Worm is a 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 the summer of 2011 and has since updated regularly with installments released on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The story has earned much praise, with reviewers and readers citing creativity of individual powers, flow of writing, detail and action scenes as selling points of the work.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. It spans from meta analysis, much like on this page, WMG from spot on to crackpot, Dark Comedy, up to short stories in its 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.
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 using Lisa 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.
A Day in the Limelight: The author regularly does Interludes between chapters or because of donations that focus on someone other than Taylor, to avoid being limited by the 1st person format, to build characterisation, to allow the Foreshadowing of future events or just to show the reader how the other characters are getting on. They often feature major information that is either not present in the main story or is not revealed until much later.
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 not come out. Despite the powerful people it holds, no one has every escaped.
All There in the Manual: The cast page describes the powers of several characters who haven't been seen much in the story.
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.)
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/Brian after he was caught by Bonesaw.
Cherish, after she was caught by Bonesaw.
Animal Themed Superbeing: Actually averted in the Wormverse, except maybe for Bitch. Most parahumans put quite a lot of thought into their names.
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. Don't worry, they still suck.
Annoying Arrows: Not so annoying. Shadow Stalker has severely wounded and killed people, including Grue, with her crossbow bolts, and Flechette's power made her arbalest bolts one of the few things that could penetrate Leviathan's hide.
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.
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.
Asshole Victim: The first people attacked by the Slaughterhouse Nine are the Merchants. Your heart bleeds.
Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Averted, everyone with powers starts as a physically normal person. 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.
When you have the guts to take on powerful villains, the Nine, and a goddamn Endbringer with a power that others would consider weak like Taylor has, you more than earn the title.
While no one denies that Armsmaster is a selfish asshat, and his plan ultimately didn't work, you have to give him props for going up against Leviathan. This baseline human did more damage to that monster than the most powerful heros and villains combined with his tech. The only reason he didn't kill it is because it's body literally breaks physics to make all damage relatively superficial.
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.
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 monsterous Endbringers and mass murderers like the Slaughterhouse Nine.
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.
Body Horror: There are quite a few sources of this in the Wormverse; the most prolific is probably the tinker Bonesaw, who calls it 'art'.
Boxing Lessons for Superman: Members of the Wards are required to take lessons as well as do patrols. Many villains train or research to improve their powers as well. Skitter is at least competant at martial arts.
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.
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.
Can You Hear Me Now?: Dragon pulls this on all of Brockton Bay at the beginning of Chapter 16, Monarch.
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.
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.
Character Development: Many characters change over the course of the story. The very insecure and nervous girl who wanted to be a hero 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Gestation 1.1, the three bullies dump juice and soda all over Taylor when they find her hiding in a bathroom stall.
In Arcs 18 and 19, Echidna leaves many of her opponents coated in vomit.
CPR Clean Pretty Reliable: It is actually shown realistically by Taylor with a overweight cape who was seriously injured by Leviathan. She gurgles up the water and everything.
Crapsack World: The Endbringers are getting closer to destroying the world, having destroyed entire cities and killing millions of people. Due to how trigger events work, villains greatly outnumber the heroes, with a few being exceptionally horrifying and powerful, and some of the “heroes” of the world are anything but.
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. The Chosen are actually embarrassed at how easily they were beaten.
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.
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. That said, 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.
Interludes are placed between story arcs, each a chapter centering around another individual or group, offering events or exposition from their perspective.
The six parts of Arc 9 (Sentinel) each follow a different member of the Brockton Bay Wards.
Arc 17 (Migration) also centers around a different group, namely the Travelers, the arc serving as their Origin Story.
Death from Above: 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.
Despair Event Horizon: Cherish passed hers not too long ago and forces anyone who comes near her prison to feel it too.
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.
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.
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, and based on predictions they will destroy the world in a few decades if their rate of destruction doesn't change soon.
Dwindling Party: The Brockton Bay Wards — which only had seven members to start with — suffers repeated losses over the course of the first nineteen arcs: Aegis and Gallant are both killed by Leviathan, and 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 — the hero transferred in to lead the team — leaves the Wards altogether when the truth about Cauldron comes out.
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 standard for heroes and villains to set aside any differences.
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.
Everyone Can See It: It is obvious to all the other members of the Undersiders — even 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 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.
Fan Nickname: there's some interesting cross-contamination between the story and the comments. note which is not surprising by itself, since the comments are part of the medium after all
Echidna's codename was proposed on the comments section way before an In-Universe character came up with it.
