Strong Female Protagonist is a Webcomic by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag. Formerly updating Tuesdays and Fridays from 2012, it went on hiatus when Brennan started Dimension 20 for CollegeHumor in 2018.
Alison Green is the former superheroine Mega-Girl. Key word, former. After deciding that superheroes can't really make a difference in the world when it's not giant robots and evil masterminds, Alison goes into retirement in order to focus on her college education and figure out just what she wants out of life.
Her old team, the Guardians, are still a peripheral part of her life. Pintsize can't quite handle that the heroic age isn't what the comic books made it out to be. Sonar retired to the private sector after a few years as well. Moonshadow felt like she had to take up the slack after Mega Girl quit the team, and has built up no small amount of resentment against Alison as a result.
Alison's little sister Jennifer is having a hard time coping with a superpowered older sister, and Alison is just trying to do her own thing with the shadow of her own superheroic celebrity hanging over her head. Complicating things further is Patrick, formerly the supervillain Menace, whose up-and-down relationship with Alison causes her much consternation.
The comic has been officially on hiatus since September 2018.
Provides examples of:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: The edges of Cleaver's arm blades are less than three microns. He can cut himself by accident and (so far) is the only character to actually hurt Alison, giving her a cut on her scalp.
- Action Girl: Alison was one as Mega Girl; she sort of finds herself still doing action girl things as the situation calls for it.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Nearly all of Paladin's attempts to create a genuine AI end in what she sees as failure, since they all develop bizarre personality quirks that make their behavior completely incomprehensible to humans, and a few even commit suicide.
- A major part of why she keeps at it, though, is because she's concerned about the BAD end of the spectrum, and thus wants to make sure it happens where she's present to deal with it, if necessary.
- All of the Other Reindeer: With a few exceptions, Alison's former peers in superheroics haven't taken kindly to her decision to retire. This seems to have extended to some of the supervillains as well.
- Alt Text: Which can fall into providing important background information.
- Ambiguously Evil: Patrick. He seems to be retired, yet someone is running around in his old costume, and he's definitely still up to something behind Alison's back. Also, his current goals are either real-life Corrupt Corporate Executive evil, or good through working the system.
- Ancient Conspiracy: The conspiracy that Patrick has been investigating apparently goes back to the city-state of Ur...or maybe the record-keeper is just terrible at explaining things.
- Angrish: Lampshaded here, as Paladin is so angry after her latest A.I. Is a Crapshoot failure that she can only speak disjointedly with "No grammar."
- Arc Words: "Thinking of You" and, since issue 3, "Save the world".
- Armor-Piercing Question: After a full page of ripping Patrick's heartless and contradictory philosophies to pieces, Allison cuts straight to the heart of the issue with one sudden realisation: "Can you not read your own mind?" Suddenly, both Patrick's conniving way with words and his cool and collected exterior are rendered null and void.
- Ascended Fanboy: Hector aka Pintsize. He was a comic book geek before he discovered his powers, used them as a manual to operate as a superhero, and still reads them to the present day. He even has an AI he calls Alfred, who calls him "Master Pintsize."
- Asshole Victim: Chapter 5 features a slew of them: a group of fratboy rapists that got off scot-free, a judge who's also an abusive husband, and a group of mercenaries.
- Bait-and-Switch: A dark version. At the beginning of chapter 4, Alison gets a phone call with bad news. Alison heads home in a hurry, and a series of flashbacks ensue in which Alison's dog features prominently, leading the reader to believe that the bad news is that her dog has died, and she's reminiscing about the good times she had with him. When she gets home, the reader learns that the dog died weeks ago, and the bad news is that her father has cancer.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Professor Gurwara wasn't actually supposed to be teaching Alison's Philosophy class.
- Beast Man:
- Berserk Button: Alison has become very protective of Feral, and trying to attack her gets Alison's dander up fast.
- An anti-super protestor with a flamethrower bursts into the operating bay where doctors will start harvesting Feral's organs and sets Feral on fire. This causes Alison to hit him so hard she knocks him outside the hospital and kills him almost instantly. She then threatens to kill all of the other anti-super protestors if they don't disperse immediately.
