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Arc Words / Comic Books

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  • 52's storyline with The Question had "Who are you?" and "Are you ready?"
  • In 100 Bullets, highly trained assassins known as The Minutemen are brainwashed into forgetting their time as killers only to be "awakened" by the use of the cryptic word "Croatoa". This is eventually revealed to be part of a larger conspiracy involving the founding of the United States of America.
  • The Avengers: "Time is broken."
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  • For Grant Morrison's run on Batman, there was "Zur En Arrh," a piece of graffiti that ends up being a Trigger Phrase for Batman. And it also ends up being his backup personality, the Batman of Zur En Arrh. In the end, it turns out that the phrase is a bastardization of Thomas Wayne's last words, "Zorro in Arkham." Leading to the irony that even Bruce doesn't know what the phrase means, as the last thing he ever said to his father is "what?" implying he didn't clearly hear what he said.
  • Batwoman (Rebirth) has "Where are you going, Kate Kane?" (along with variations) and "What can Batwoman do that Batman can't?"
  • Blackest Night: RISE.
  • Bodies:
    • KYAL
    • "Know that you are loved."
    • "Who are you and what do you remember?"
    • "Here comes the long harvest."
    • "We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig the whole night through."
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  • "Something fell" from Cerebus the Aardvark. It is usually said a moment before a sudden, life-altering event in Cerebus' life. The first time it was said, the falling object was directly responsible; the next few times, something just happened to fall immediately before the big event, and a character remarked on it. In later instances, a character just thinks he heard something fall, but we don't see that anything actually does. One interpretation is that the words themselves have the power to cause important things to happen, but none of the characters seem aware of this. Lampshaded in Rick's Story, when Rick tells Cerebus "something fell" just to freak him out. It's followed by a major event, anyways.
  • In Circles, "Love". Love is a major theme in this story and many characters refer to their lovers as "love".
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  • Crisis on Infinite Earths: "Why the red skies?" and variations thereof. note 
  • In Deadpool, during Chris Priest's run. Occasionally, whenever things would get dramatic, Deadpool would say "None of this is actually happening. Somewhere, there's a guy with a typewriter..."
  • The 2011 Defenders series: "Shut The Engines Down", "Everyone You Love Dies", "The Universe Will Break", and "Fight To Save Everything".
  • Doctor Who Magazine
    • The phrase "The Crimson Hand" kept cropping up in the post-Donna comic strip, along with the Arc Image of, well, a crimson hand. Eventually revealed as a ruthless gang Majenta Pryce was a member of, prior to Hotel Historia.
    • The Eleventh Doctor comics had "What is buried in man?", which got resolved in the Jan-March 2013 strips (the first storyline of the 50th anniversary year).
  • Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl: "The eyes of Oracle are everywhere."
  • Fantastic Four: Jonathan Hickman, like his run on Avengers (see above), littered his run on the Fantastic Four with arc words, notably "War of the Four Cities" and "All hope lies with Doom".
  • Fear Itself: "Worthy."
  • Hellboy:
    • "It's true."
    • "No rain but thunder, and the sound of giants."
    • A minor example in B.P.R.D.: 1946: "The waters here are warmer."
    • A phrase first heard in Hellboy: Wake The Devil and echoed throughout Abe Sapien's character arc in the Mignolaverse:
    "Abraham Sapien. Do you hear... sunken bells are tolling for thee. Out of the caverns of Num-Yabisc, dark and terrible deep... the ocean is calling her children home."
  • The first issue of Hourman opens with Snapper Carr, Hourman's sidekick, writing down a list of arc words as they come to him. Since Hourman is a time traveler, Snapper has had a tiny vision of the future but only remembers it well enough to record about a dozen key phrases, such as "the century of solitude," "the giant nanites," and "the timepoint." Over the course of the series these terms become part of the storyline and are explained one by one. At the end of the final issue, Hourman and Snapper recite the list again, this time as a pair of friends recalling shared memories.
  • Judge Dredd: Two of them, both related to the decades-spanning arc about the legitimacy or not of the fascist city-state.
