat weirder, looking like a many-winged female angel with a short term insanity effect and being more of a schemer than a rampaging monster, using her powers as one of the setting's Seers to predict how to cause the most damage by triggering future events. For example, Smiurgh turned a brilliant Tinker Scientist with plans to improve the world into the serial-killing Mannequin by killing his family and destroying his projects. These three Endbringers are responsible for Japan being a third-world nation, Newfoundland being underwater, large parts of Brockton Bay being in ruins and much, much worse. It takes the most powerful hero in the world just to stop one of their rampages, and they're one of the reasons that there's so few heroes compared to villains, as heroes regularly get killed while trying to limit the damage caused by Endbringer attacks. And then, after Scion kills Behemoth, three more show up: Khonsu (with time-manipulation and teleportation powers), and Tohu and Bohu (a pair of Endbringers, with the former turning the landscape into a series of traps while the latter defends her).
Kansas City Shuffle: Coil's plan to take over Brockton Bay incorporates one of these: he arranges for Coil to "die" attempting to take over the mayor's job, and steps into the PRT Director job during the aftermath as his Secret Identity Thomas Calvert.
Karma Houdini: Many superheroes are guilty of major crimes which are then covered up in the name of good. On the flip side, many of the worst villains—notably including Jack Slash and the rest of the Slaughterhouse Nine—never receive any major consequences for their actions.
Kick the Dog: Bakuda does this twice in short succession. She detonates a bomb she implanted in the head of one of her (involuntary) Evil Minions during a bout of Evil Gloating, because he wouldn't shoot one of the protagonists at her command. Then, to drive home a point about unpredictability and fear being an effective tool, she detonates another such bomb in the midst of her minions with no justification or warning at all.
Killed Off for Real: Quite a few people have joined the fallen list on the cast page as the story goes on.
Killed Offscreen: The author has claimed/threatened to have a certain fondness for this trope and the body count to back it up: Battery, Siberian, Raymancer, and Rime among others all died offscreen. But the worst one was probably Grue.
Laser-Guided Amnesia: Bonesaw's miasma causes everyone in it to lose the identities of everyone they know. They can remember the history and experience of people, but not what they look like.
Laser-Guided Karma: Sierra is told to pick having her hand or knee being shot by a former member of Lung's gang. When Skitter rescues them, she asks the gang member the same question but with a bug whose venom causes your skin to rot off.
Last Stand: As of Crushed 24.5 the capes in New Delhi are prepared to do this against Behemoth's retaliatory strike.
Lethal Harmless Powers: Worm loves this trope. A lot. Anyone on-camera with a seemingly odd or overspecialized power (such as Taylor herself) can be relied upon to do something clever with it.
The trope is explicitly discussed by Miss Militia in Scourge 19.2 when the Echidna battle forces various capes to rethink how effective or dangerous seemingly harmless powers can be when utilized by individuals with nothing holding them back.
Superpowered intuition sounds as harmless as it gets, until the little girl in question starts talking about punching a hole in the universe.
Tattletale: Okay, well, imagine that this woman got powers that let her turn into something so wrong that she's got some sort of mental block that keeps her from transforming if anyone can see. Maybe because she's so ashamed of being seen like that. When nobody's looking, though, she's a monster. Lightning fast and all sharp. Skitter: That's... Tattletale: Not even remotely close to the truth. But it's the best I can offer you. Don't take your eyes off her.
Taylor [referring to the stack of papers she brought]: Six vicious emails, Sophia pushed me down the stairs when I was near the bottom, making me drop my books, tripped and shoved me no less than three times during gym, and threw my clothes at me while I was in the shower after gym class had ended, getting them wet. I had to wear my gym clothes for the rest of the morning. In biology, Madison used every excuse she could to use the pencil sharpener or talk to the teacher, and each time she passed my desk, she pushed everything I had on my desk to the floor. I was watching for it the third time, and covered my stuff when she approached, so on the fourth trip, she emptied the pencil sharpener into one of her hands and dumped the shavings onto my head and desk as she walked by. All three of them cornered me after school had ended and took my backpack from me, throwing it in the garbage. Principal [making a sympathetic face]: I see. Not very pleasant, is it? Taylor: That's September eighth. My first day back at school, last semester. September ninth— Principal: Excuse me, sorry. How many entries do you have? Taylor: One for pretty much every school day starting last semester. Sorry, I only decided to keep track last summer. September ninth...