- While Max's seeming callous indifference to his family's hired help's situation irritates Alison, it's his questioning whether or not Feral's decision to become a perpetual organ donor is truly a selfless act that causes Alison to break off their date and fly away, turning his arguments on their head as she leaves.
- Bizarre Baby Boom: Thunderstorms occurring globally are correlated to a small percentage of infants in utero during that period developing superhuman abilities in their lives. It's mentioned that because it occurred globally that there are more impoverished superhumans than there are rich.
- Blessed with Suck:
- Cleaver's blades may be incredibly sharp, but they replaced his hands, and they're made out of metastasized cancer cells, with more of them inside his body than out. Thus, he has millions of tiny shurikens floating around in his body, guaranteeing an intensely painful life and, likely, an early death.
- Feral's amazing Healing Factor may allow her to recover from any injury within seconds, and thus allow her to become a perpetual organ and tissue donor, but it also makes her immune to anesthetics, meaning every operation she goes through is unimaginably painful.
- Patrick's telepathy is incredible powerful. Unfortunately, he can't turn it off, and so is bombarded by other people's thoughts 24/7. It's later revealed that he's had his power since he was a child, and it nearly drove him insane before he was able to develop a way to cope...although that coping mechanism may be breaking down, and actively tries to kill Alison when she enters his mind to figure out what's going on with him. The same story arc reveals that said coping mechanism was his childhood way of walling off anything that could make him weak - such as fear and morality, and that Alison introduced another element - love.
- Blood Knight: Alison, though she's not happy about it.Alison: I love fighting. I love the blood, I love the heat, I love breaking shit. It's the only thing I've ever been good at, and the fact that it never makes anything better just fucking kills me.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality:
- Patrick's morality is heartlessly pragmatic at best, something he admits to readily. As far as he's concerned, since everybody dies eventually, murder is just "moving up the date," and there's absolutely nothing wrong with killing people for a greater cause. "Lives are there to be spent." Because of this, he sees anyone who insists on saving as many lives as possible to be his greatest enemies. On the other hand, he considers general happiness and quality of life to be extremely important. He expresses disdain for chattel slavery and seems genuinely shocked when Alison suggests he might be a rapist. In their last meeting, Alison calls his beliefs pretty much bullshit when you put them together, as why would he care about slavery or being called a rapist if he thinks lives are to be spent?
- After a Journey to the Center of the Mind, Alison learns that this was something Patrick had to do, as he was only 4 years old when his powers developed, and his parents were a Henpecked Husband and The Sociopath as his mother. After she tried to murder him, he was forced to live on the streets, and thus threw up barriers to block out anything that could weaken him - such as fear and morality. Once those barriers are torn down, it hits him all at once.
- Breaking Speech:
- The whole reason Alison starting doubting herself and went into retirement is because she was on the receiving end of one of these. In an odd twist, Alison doesn't hold it against the guy who did it and considers him a close friend.
- Capepunk: The series is a Deconstruction of many common superhero tropes. For instance, The Paragon is a target of merciless analysis as Alison is a woman trying to live by To Be Lawful or Good in everyday life only to run headfirst into problems of Gray-and-Gray Morality. She's also a bit of a Blood Knight that comes from her career as a child hero that traumatized her in the same way it would a Child Soldier.
- Catchphrase: As Mega Girl, Alison's catchphrase was "You look like you could use a pick-me-up!" (usually said while literally picking up giant robots). She seems a little embarrassed when she hears it in the present day from an action figure of herself.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Despite her retirement and doubts over what she wants to do with her life, Alison still can't stop herself from helping people.
- Conveniently an Orphan: Called out in the Alt Text of this comic, which points out that the single biggest reason for doing so is to remove that pesky "family" element from a character - other reasons exist, but that's the primary one.
- Deceased Parents Are the Best: Averted; the author has expressed some disdain for this trope and the related tropes of Missing Mom or Disappeared Dad as weak writing and made it a point to include Alison's parents as important supporting members without the purpose of creating angst.
