We Don't Need Another Garth Ennis
Ok picture this scenario: It's a story about a team of Anti-heroes who do what they will with whatever morally-ambiguous means necessary to get the job done at stopping crime, while at the same time complain that the Superheroes who do exist suck at their job and that what they do is actually the better way, especially sense the story is written so that they're always right. Now from that assessment, am I talking about The Authority, The Boys, or Worm? Because they're really all have the same premise. Which makes this web series already contrived from the start. Yet it only gets worse from there. In fact, I would wager even Garth would think this story goes too far. This series is beyond dark. Not just dark in it's setting or it's characters or even in their morality. It's in the utter doom and gloom that seems to start with bullying incidents towards Taylor, all the way to what amounts to bullying that she does as a supervillain. Put simply, the big problem with the story I have is that, I honestly do not care what happens to these people. The trope Darkness Induced Audience Apathy was made for this series. None of the characters come off as sympathetic or even likable in the end as they all carry shades of evil or jerkass. They do all sorts of despicable actions from mutilation, torture and even Rape. All of which they consider justified. If the characters come off as utter assholes, then why should I care what happens to them? Not to mention that how the story just keeps on ramping up the sheer amount of deaths in order to keep up with its Loads and Loads of Characters it's not so much a harsh crapsack world but more like a contest seeing if you can guess who'll be killed next. What's just as worse is the style of writing the author has chosen, It can best be described as first person/stream of consciousness. Events and actions go by so fast, I have no clue what I just read and then the story will just carry on like I had any clue about what was just said. The story carries on, and I just lose interest because it prefers to practically say how excellent it is without worrying if the audience thinks it really is. I seriously don't recommend this series. Avoid at all costs if you can.
Excellent Start, Serious Fatigue
The series has a lot of good things to say about it. The focus on a c-list supervillain which is always interesting, character development is top notch, the world build is unique and engaging, and the villains, while a bit overpowered, are more interesting to read than usual due to the mystery surrounding their origins, similar to the original Doomsday storyline in DC Comics. But then, there are the flaws of the story, and boy are there flaws. Nothing dealbreaking, the series is definetly worth a read for anyone with even a minor interest in superhero fiction, but the last third or so of the series, or really, everything after the Time Skip suffers from serious pacing problems. It stops being an engaging story about a metahuman using what seems like a crappy superpower in original and creative ways, and becomesa boring, drawn out race against nothing. It takes FOREVER with even the most minor of plot advancements, and the author tried to mash way too much exposition and last minute drama during the final few story arcs, and it doesnt help that it really feels like the author ran out of steam for the epilogue. I'd rate this story 7/10, worht checking out, but there could have been more than it ended up with.
A fun story packaged in an awkward structure.
This series is basically what happens an an author gets a bunch of good ideas, realizes he has them, then trips and scatters them to the four winds. The Good: It takes your standard superhero tropes and approaches them in ways not often done. This combined with the power system of the series, which more closely resembles Anime-style hax than your standard Western work, makes a world that's pretty compelling to explore. The characters also often come up with some pretty novel ideas to abuse their powers in interesting ways. The author also did a good job of making the odds they faced seem truly terrifying, suspense and tension were rampant. Burning through the archives late at night to see how an arc ends is to be expected upon reading this. The Bad: The author seems to see playing a trope straight as a personal failure on his part. While originality is good, it got to the point where I realized he was subverting tropes for the sake of doing so and not to actually improve his story in any way. Attempts at Realism in the setting often came off as awkward and forced in as a way to make the series "deeper". The characters seem to develop in circles, and while that's arguably much more realistic than the linear development of most works, it made it harder to empathize with them and I lost interest in most of them after a few times around the wheel. And despite the originality, not much of it is something to stick with you for a long time. The only lesson this story seems to teach is "Life sucks sometimes", which hopefully most people can figure out for themselves. It's not here to make you a better person, it's here to give you a fun ride. The Ugly: It suffers from a pretty terrible structure. The writer is obviously skilled, but he takes the first person perspective to a fairly insane degree. It helps put you in the shoes of the confused characters, but it also makes for a very confused reader. The ways events occur is often unclear and sometimes never properly explained. This more than anything else made the series difficult to get through for me. If this guy had a proper editor I feel like this story would be improved immensely. Can't blame it for being a web serial though. Worm has originality going for it, but narratively, it falls on it's face. Still, i'd recommend it, if you don't mind awkward structure it can be a fun read.
Much to love, much to hate.
Worm can be polarizing on first glance. As the front page states, it starts with the hellish landscape of contemporary high school at its worst and then transitions to "the more uplifting setting of a bombed-out city at the mercy of a roving band of psychopaths." (I wish that was only the slightest bit of hyperbole). However, I personally can't get enough of it. This is for several reasons. One: The characters are fully-realized and compelling, if not necessarily sympathetic. Of course, if you want to focus solely on the wrong things they do, (and perhaps ascribe things to them that they are innocent of) that's your prerogative. Part of this is Wildbow's knack for inventive powers (The main character, Taylor, controls bugs, another character can project the cutting edge of any blade he's holding to a nigh-infinite length, a third can throw "buds" that apply an effect on contact), part of this is his decision to give us a taste of other viewpoints once-a-chapter. Two: The world itself is compelling. It appears to be a bog-standard superhero story, up until Taylor's contact in the local superhero division tries to arrest her for consorting with supervillains - ones he asked her to spy on. We get details that peel away the cliched facade bit by bit: the "Mutants" are amnesiac and are all branded with the same mark. A gang is selling Super Serums, again with the mark. A group of monsters attacks single targets, one at a time, with months in between. These and other mysteries entice the reader onward. Three: The fight scenes are top-notch. Seriously. That's why I love Worm.