Second, when Bonesaw uses her plague to render almost everyone in town unable to identify people by looks or mannerisms.
Lotus-Eater Machine: When things actually go right for a short time for our main character in Chrysalis 20.3, she is so confused by the unfamiliar experience that she suspects this might be going on and mentally goes through a list of enemies who might have this sort of power.
This is the reaction to the realization that the Slaughterhouse Nine have arrived in the city by any teams that have found out before they announce their presence. Aftewards, it is the reaction of the rest of the city.
The reaction of the Merchants who invaded the Boardwalk, once they realized what they were dealing with.
The Chicago Wards have this reaction in front of a live audience when they are informed of the appearance of Khonsu, the fourth Endbringer.
Meaningful Background Event: During Skitter's first bank robbery, Tattletale is described as wandering off to the bank manager's office, ostensibly to use the computer systems there to monitor the response of the authorities and the security cameras. She's even able to give the Undersiders some warning when the Wards are scrambled. We find out later that she had also used the opportunity to skim a portion of the robbery's take and bank assets to her own personal funds. Just one of many such instances she used to build a financial powerbase that would rival Coil's.
Meaningful Echo: At the beginning of Cell 22.4, Alexandria makes a speech about the inevitability of her actions. Skitter echoes this speech after suffocating Alexandria by coating her lungs with a layer of insects and spider glue.
Skitterdefies this trope when Bonesaw takes apart Grue.
The only reason Sundancer was capable of killing Noelle was because it was this.
Mood Whiplash: A particularly vivid (and spoilerish) example comes here: the chapter goes from lighthearted drama (Weaver making an emergency phone call to Glenn) to comedy (the Chicago Wards appearance on a stupid morning talk show) to horror (an entirely new Endbringer appearing).
Mook Horror Show: When Taylor completely annihilates the 28 merchants who attack her territory. She scares the crap out of them as they are brutally mauled by creepy, humanoid, figures made out of bugs. She could have beaten them in an instant, but takes her time to freak them out so that they'll spread the word about what happens to anyone stupid enough to attack her territory.
A lot of heroes do this, but the most important example, storywise, is Armsmaster screwing over Skitter and turning a possible hero into a definite villain.
Another case occurs when Tattletale arranges for Noelle to be subjected to constant irritating noise as part of her plan to keep Coil distracted so she can take him down.
Jack Slash being frozen by Gray Boy leaves him in the perfect position to convince Scion to end the world.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The ABB are very guilty of this, even if unknowingly. They are directly responsible for starting a convoluted series of event, ending in Taylor's trigger event; Lung in particular is responsible for Skitter joining the Undersiders. They did get some "help" from other villains (Coil and Shadow Stalker), but ultimately it's because of Skitter that they get wiped out. Karma works in very convoluted ways.
No Dead Body Poops: Averted, when Marissa's friend Chris dies Krouse notes that his bowels had released, and even corrects Luke when he assumes that the smell outside was from a broken septic pipe and not all the dead bodies created by the Simurgh.
Noblewoman's Laugh: Done by Clockblocker as an attempt to imitate Skitter when discussing how she knew so much about his powers during the Fight with Echidna.
Noodle Incident: Several new ones are introduced after the timeskip. There is mention of a fifth and sixth Endbringer, how Mockshow became Romp and joined the Wards, Imp murdering Heartbreaker and adopting his kids, The Undersiders teaming up with the Red Hands (and the Red Hands' existence in the first place), and a war of some kind that happened with China due to Perdition's attack.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: In-Universe, Skitter is widely considered to be one of the less dangerous supervillains in town, or indeed in the Undersiders — both because "bug control" sounds weak and because her distaste for hurting people means she doesn't have a track record of mayhem like a lot of the others. This is part of what contributes to an entire series of enemies underestimating her, climaxing with Alexandria not realizing Skitter could kill her singlehandedly.
It's not that they underestimate her power as that they fail to understand exactly what "scales up in power with the number of bugs in the area" means. Taylor's power is one of the few that has a *fuel*... sure, that's a limitation that's pretty harsh in the first few minutes when a can of Raid can cripple her, but it also means that, given a moment, she can essentially gather more power, more effectively the more trapped she feels. Alexandra thought it was a good interrogation technique to lock her in a small room for hours... that's a lot of bugs.