- The entire comic is a massive one toward supers in general. Many teen heroes, Alison included, retire from superhero-ing once they realize that the problems of the world are too complex to be solved with their powers. Alison is pretty much a classic Flying Brick who realizes that being able to punch things really hard doesn't solve as many problems as she wished it could. Likewise, Patrick is a classic Supervillain who eventually discovers that Taking Over The World is an unrealistic and even boring goal, especially when there are more subtle forces for evil in the world that are frankly doing a better job at it than he ever did...
- With the introduction of Gurwara, the idea of the superhero is deconstructed even further, and Beware the Superman is in full effect. He points out that Alison may have good intentions and genuine passion about her beliefs, but she lacks the skillset to win people over to her point of view with anything other than force. She isn't good at convincing people—and she's not very patient with people who disagree—but she's very good at threatening them. The people who agree with her and help her are only doing so because they fear her wrath if they don't; the few who don't fear her just find her to be useful to their own plans.Gurwara: Mankind cannot ever truly be free. Not as long as you live.
- A Dog Ate My Homework: A younger Alison tried to invoke this with her dog once. Her dad overheard and joked that he'd be willing to eat it instead.Alison's dad: What is it, Math or English? English gives me indigestion!
- Do Not Adjust Your Set: Menace used this trope to interrupt the presidential announcement of the existence of people like him and declare his intent to Take Over the World.
- Differently Powered Individual:
- The general term used is "biodynamic", although this is used for seemingly normal people who happen to have a superpower.
- "Dynamorphic" specifically refers to individuals with significant physical changes. Some are fairly mild, like Feral's eyes and claws and Carmen's green skin, but some are drastic; for instance, Sonar has a very bat-like head, and one woman in the dynamorph support group has become a sapient pool of water in a special tank.
- "Innate" designates another subcategory, referring to individuals that can master one given field, ranging from mechanics to combat abilities, inhumanly fast. They were thought to be just very fast learners until traces of the biodynamic genes were found.
- Disproportionate Retribution: In a flashback, Feral kisses Alison... and is punched out the nearest window in response. They end up laughing it off.
- Dramatically Missing the Point:Mega-Girl: I've been in the Pentagon like four times, but I'm not really even sure what the Pentagon does! I'm supposed to fight crime, but I don't even know how laws get passed! I mean, truth justice and the American Way? I stopped taking social studies when I was fifteen! I grew up in Westchester, and have never traveled anywhere else without this stupid domino mask on my face! Am I the only one who's scared that people are looking to me for answers just because I can lift a car over my head? This is crazy!
Reporter: Did...did you just reveal that you grew up in Westchester, New York?
- Dirty Mind-Reading: Alison invokes this trope by thinking dirty thoughts when traveling with Patrick. While Alison was just doing it for fun, Patrick looks genuinely troubled by it. Considering how he describes how he experiences his telepathy, she may as well have been forcing her hand down his pants.
- The Dreaded: Alison herself, and she does not like it one bit.
- Duck Season, Rabbit Season: Seeing the original causes Patrick's first seen fit of laughter because he had no idea what the punchline was going to be. The follow-up strip has him explain why he found it so funny — that Daffy's Commander Contrarian nature blinded him to the opening that Bugs had presented him, and got him blasted in the beak with a shotgun for it.
- Embarrassing Relative Teacher: Alison's mother is her teacher. She doesn't do anything in front of the class to embarrass her daughter, but her daughter is still embarrassed, and doesn't participate in class for fear of being called a teacher's pet.
- Expy: Allison is one of Golden Age Superman, at least in powerset. She could possibly graduate to Silver Age Superman, if her anomaly continues to evolve.
- Evil All Along: When Alison comes to Patrick to ask for help finding Mary Kim, he actually degrades into a long-winded speech about what he's been doing, his way of seeing human life and even admitting he had people killed just because it amused him. The whole thing basically comes off that Patrick never stopped being a supervillain. He just changed how he does his villainy.
