Reviews: Worm

Wow, does it drag

Worm does have quite a bit to recommend it, and any of its fans will be happy to fill you in on it, but it has one big problem: it consists primarily of long, drawn-out fight scenes. This is interesting at first, but after a while, it just becomes repetitive and my eyes started to glaze over. Many chapters boil down to "A ridiculously overpowered bad guy appears, everyone who isn't a total monster joins forces to fight it, some people die, and the bad guy is either killed or leaves." This is fine a few times, but by the end of the serial, I was simply left bored by the endless Endbringer attacks. The story would seriously have been better at half the length.

Strong Start, Compelling Middle, Mixed Ending

This series starts and continues quite well but starts running into some real problems by the end.

It's really dark, and throws a lot at the characters, but it's all contextualized really well. As we move through the story however, it starts to accelerate beyond what the narrative can really keep up with, culminating with a time skip that kind of crashes the story's pacing and balance.

You're riding on the character interactions and slow burn development and plot, when it just kind of jumps away from all that and never returns. Suddenly there are some *huge* changes or developments which you'd think the characters or author would address, but they're just skipped over and sometimes never brought up again (who's Aster?). Characters seem to stop reacting to things.

The world gets bigger, which sounds good, but it loses focus of the characters along the way, so we go from a very grounded intimate look of a team of relatably dark supervillains to what feels like weird Nextwave. Things happen, people explode, and nobody talks about what happens after or before.

I wasn't too bothered by the ending itself; I liked the last few lines a lot, but I really felt by the end that the story was both too long and too short at the same time.

Really, Really Good...Until It Isn\'t

The first 19 or so arcs of Worm, once it gets past the awkward first arc, are just, glorious. The pacing is brutal, but in an enjoyable way. The dark stuff is incredibly dark, but it's interesting, and when good things happen, they feel really, really good. It's my my favorite use of "grimdark" in any kind of fiction. The characters are realistic, flawed, and likable; their powers are innovative and even the minor ones are given just enough depth that they feel like real people. At the end of Arc 19, I felt excited to see the rest of the story.

And just kind of petered out. The plot took our protagonist far, far away from the characters we'd spent countless words getting to know, and then expects us to attach to their replacements immediately. And while the author is skilled at setting up intriguing plot threads and possibilities, at it gets closer to the end, it becomes increasingly clear that he's not as good at resolving them in an interesting way.

Between all those problems and an ill-placed timeskip, by the time I got to the later arcs of Worm I was pretty much ready to be done. The twist at the end, and indeed, the ending, is an interesting idea but was unfortunately executed very poorly. By the end, I didn't care about any of the characters, and neither did the protagonist, really. Add to that one of the worst fake-out endings I've seen, I left feeling unsatisfied and angry.

If Worm had been bad from the start, I would have taken it more gracefully but instead it was a story I loved and that I was deeply invested in but that ultimately just left me disappointed and feeling like I'd wasted way too much of my time.

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.

Godzilla Thresholds Galore, and Too Little Satisfaction

What happens when a group of Villains trying to make a living meets someone who has morally questionable values, a superpower that doesn't look like it can do much, and is the victim of a friend-turned-bully? You get something like Worm. It draws you into the story and doesn't let go until you've made it... half-way through. And that's the issue I have with it.

Okay, this story has such an amazing build up that I can't help but be jealous of just how well its done. The author is very good at doing build up... not so much resolving said build up. It's all the story seems to be. It's too long; The payoffs, whether small or large, weren't happening often enough for me to not feel exhausted and fatigued from reading it.

There was very little satisfaction and too many unresolved plot lines (and too many characters) that I couldn't keep my focus on it. When there seems to be a resolution to some problem or another, it gets shoved aside with the increasingly spontaneous and growing Godzilla Thresholds. I can't even see the hints dropped for the resolution because there is just too much going on, too many unnecessary information. It's so exhausting that I can't even bring myself to come back to the point where I left off in the story, or even re-read it. What's the point when I feel like it'll just go on and on forever and ever? (At least the Neverending Story had an ending!)

Too me, it was just trying way to hard to subvert tropes involving superheroes and trying too hard to avoid the political and moral issues within the story just to keep it's characters going down the road she wanted it to go. It started getting repetitive. So, sadly, I lost interest in this and couldn't bring myself to pick it up again because I didn't want to feel exhausted from reading it. It's a shame because she is so good a building up to a future payoff, she just isn't very good at writing a good satisfying payoff.

If you have a better attention span than me, then I'd suggest this story to you. For those of you wondering how good my patience is, well, it would take about three days of solid reading just to get to where I dropped off. If you can, spread this story out over a month or so, instead of binge reading like I did. It might make it more enjoyable for you.

Otherwise, I'd give it a miss.

Really Good, But Looooong

Worm is an incredibly daunting series to get into. Quite frankly, I don't think I've seen an archive this big since Sluggy Freelance. Even if you WANT to get into Worm, actually doing so can easily send even the most stalwart of us into a hyperventilating panic.

Still, though. Once you're able to get into it, Worm is a very thrilling and imaginative read. Every power feels unique and they all have an underlying logic for how they behave and what they can do. The world feels plausible and the conflicts feel real.

I enjoyed it.

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.