Not Quite Saved Enough: While many of the members of the Nine are dead or worse, Jack is still alive, and Dinah has made the prediction that should he survive, he will be the catalyst for the end of the world .
Tattletale figures out the weaknesses to both Glory Girl and Siberian's powers. The Undersiders use it to great effect.
Later, Skitter learns Alexandria's weakness.
Odd Friendship: When Skitter first met Bitch, Bitch set her dogs on Skitter and Skitter retaliated by knocking her down and then kicking her in the head. In spite of this, and in spite of later incidents between them as bad or worse, they end up being as much friends as Bitch's No Social Skills would allow her to be with anyone.
Omniglot: One of the capes from the Birdcage has this ability, and he can bestow it unto others.
Only a Flesh Wound: Somewhat averted. Brutes are usually much harder to hurt than everyone else, and those with powers that can heal work very fast. But healing is a very complicated process and thus true healers are very rare in the Wormverse. There are also clear and hard limits on what they can accomplish. Many injuries and healing times are handled realistically and even Brutes' recoveries can be long and grueling.
Tattletale: Hold on. You're talking about Ballistic and Sundancer using their powers without limits, you want to use Noelle, now explosives? Skitter: And I'm talking about me using black widows, brown recluses and every nasty bug I have at my disposal. I'm talking about us packing guns and grenades. All of us. No holds barred.
Open Secret: In Interlude 15, it's fairly obvious that everyone in the Brockton Bay Protectorate and PRT knows instantly that Defiant is Armsmaster. Triumph is the only one who attempts to say anything.
Opt Out: When Director Piggot draws a Line in the Sand prior to the confrontation with the Slaughterhouse Nine, Chariot and Kid Win don't step over it for different reasons. Kid Win's mother wouldn't forgive him if he went into that fight, while Chariot is The Mole.
Out-Gambitted: Tattletale manages to outmaneuver Coil/Calvert in order to catch him in a trap he couldn't escape with his power.
Panacea: There is a hero literally called Panacea. She is able to cure any injury or disease not of the brain.
She can also cause other types of physical changes in organisms, up to and including bugs which improve the range of Skitter's power, a giant beetle, and, to Panacea's horror, changing the way people think about her.
Patrick Stewart Speech: In Crushed 24.4, Taylor gives such a speech to a man about to detonate a bomb that would kill the heroes fighting Behemoth, convincing him to cooperate with them, instead.
Pay Evil unto Evil: This comes up a few times during the story with regard to Regent's use of his power to control people's bodies:
First, when the Undersiders need to take over a member of the Wards, they target Shadow Stalker, whom Skitter knows to be a violent sadist from the horrifying bullying campaign Shadow Stalker's civilian identity perpetrated on Skitter's civilian identity.
Second, Regent and Tattletale justify the creepy stuff done to Shatterbird on the grounds that she has been a mass murderer and torturer for years.
Third, Tattletale justifies taking Victor to Skitter by explaining that he is just as bad a human being as Shadow Stalker
Playing Possum: In Interlude 26b, Foil uses her power to pretend to have been hit by one of Gray Boy's time loops until Gray Boy's back is turned.
Police Are Useless: Before Leviathan attacked, the heroes and the police couldn't do any meaningful damage to the villains. After, many villains are doing more to help their (new) territories within the city than they are. As Skitter explains to Miss Militia and Clockblocker, she sees the PRT as one part The Fettered, one part Dirty Cop.
Poor Communication Kills: Lampshaded and defied in 19.2 when Skitter realizes Weld is telling Miss Militia what an evil clone told him — that Skitter killed their boss, Thomas Calvert — and goes to set the record straight.
I slept, but it was less like parking a car and more like running one into a ditch. I'd fallen asleep not by any choice on my part, but because I'd ceased to function. Over the past few days, I'd hit my limits of endurance, only to push past them over and over.
Power Born of Madness: Well, psychological trauma, really. Most parahumans have their latent powers activated during a "trigger event" or a time of extreme stress that pushes the person to the breaking point. This may explain why there are more villains than heroes in the Wormverse, and even the heroes usually have a lot of psychological baggage. However, those who had their powers artificially induced by Cauldron do not need a trigger event, a feature which Cauldron claims results in more heroes.