- Fantastic Racism: There's at least one registered hate group based around attacking people with superpowers (usually, as Alison notes, they only attack those who aren't decent fighters).
- Fantastic Slurs: "Nef" for people with superpowers, apparently derived from the word "Nephilim". note
- Flashback: The story makes extensive use of these to introduce characters and plot points.
- Fate Worse than Death: Feral willingly signs up to use her regenerating powers in order to be treated like a perpetual organ donor. Due to her powers immediately rejecting any foreign object, she can't even be anesthetized for the process, which is implied to go on 24/7 for the length of what will be her very, very long life. However, thanks to Alison making Max amplify her healing, the burden on her has been lessened significantly.
- Flying Brick: Alison's powers make her immensely strong (but, as she notes at one point, without corresponding muscle tone) and Nigh-Invulnerable, as the only thing that's actually harmed her is Cleaver's blades. She accidentally discovers the ability to levitate when Patrick really pisses her off. A few pages later, she turns it into full-blown flight.
- Friendly Enemy: Alison is pretty close friends with Patrick, aka Menace, her former archfoe. However, after the meeting in which Patrick more or less admitted to being Evil All Along, she appears to want nothing to do with him...whether or not he was deliberately trying to drive her off remains to be seen. Another monkey wrench is thrown into the works when Patrick shows up at Alison's boyfriend's apartment, very drunk and in filthy clothes, and reveals that his mind may be breaking down. When he allows her into his head and she sees his childhood and how it shaped him into Menace, her feelings for him become even more conflicted.Alison: [to Feral] I spent a long, long time...feeling something for the guy on the other side of the room from us. [...] He does have information that we absolutely need. And he is a bad person. But understanding why he's a bad person makes me want to believe that maybe he could be a good person. And I can't tell if it's naive and foolish to believe that, or naive and foolish not to.
- Freudian Excuse: Why is Professor Cohen so mean to Alison? She's unintentionally responsible for the death of his husband.
- The Gadfly: Professor Gurwara wastes no time in establishing himself as this, poking any holes he can into everything that comes out of Alison's mouth. He seems to dismiss the risks crossing her is attended with, such as getting fired as Prof. Cohen did (he probably has no idea that wasn't what Alison intended). A little further on in the story it's revealed that Gurwara probably wasn't concerned with that because he's not actually a professor at the school; he either caused or took advantage of a couple of bureaucratic screwups to hijack a class that should have been cancelled due to the real professor being unexpectedly unavailable. However, he also doesn't seem too concerned about the possibility of her punching a hole through his rib cage.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Paladin is an Innate whose particular skill is mechanical engineering.
- Go-Karting with Bowser: Well, picnic and chess with Cleaver, but similar sentiment.
- Good Thing You Can Heal: Happened to Feral a lot. At one point she got a katana shoved through her head and was left staggering around and slurring her speech.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Moonshadow insists she's trying to avoid this with her vengeance quest against rapists. On one hand, she tried to save Furnace's life from her trap after discovering he wasn't a rapist like she had suspected. On the other hand, she expresses an unhealthy amount of glee during her killings and tried to slice Alison's throat just to see if she could, something that causes her a moment of pause when she realizes she just tried to kill an innocent friend.
- She embraces it a short time later when Alison brings up the prospect of how easily she could end up killing innocent people if she remains a reactionary vigilante, and Moonshadow replies that she doesn't care about murdering innocents as collateral damage.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power:
- Patrick mentions people who could communicate with diseases, or provide unlimited energy. According to him, they were carefully and quietly killed before anyone even knew about super heroes.
- Patrick himself is sort of an example of this. Although his telepathic power is pretty straightforwardly awesome, one of the things that made him the world's most dangerous supervillain was that he was actually capable of empathizing with the monstrous biodynamics who were violent menaces to everyone else. He didn't recruit his minions through mind control, he recruited them because he was the only one on earth who was capable of being their friend.