The Simurgh's nickname of "the smurf" originated from a somewhat confused character In-Universe who could not remember the official name. It immediately got adopted by the posters in the comments.
Fantastic Racism: Apparently averted — possibly because both heroes and villains fight and die in large numbers opposing the Endbringers.
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.
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.
Skidmark: No, no. You definitely don't want to do that.
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.
Gadgeteer Genius: People with the "Tinker" class of superpower, such as Armsmaster, Leet, Bakuda and Dragon, though some are more competent than others.
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.
Godzilla Threshold: The Endbringers have caused so much death and destruction in the world that, according to Word of God, nukes have been used against them. It didn't work.
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.
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.
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 changes 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 parahumans get their powers by entering a relationship with a being known as a passenger.
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.
Holding the Floor: In 13.9, Skitter strikes up a conversation to try to give Parian time to ambush Bonesaw.
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.
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.
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: There exists a whole subgroup of people with powers that have no memory of their pasts and tattoos in the shape of a stylized U, or 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.
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 collosal creature with energy manipulation powers (heat, lightning, sonic, ect) that mean that its 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 turning a brilliant Tinker Scientist with plans to improve the world into the serial-killing Manaquin 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 Broketon 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 regually get killed while trying to limit the damaged caused by Endbringer attacks.
While the story is not entirely about them, it's not really an example of Rent A Zilla because they are an important part of the setting and explaining their appearance is likely to be a significant part of the Meta Origin of the setting.
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.
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.
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.
Lethal Harmless Powers: Worm loves this trope. A lot. Anyone on-camera with a seemingly odd or overspecialized power 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.
The author was answering a few questions about power classifications and presented with a hypothetical parahuman with a weak power of making words appear on any surface. Within moments he figured out a way to turn said parahuman into a hitman.
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.
Line In The Sand: Director Piggot offers this to the Wards in Interlude 13 when discussing the plan to deal with the Slaughterhouse Nine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
Not So Different: Mannequin implies this when he tries to recruit Armsmaster into the Slaughterhouse Nine.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: For a long time in the story, Skitter's ability is seen by the city at large as weak and the PRT considers Tattletale and Regent more dangerous. She later shows them how very wrong they are.
Not So Invincible After All: Tattletale figures out the weaknesses to both Glory Girl and Siberian's powers and the Undersiders use it to great effect.
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.
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.
Pay Evil unto Evil: Both Alec and Lisa argue that there is nothing wrong with Alec using his power to take over Shatterbird's body and use her for his purposes because she is a mass murderer and deserves much worse.
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.
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.
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.
In Chapter 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 Chapter 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 Chapter 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.
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.
Serial Escalation: The antagonists that Taylor, faces go from bullies at her school to local gang leaders to city-killing monstrosities ... and worse.
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.
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.
Interlude 19 shows how and why Emma went from Taylor's best friend to her bully, starting the day Emma first met Shadow Stalker.
The first seven arcs could be considered one for Skitter.
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.
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.
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 usefullness, 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...
Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Everyone who didn't get their powers from Cauldron. Part of the reason why the majority of capes are female and/or manifested in bad parts of town/the world.
Treachery Cover Up: The fact that Armsmaster is actually under arrest for violating the truce is kept secret.
Truce Zone: Somer's Rock acts as this for the villains of Brockton Bay. The Traveler's remarks imply that most cities have such.
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.
Several heroes, especially Shadow Stalker who is a straight up sociopath who is implied to have killed people before, and — BIG SPOILER — The Triumverate, 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.
War Arc: This is pretty much the Extermination arc in a nutshell. Heroes and Villains from all over join forces to try and fight off Leviathan. It doesn't go so well.
Webcomic Time: The first chapter was posted on June 11th, 2011, covering story events on the morning of April 8th, 2011. Chapter 16.7, posted on December 15th, 2012, covers the morning of June 19th.
Welcome Back Traitor: Skitter is allowed to rejoin the Undersiders after being outed as a mole — though it took Grue and (especially) Bitch a while to forgive her.
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.
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.
Two capes might each have telekinesis. If one uses it to pick up parts of their environment and kludge it together into a golem they'd be a Master. If the other uses it to effectively pick up and throw themself around, they'd be a Mover.
What the Hell, Hero?: Among other examples, 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.
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 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.
Wretched Hive: 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.
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.