A well thought out world, and a very grey and black one too.
Doing the Wrong Things for the Right Reasons. That's the series tagline. And really that is the heart of the series. This is a very Grey and Black series. The protagonist stumbles. She may end up doing awful things. If you don't like characters doing bad things while trying to do good things, this series is not for you. And yet dispite everything it's not that cynical a series in my opinion. Often the wrong thing, no matter how good the reason, still is the wrong thing. It makes things worse. Characters do very morally dubious things, and yet remain if not sympathetic, understandable. This isn't a simple cut and dry "Right is right, and wrong is wrong" story. This isn't an idealistic story about a person who clings to their moral standing, and inspires others, winning the day. This is about a character who finds that they are better at helping people by doing things that they never would have thought themselves capable of. Then finding that sometimes, those moral comprimises weren't worth it, in surprising ways. The other great strength of the series is the depth of the world. I've heard authors say that you should have more pages in the notes on the story than the finished story. Well the Author of this series certainly spent time planning this world out. Every so often we get an Interlude Chapter, switching us to another characters viewpoint, giving us background on them, and letting us see another point of view on the leads and events. And this is where we see that as Grey and Black as things seem, there are genuinely heroic and noble characters. Legend, Chevalier, Dragon, and more. They are people who do their best to make the world a better place, and in some cases are immensly compasionate. They make mistakes, sometimes they make a situation worse, but then again they are only human. Other chapters go into the mind of characters that play a major role, and that what they seem like on the outside isn't what they are like on the inside. And sometimes we get to see take a trip inside the heads of the real monsters of the series. The serial killers and monsters that terrioze the world, and see the depths of their evil and insanity. And it all makes a rich tapestry. Oh, and the author likes dogs too.
Crunchy Dark Superhero Goodness
(review based on chapters up to 18.7, the latest update.) One of the conclusions I have drawn about myself is this: I would not be a good superhero. I fancy myself a reasonably moral person, but a truly excellent superhero has two talents I lack: thinking in situations that seems unsolvable and coming up with brilliant plans to get out of said situations. Taylor, the protagonist of Worm, who becomes known as Skitter, excels at both. Further, she has the ill-fortune to exist in a gloriously-realized modern world full of the victims of Traumatic Superpower Awakenings — a world which, if you think about it, would be darn-near Crapsack. And the author has thought, deeply, about it. The superpowers are consistent and believable, the Myth Arc is just visible but consistently reinforced throughout, the characters — sympathetic and non — are believable and compelling, and their circumstances and interactions drive storylines which are at turns thrilling, horrifying, suspenseful, heartwarming, funny, and awesome. It's harsh. The author admits that it would be almost easier to list which trigger warnings are not needed rather than which ones are, and the story pulls almost no punches. But it's worth it.
From Bad To Worse, except it gets better
Worm is good evidence that Tropes Are Not Bad. The Whole series could be summed up with either "There are Kid Villains, then everything goes From Bad To Worse" from the story perspective, or "And still it manages to pull it off" trope-wise. And it really manages to pull it off, quite brilliantly. By a combination of good writing, good ideas, and the author playing to her strenghts and avoiding or taking advantage of her weaknesses. Much like some other gimdark works, while the story has an overabundance of GRIMDARKNESS it's still an enjoyable and not depressing read. There is very little Character Development aside from the Villain Protagonist and her Dragon/Lancer, but the issue is neatly avoided providing VillainEpisodes (well, mostly hero episodes since the perspective is flipped) which give some insight on the other characters. As an added bonus they do "pause" the very fast paced narrative without (usually) outright breaking it. (Incidentally, said dragon/lancer seems the #1 candidate for a Slash Fic, and looks like the author is egging the slashers on too) The whole work is almost a PinkBishoujoGhetto with a very good disguise. BUT again it pulls it off very well. It's mainly due to the disparity in both depth and originality between the male and female parts of the cast. You could take any male kid superhero from another work, swap him with (almost) any male member of the cast and the story would be the same; definitely not so for large part of the female cast. And it pulls it off leveraging a weakness. As I wrote above most characters are somewhat bidimensional (but it's difficult to notice thanks to the dedicated episodes), so it does not really matter. And since the shallowness of the character is done with (see above) it just works. Somewhat related to the above, the male main lead is somewhat Sue-ish, to the point he's the only "pretty" male character with any kind of meaningful development,but so far he's been enough in the sidelines you do not notice it that much, and the author sometimes takes steps to avoid Sue-ing him too much. Final verdict: Awesome, go read it. Good story and you might enjoy the meta analysis too.