- Healing Factor: Other than her claws and catlike eyes, this appears to be Feral's sole mutation, amped up to the point that, in a flashback, we see her getting riddled with bullets and puking them back up; a bit later in the same flashback, getting a katana shoved through her forehead only makes her a bit groggy and speech-slurred until it's removed. Then there's the events of the Fate Worse than Death entry above, as well as her being set on fire until she's a charred and withered husk, which she recovers from within a couple minutes. Later on, after Max uses his power to amplify her healing, she learns that she's healing fast enough to regenerate her heart in less than a minute.
- HeelFace Turn: Patrick, aka Menace, has one of these once he discovers the conspiracy that killed off the various supers that could have literally saved the world from poverty, disease, and so on, back when they were still children. It made his "For the Evulz" villainy (and the tights-wearing superheroes he clashed with) seem childish. However, how much of a Face he really is is in question, as he's still doing some very morally ambiguous things.
- Heroic BSoD: Alison has three significant ones.
- The first was minor, albeit prolonged, after the chat with Menace/Patrick that led her to reveal her identity live on television and quit being a super hero.
- The second was after learning that she accidentally killed Cohen's husband, which wasn't helped by her also sporting a serious head wound that made it hard to think straight.
- The third follows her coercion of Max to get him to help Feral, which prompts a whole round of soul-searching about whether the end can ever justify the means.
- Holding Both Sides of the Conversation: After Alison tells Gurwara (loosely) about what she did to Max to get him to help Feral, he proceeds to act out the argument between the opposing philosophical sides of her moral dilemma, taking off his overcoat to represent the side in favor of her action. Later on, Alison uses the same technique to argue with herself about the choices she made, wearing her coat to represent the side that favors those choices.
- Hypocritical Humour: After Alison and Hector reconcile by apologizing not so much to as at each other, and Alison wonders if it's really that easy, Hector gently calls her out for Tempting Fate (name-dropping the trope) and then proceeds to epically tempt fate himself by claiming that all their differences are resolved forever.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Patrick believed for the longest time that he didn't have mind control, but it turns out it's a normal part of telepathy—it just requires utterly denying the humanity of your target and treating them like a toy. When he did find out about it, he was so horrified at what it led to that he erased his memory of it. Likewise, a telepath can speak in someone else's mind, but it requires letting them into yours, which Patrick isn't willing to do.
- In a Single Bound: When Alison is late, she just kind of...hops to class.
- Internal Reveal: Alison reveals that she is Mega Girl on national television. Mild shock for the audience, the shock in universe though!
- Improbable Age: Paladin—head of the Robotics Department of the New School at age 21. Of course, thanks to her biodynamic power, she's been doing groundbreaking research since she was 15. Like most, this is deconstructed, because she's in a horrifically evil contract, and new legislation "protecting" underage biodynamics means that her signing a contract at 15 will be considered adult consent.
- Incredible Shrinking Man: Hector, who goes by the appropriate (if unimpressive) name "Pintsize".
- Innocently Insensitive: Alison's friend Violet.
- Played straight: Violet asks a DJ to play "Bulletproof" at a club because she thinks Alison would like it (despite Alison famously taking off her mask and quitting superheroing on national television). When Alison asks to leave, Violet cheerfully suggests the girlfriends all get little tattoos, having forgotten that Alison literally can't be cut to get the tattoo.
- Subverted: Violet gets extra brave at protests knowing Alison is there and has powers to protect her if things go badly.
- Subverted again: Violet gets Alison kicked out after the incident where Alison threatened a date-rapist. She was never Alison's friend after all, she was just using the fact that she knew Alison as her lame claim to fame.
- Irony: Patrick can't mind-read himself.
- Kid Hero All Grown Up: Allison, of course. And biodynamic superheroes in general as the generation that first donned capes in their teens hit their mid-twenties.
- Kick the Dog: Patrick having become Unintentionally Sympathetic, the reader is reminded that he is still a villain (complete with Evil Laugh).
- Kill It with Fire: A biodynamic hater tries to kill Feral with a flamethrower. He only succeeds in killing the surgeons that were about to vivisect Feral, and Alison kills him shortly thereafter.