The Power of Legacy: Imp is undertaking a variation of this with the help of the Heartbroken. Anyone who is impinging on Taylor's (and by extension the Undersiders') schtick after the Scion War in a negative way gets restrained, declawed, humiliated, and then left to their own devices.
Power Levels: Along with a classification, every parahuman's powers are rated numerically in terms of strength, with the Endbringers having a 10 in at least one classification. That said, it is possible for a parahuman to be rated above a 10; some parahumans have rankings as high as 12.
Power Perversion Potential: Quite a few powers have obvious potential in this way; Heartbreaker's use of his power to form a harem is a fairly obvious example.
Power Trio: Several prominent ones exist in the wormverse.
The three Endbringers who seem to represent the classic three elements of air, water, and earth.
The Triumvirate consisting of Alexandria, Eidolon, and Legend are the most powerful heroes in the world.
Bonesaw, Jack Slash, and Siberian make up the unchanging core of the Slaughterhouse Nine.
Skitter, Grue, and Tattletale are called the trio by Imp because they tend to make all the plans for the Undersiders' operations.
The three Blasphemies that plague Europe, though little is known about them.
Protagonist Journey To Villain: The first nineteen or so arcs describe how Taylor went from a bullied schoolgirl with dreams of being a superhero to Queen of the Brockton Bay underworld. That said, the trope is subverted after that, when Taylor quits the Undersiders to join the Wards, believing, based on Dinah's predictions, that this is the best way to save the world.
Leviathan is ultimately forced to retreat by Scion but a lot of people are dead, most of the city is destroyed, and it's sheer anarchy in the streets.
Taylor ultimately escapes the ambush at her school and humiliates/shames the heroes for their actions. But her identity is outed to the world, she can't see her dad anymore, and she acknowledges that she may never be Taylor Herbert again. From now on she is just Skitter.
Jack Slash is finally defeated, but he uses that to convince Scion to destroy the world.
The way Tinker powers work in the universe make it so much of a pain to make Tinker-tech compatible with mass production and maintainable by ordinary human beings that most Tinkers don't try.
Every few months, massive Kaiju with superpowers emerge and attack a major population center, often resulting in millions of casualties. Most science and gadget heroes are understandably focused on this issue.
There are strong suggestions that the Endbringers actually target people who try to avert this trope, as in the case of Mannequin.
Accord, a supervillain, attempts to avert this trope using his superhuman planning skills — he has a plan that could end world hunger within twenty-three years — but generally fails due to his psychosis and the fact that nobody takes him seriously due to said psychosis.
Parian and Flechette (later Foil) get one when the latter makes her Hazy Feel Turn.
Required Secondary Powers: During the Endbringer arc, it was strongly implied that some parahumans don't have them. Most parahumans seen on screen seem to have them, though, or have figured out some way to compensate. In some cases, the secondary powers are actually as useful or even more potent than the powers they enable. Taylor's power to control insects, for example, turns her into someone who has the multitasking and mental processing capability to control, detect, and receive input from literally hundreds of thousands of individual creatures at once. Without this power, she wouldn't be able to pull off many of her most spectacular stunts.
In Buzz 7.11, Taylor figures out the reason Coil paid so well for the bank job was to distract local heroes while he kidnapped Dinah.
A particularly big one comes at the end of Extermination 8.6: Sophia Hess (one of the bullies) is Shadow Stalker, a member of the Wards and this is probably why no action was taken over the bullying incidents at school.
Another big one comes at the end of Monarch 16.9: Coil is Thomas Calvert, the new director of the local PRT.
One which is simultaneously greater and smaller than either of the prior comes in Scourge 19.7, when we discover that for the first sixteen entire story arcs, the main motivation for Tattletale's actions was to save Taylor from committing suicide.
Rock Beats Laser: Taylor escapes a cage made of cutting edge nano robots using a lighter.
Roof Hopping: Flechette mentions in Sentinel 9.2 that Brockton Bay isn't as well suited to this as her native New York because of the varying building heights. That doesn't stop both Shadow Stalker and the Undersiders from traveling this way on occasion, however, as both of them have the ability to perform superhuman jumps — Shadow Stalker in her shadow form, and the Undersiders when riding Bitch's dogs.