  • There are tons of these in Planet Hulk:
    • "This is the story of the Green Scar. The Eye of Anger, the Worldbreaker... Harkanon, Haarg, Holku... HULK. And how he finally came home." (repeated at both the beginning and end of the story)
    • Sakaarson and Worldbreaker.
    • "Sakaarson, hear my cry..."
    • "Never stop making them pay."
    • "Fighting for friends."
    • "Warbound"
  • Identity Crisis: "Who benefits?"
  • The Invisibles:
  • Mister Miracle (2017):
    • Darkseid is.
    • "He's not my brother."
    • "Scott Free. Stand." "Standing."
    • "The face of God."
  • The Multiversity:
    • "Who's that knocking at the door?"
    • The word "S.O.S." is revealed to be the keyword to operate the Multiversal Cubes, which Red Racer was able to find reading all the Multiversity books.
  • Nemesis the Warlock
    • "Be pure! Be vigilant! Behave!" Sometimes shortened to just "Be pure".
    • "Credo!"
  • New X-Men: "Are these words from the future?" We find out in the final issue that yes indeed, they are. Three other Arc Words are "Sublime," "White-Hot Room," and "Rescue And Emergency." Like the above, all of these are only explained in the last issue: the White-Hot Room is the abode of the Phoenix, Sublime is the Greater-Scope Villain, and "rescue and emergency" refers to the fact that the aforementioned Greater-Scope Villain broke time, which Jean Grey "rescues" at the very end.
  • The Punisher MAX series has a reboot of Frank Castle's origins, and in the comic The Tyger, he reminisces on the night where he prepares to make his first kills in his war on crime. He muses that after his identity comes out, they'll blame it on the war, and they'll be right, and they'll be wrong. Most of the comic then divulges a scarring childhood event in which a close friend of his is raped and then commits suicide. As Frank prepares to take revenge himself, he sees the older brother of his friend viciously beat the perpetrator before setting him on fire. A later part of the comic has two all-black pages filled with speech bubbles, detailing the paramedics' arrival on the scene of his family's shooting and the horror of it all, and the doctors talking to him later in the hospital and telling him that none of his family survived. Returning to the present, Frank coldly snipes a group of mobsters and thinks "They'll blame it on Vietnam. And they'll be right, and they'll be wrong."
  • In The Sandman, "Wake up" and its variations.
  • Spider-Man: One More Day: Brand new day indeed.
  • In Supergirl story Young Love: "Hey-Hey! Linda Lee! You sure do look pretty..."
  • Each subseries in The Transformers (IDW) has its own.
  • Watchmen: "Who watches the Watchmen?" which is partially visible in many panels. The full phrase is only shown in its entirety on the very last page, after the story has ended. There's an interview with Alan Moore somewhere where he mentioned a possible double meaning: not who watches to see if the watchmen are criminals, but who watches them to look after them and take care of them. The question within the story is the first meaning, going unasked because someone already is. Afterwards, it's Alan Moore telling the reader that no one takes care of the watchmen, hence their various psychological issues and the slaughter of Manhattan. Heavy.
  • From The Wicked + The Divine, important things tend to happen whenever the phrase "1-2-3-4" pops up, as well as the phrase "Once again, we return". "Sacrifice" is another, perhaps more subtle, recurring thematic word as well.
  • Ex Machina: "The Stars Are Down," which is a harbinger of the interdimensional invaders. It first appears as a Nirvana song repeatedly playing through a radio that somehow has reception into an alternate dimension. When Mitchell Hundred has dreams of the invaders, the sentence often appears.
  • In Zombies Christmas Carol, "the surplus population," a term Scrooge used for the poor in the original book, is used as a descriptor for the Hungry Dead. Its usage gets increasingly sinister the further into the future Scrooge goes.
  • Raptors: "Your kingdom is doomed", Don Molina's dying curse to his enemies and now carried by his children, who write these words in blood on the wall after killing every single target.
  • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: When Sam hacked his entry into the bunker he mentioned an old saying, "Take two things that work and nail them toguether", that describes the old Russian habits of merging disparate technologies and try to make them work. He was talking about the door, that combined a modern keyboard with a dated system. The saying gets a whole new meaning inside the bunker, as they find that the Russians had been talking parts from an alien robot and grafting them into human test subjects, in hopes of making a new super soldier.


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