- Kirk Summation: After several strips of Patrick laying out his own personal morality and what he thinks of humanity as a whole, Alison proceeds to tear apart all of his arguments and ultimately why he was the biggest obstacle for her to be a real superhero in the first place in just one page.
- Knight Templar: Moonshadow has channeled her resentment over Alison leaving the Guardians into violent reprisal against rapists and other threats to women.Mercenary: Why us? What did we ever do to you?
Moonshadow: I'm a superhero. It's not about me. You're evil. You kill people.
Mercenary: So do you.
Moonshadow: Yeah. But I do it for free.
- Love at First Sight: Complete with theme music! And Lisa is soon shown to be Distracted by the Sexy, managing to walk into the wall on her way out of the apartment.
- Manipulative Bastard: Patrick uses his mind-reading to control people. He does not have mind-control, but everyone thinks he does. He just figures out what motivates them and uses it to manipulate them. Later on, it's revealed that he indeed can control minds, but he erased his own memory of that because of what that discovery led to and how it traumatized him.The idea that I would need mind control to get people to do what I need them to is, frankly, insulting. If you can hear someone's darkest desire and see their entire memory laid out in front of you, and you still can't get them to do what you'd like, it says more about you than the people you're attempting to control.
- Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: Averted. Alison's therapist points out that if she REALLY had this, she's break the bed whenever she had a nightmare.
- Master of Illusion: This is Moonshadow's power set. When fighting, she mostly uses it to make herself invisible and/or create illusory copies of herself.
- Meaningful Echo: "...it's time to put away the toys and grow up" is both said by Menace/Patrick (upon his retirement from villainy) and later Mega Girl/Alison (upon hers from heroism).
- Mind over Matter: Discussed as a potential power of a slasher. Also mentioned earlier as a possible application for the Absurd Cutting Power of Cleaver's blades.
- Misery Poker: When Carmen, who has green skin and hair, is at a support group for dynamorphic women talking about her issues with men using her as their token biodynamic girlfriend, Vanessa, whose body is covered in metallic plates, accuses her of having problems that could be fixed with "an airbrush and a can of paint" while she has issues with employment and using public transportation.
- Missing Mom:
- Deconstructed. Alison's mother is a teacher, and taught some of Alison's own classes. She teaches Alison empathy, and that hiding her intelligence because other kids think she's weird is a bad idea. She was present emotionally and supportively until the government effectively drafted Alison to fight as Mega Girl. She feels she didn't fight hard enough to protect Alison, and that the rift growing between her daughters due to Jennifer's jealousy is her fault, and that it all makes her a bad mother.
- Patrick's memories of his childhood play with the trope, as his mother's face is mostly obscured by darkness even though she is right there. It's eventually revealed that Patrick caused his parents' deaths in a misguided attempt to finally get them to love him, and obscured his mother in those memories because of what happened to her in particular and what it revealed about his powers.
- Mundane Utility:
- Alison isn't above using her powers this way, such as leaping over crowds to get to class on time.
- Feral eventually uses her Wolverine-level Healing Factor to provide donated organs that work better than donations from family members. She can donate her heart 8-10 times a day, her lungs 15-20, her liver and kidneys 30, and liters of blood, all with no risk of transferring disease or her mutation. She probably saved more lives in the first day than she did in her entire career as a superhero.
- Nice Guy: Sonar; even the Alt Text says so. He's never seen being less than cordial, even during tense moments between himself and Alison, and mediates at least one argument during the dyamorph conference.
- Alison is completely impervious to anything that's not Sharpened to a Single Atom. Her skin is easier to cut through than her bones, though. She can't even get a haircut without her hair being frozen with liquid nitrogen then cut with a saw.
- Cleaver can take hits from Alison herself without injury.
- No Man Wants an Amazon: Invoked by Alison's physician while discussing her sexual activity and how her super-strength relates to being intimate with a partner.
- "Not So Different" Remark: In a reversal of the usual villain-accuses-hero dynamic, Alison uses this trope to connect with Cleaver, starting here.