Imp: I like your line of thinking. The world gets destroyed by some loser who jacks off twelve times a day to the freakiest, nastiest parahumans. Clockblocker: Thank you. For so eloquently demonstrating what I was saying about us deserving it. Imp: No problemo. Toggle: That doesn't exist, does it? Case fifty-three porn? Kid Win: Everything exists.
Running Gag: Noted and adopted into minor memes by the comments section.
"Is it lunchtime already?" Started when Taylor notes in Buzz 7.3 that Hilarity Ensues around lunchtime — by the end of that chapter she has had to deal with encounters with bullies, her recruitment into the Undersiders, the bank robbery, and the Empire Eighty-Eight thugs attacking Bitch at her dog shelter between the hours of eleven and two, and it doesn't stop there.
Skitter's distaste for tinkers is made explicit in 14.8, and referenced again and again thereafter as they show up with more devices.
Scry vs. Scry: Precognitives (and certain classes of Thinker) can interfere with the abilities of other precogs. Including the Simurgh.
Security Cling: Dinah refuses to be separated from Taylor after being rescued. But very justified as her power told her that she was the best chance she had for being rescued and she was the only one doing everything she could to help her.
Self-Destruct Mechanism: Coil's base has a phone-activated system for demolishing the building. Tattletale activates it in order to trap Noelle/Echidna.
Sentai: Japan had a team of heroes that dressed like them pre-Leviathan.
Serial Escalation: The antagonists that Taylor faces go from bullies at her school to local gang leaders to city-killing monstrosities ... and worse. Justified in some cases, such as when the Slaughterhouse Nine appear specifically to capitalise off the chaos caused by Leviathan's attack in the previous arc.
Shiny New Australia: This pretty much sums up Coil’s approach to recruiting. Especially in his offer to Taylor that he will help improve the city districts her father has long tried to restore.
Shipper on Deck: In Cockroaches 28.5, Imp discusses all the possible girls Taylor could end up with, including herself, with some squicky details thrown in for good measure. Then again she might just have wanted to mess with Canary after she failed to realize whyParian and Foil wanted to go someplace alone.note This happens afterCanary did time in the militant lesbian terrorist section of the prison
Shoot The Dangerous Minion: Coil decides to kill Skitter after she helped his plan to conquer Brockton Bay reach fruition, as he knows that she would oppose his continuing to hold Dinah Alcott prisoner.
Shoot the Dog: In Sting 26.6, Weaver shoots Aster to prevent Jack's Slaughterhouse Nine from doing their thing and possibly causing the end of the world.
When held hostage by Azazel, Dragon's most advanced suit, Skitter tries to confuse it with a paradox, only for it to reply "I’ll go with true. There, that was easy." Skitter notes that Dragon must have a liking of popular culture that she wasn't aware of.
Simulation Game: In Drone 23.4, Weaver invents a simple one involving the players gaining superpowers, choosing whether to be heroes or villains, and rolling dice to choose the outcomes of a series of encounters.
Slave to PR: In Drone 23.1, it is revealed that members of the Protectorate and Wards are required to work with the PRT Image department to maintain the right kind of heroic appearance — even when, as in Weaver's case, doing so interferes with effectiveness. Played with when it turns out that there's actually a very good reason why she should be worrying so much about PR.
Slumming It: Taylor gains quite a bit of money through her actives as Skitter, but never spends any of it. Justified with keeping her cape life secret from her father and her guilt at how she earned the money.
Sophisticated as Hell: In the latter chapters, Imp expands her vocabulary quite a bit, but she still has absolutely no tact, which leads to this.
So What Do We Do Now?: When Lisa i.e. Tattletale realizes that she has successfully given Taylor the self-confidence she needs (see The Reveal), her actions become more and more reckless (like trying to expose Cauldron right in front of the Triumvirate) as she seeks a new goal.
First, in Hive 5.5, Tattletale comes up with the following (which doubles as a source of Trust Passwords on a few occasions):
Tattletale: "We'll be using a password system every time we check in, in case you're taken hostage and forced to answer a call. Two parts to it. The first part is simple, you give the other person the first letter of one of our names, the other person replies with the last. If it winds up being a longer night, move on to other people we know. [...] The second part is color based. When you're replying to a call, name an object that's a certain color. Think traffic lights. Green for go, everything is okay. Yellow for warning, if you aren't sure about things. Red for stop, need help. It lets you keep us informed without tipping off the capes that are with you."
Second, in Chrysalis 20.1, we see that Skitter has developed an open code so that she and her minions can covertly exchange information via text message without raising any flags if someone sees their text messages.
Third, starting in Sting 26.2, the teams fighting the Slaughterhouse Nine clones start using password systems to protect against Stranger-type enemies.
Start of Darkness: Interlude 19 shows how and why Emma went from Taylor's best friend to her bully, starting the day Emma first met Shadow Stalker.
Stock Superpowers: In-setting, powers tend to fall into a number of classifications. Capes tend to fall under at least 1-2 (or more) classes, with ratings defining how strong they are in each category.
Street Urchin: Rachel, Lisa, and Alec have all at one time or another spent time living on the street and committing crimes to survive after running away from their nasty home situations.
Superheroes Wear Capes: Averted — few parahumans wear them. Taylor explains how awkward they can make you look, and only a few people have the right body type to pull it off.
Superpowerful Genetics: Played with — children and siblings of parahumans have trigger events more easily, but adopted children also have trigger events more easily, making it more a case of Lamarck Was Right.
Super Power Lottery / Superpower Russian Roulette: Worm fits both tropes, in two forms. There's the standard unpredictable trauma-induced trigger events, which grant powers that vary in their strength and usefulness, but so far there haven't been any particually negative-for-the-possessor trigger event powers. The Super Serum also has a Super Power Lottery, as each serum has a general theme (e.g. Balance, Division, Jaunt, Robin — whatever any of those mean) but the actual power that you get varies greatly within that theme. While most are fairly average, you could become one of the most powerful people on the planet or become a deformed monster. Or, as does happen, both. The early Super Serums were particularly bad in terms of physical changes...
Sympathetic P.O.V.: Discussed with regard to Uber and Leet, who in fact make most of their income by selling subscriptions to their Internet TV show.
Take Five: In Drone 23.3, when Weaver mentions the defection of the Vegas capes, Glenn Chambers sends everyone else out of the room so they can talk privately.
Take That, Audience!: In Sting 26.3, Clockblocker complains that "[s]ome dingbats online speculated that I had a thing for Weaver, and it took off." This is, of course, a direct jab at the substantial Shipping contingent among the fans who insist these two characters would be awesome together.
Taking You with Me: Behemoth attempts to pull it off via radiation bombing. Fortunately, he fails.
Talking to the Dead: In Imago 21.2, when Taylor describes to her mother's grave what she's done as Skitter, and talks about what she needs to do.
Tele-Frag: An unknown cape uses this to kill Kismet in Crushed 24.3 by teleporting his hand through his chest.
The fact that Armsmaster is actually under arrest for violating the truce is kept secret.
Later on, the trope is inverted with Alexandria's death.
Truce Zone: Somer's Rock acts as this for the villains of Brockton Bay. The Travelers' remarks imply that most cities have such.
Unexplained Recovery: In the final chapter, Taylor is shown to be alive and perfectly well, save for a prosthetic arm, despite having lost her ability to communicate with other people in any way, most of her ability to think clearly, and then shot in the head by Contessa twice, and with her powers mysteriously gone. Taylor even remarks that she isn't sure how this happened, though she has suspicions.
Unishment: In Hive 5.4, Taylor argues that giving her bullies a two-week suspension for their campaign of abuse against her constitutes this. To her surprise, she discovers in Buzz 7.6 that Sophia, one of the three bullies, was suspended from the track team as well and hates her for it.
Unreliable Narrator: On several occasions, such as whenever Imp is using her power, when Bonesaw unleashed her agnosia plague and when Taylor's shard starts to take over.
Several heroes, especially Shadow Stalker who is a straight up sociopath who is implied to have killed people before, and — BIG SPOILER — The Triumvirate, who are actually working with Cauldron.
Coil aka Thomas Calvert after the most recent events.
Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: The story appears to start out like this in the very beginning and then deconstructs it hard. Although the Wards are enrolled in a program where they go to the best high school in the city, which has an agreement with the city government that helps protect their identities and lets them out when needed in a heroic capacity, other capes do not have such a great school experience. Taylor starts out using the superhero life as an escape from the bullying she puts up with at school, and later on stops going to school at all. Brian, the oldest of the team, already graduated and takes care of his younger sister, Lisa tested out early using her power to cheat on the GED test, and Alec and Rachel never went to school regularly due to their unstable, extremely dysfunctional home lives. Later on, when their hometown is ravaged by monsters and supervillains, all the schools are pretty much shut down, and school doesn't really seem to matter anymore when everyone is just struggling to survive on a day-to-day basis.
The Bonus interlude of Chapter 14: The top heroes in the world may actually be villains controlled by Cauldron, the Endbringers are going to destroy the world in a few decades if the world doesn't end first, and Brockton Bay might be turned into a No Man's Land condemned by the government.
Cell 22.4: Alexandria seemingly kills one of the Undersiders, and in return Taylor uses her bugs to kill Tagg and Alexandria herself by filling her throat with them. It bears repeating, Taylor killed one of the most powerful capes on Earth Bet.
And again, when a relatively light chapter ends with Behemoth attacking.
Interlude 26. After thinking about what Jack said about being predators, Scion — previously known as "the first and greatest superhero in the universe" — destroys England. And decides he likes the feeling.
In Prey 14.8, when Bonesaw, who was impersonating Tattletale, drops an Out-of-Character Alert line that Skitter doesn't recognize because of the effect of the fog.
In Chrysalis 20.3, when Taylor is reading some paperwork, she sees her address listed as 911 Incoming St., alternate address 9191 Escape Ave., because she's been made and the superheroes are coming.
Dinah's notes: 1. Cut ties. 2. I'm sorry.
Interlude 27b isnothing but a single Wham Line, from Scion to Eidolon. It counts as one both in and out of universe, because that one statement completely shuts down Eidolon and lets Scion casually kill him while he's locked in a Heroic BSOD.
Taylor: We needed a destructive force we could direct. Needed to turn third-party liabilities into assets. With that in mind, I'd set course straight for the Simurgh.
Whatever Mancy: Some Powers in Worm fall under this, but their applications are as varied as the individual who wield them and are categorized as such. This often makes for mismatches between categories and the actual nature of the powers: for example, of two capes with telekinesis, one that uses it to pick up parts of their environment and kludge it together into a golem would be called a Master, while one that uses it to effectively pick up and throw themself around would be called a Mover.
Chrysalis 20.5 has Taylor calling out Dragon and Defiant for breaking the unspoken superhero/supervillain rules by outing her secret identity in front of a cafeteria full of high school students — a maneuver which, incidentally, could have put a lot of civilians in danger. Her arguments are actually compelling enough that a third of the students join her and help her escape from the superheroes.
Later chapters (e.g. Weaver's first session with Yamada) have this being done to Taylor herself, due to some of her more questionable decisions.
What You Are in the Dark: Taylor does whatever she can to help innocent people and tries to stick to her morals no matter what the circumstance. Her actions during the latter part of the Leviathan arc demonstrate this.
Winds of Destiny, Change: The parahumans multiverse of Worm contains a number of straight up probability warpers, enough that it is a well known power set along with "speedster" and "the Alexandria package" and others. Given the author's style no such simple version features in the story proper. Instead we see Shamrock who appears to have this power but in fact just has a whole host of smaller powers which effectively do the same thing and Coil, who can achieve this as one effect of his ability to create a parallel dimension.
Word of God: Wildbow occasionally gives a few info dumps about the world and various topics in the Wormverse. Past attacks by the Endbringers, clarifications on powers and unseen characters, etc.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Several villains who have done disgusting and horrible things have some truly shitty backstories such as how Riley became Bonesaw, Bitch's entire life till the point she met Taylor, and the things Heartbreaker forced Regent to do as a kid.
After the attack by Leviathan, large parts of the city became this. Imagine New Orleans right after Katrina, but filled with super powered criminals and psychos who regularly steal supplies and worse. This is beforethe Slaughterhouse Nine comes to town. Things get so bad that the government considers condemning the whole area.
Las Vegas is also known as this due to the sheer number of villains, its heavy hitters made up mostly of thinkers, tinkers, and strangers, where even the local heroes are far grayer than in other places.
Wrong Side of the Tracks: Before the attack by Leviathan, the town was relatively evenly divided between the prosperous, tourist-friendly Boardwalk and the ghettos of the Docks.