- Ocular Gushers: Alison's dad sports a the waterfall variety when she's thanking her family for their support.
- Offing the Offspring: The thoughts of Patrick's mother imply that this is going to happen. Fortunately, he was able to get out of the car and escape.
- Pass the Popcorn: As Alison debates with herself over the rights and wrongs of strong-arming Max into helping Feral, Gurwara munches on a bag of chips.
- Pedestrian Crushes Car: A milder version occurs when Alison is hit by a bus. The bus itself is only lightly damaged, prompting the driver to gripe about Alison's carelessness while she manually straightens out the street sign she was knocked into.
- Power Incontinence: Patrick (the biodynamic formerly known as Menace) is a receiving-only telepath, and he cannot turn it off.
- Prisoner's Dilemma: Guwara aptly demonstrates it during his first session. Surprisingly, one of those that put up the white stone had simply stopped paying attention after hearing that part, with other students invoking this trope as to why they didn't put down a black stone.
- Psychic Nosebleed: Alison actually has one induced on her as a side effect of her struggles against the elements of Patrick's mind.
- Punched Across the Room:
- When Feral kisses Alison, Alison is so caught off guard that her instinctual reaction leads her to punch Feral out the window.
- Alison punches Feral's (attempted) murderer out of the hospital he's in, killing him.
- Reconstruction: In issue 5, the Guardians are breaking apart because without supervillains to fight anymore, stopping normal crime is a lot harder for them. Thinking all this started with Alison, Pintsize just starts yelling and crying at her, basically hating the concept of trying to overcomplicate the idea of superheroes and hating the idea of people laughing at him just because he wants to save the world with his friends and just wants to do the right thing. In a sense, it's seemingly a speech against people who choose to deconstruct superheroes all the time and it feels to him that all they want to do is make people sad in the name of being "smart". Surprisingly, Alison actually agrees with him and fully supports superheroes when there are supervillains or disasters going on and generally believes the Guardians always was a good idea. The problem is it's not a good idea anymore.
- It is eventually reconstructs superheroes helping society. They just need to figure out a better way, by working together and contributing. Basically, what Feral is doing, only without the sacrifice. Alison starts a woman's help group.
- Pintsize himself gets in on the act, setting out for France to use his shrinking ability to aid in the study of nuclear particles and power. Sonar, on the other hand, had been working on his own program to help dynamorphic individuals (mutated out of the human form by their anomaly) integrate in society.
- Reed Richards Is Useless:
- A theme throughout the entire comic is that the superheroes running around the world can stop localized threats but are unable to solve the bigger ills (racism, sexism, homo/transphobia, starvation, poverty, genocide, war, disease, and so on) of the world. The realization of this trope is what drives Mega Girl to quit superheroing to go to college, and Feral to volunteer to be cut open and have her organs harvested 24/7 without anesthesia, just so people who need them can have them.
- Heartbreakingly upheld by Paladin, who signed a contract as a minor which gives her no legal control over her inventions. She could change the world, but the people who own her are too comfortable to mess with the status quo. Patrick owns the contract, as well...and utterly dismisses her idea, after finding out that all the people with superpowers that could really help were murdered as children.
- Sadist Teacher: Professor Cohen. Unusually for the trope, he gets fired for this. (It helps that a lot of people are secretly scared that Alison could kill everyone.) Later, it's revealed that his animosity toward Alison is due to her accidentally killing his husband.
- Samaritan Syndrome: This seems to be the basis of Feral's plan to donate her organs repeatedly for the rest of her life, as she figures it's the best way to help the most amount of people with her powers. Interestingly, a version of this is also why Alison opposes her plan, as she doesn't want to see her friend going through agony for the rest of her life in order to only save a fraction of the people who need help. Alison eventually finds a way to lessen Feral's burden by strongarming Max into amplifying her healing to the point that she only needs to be in surgery for around 40 hours a month to meet the world's demand for organs.
- Self-Harm: Patrick apparently used to cut himself quite a lot. He doesn't quite understand why people find this sad.Patrick: Look, look, I can explain. Yes, the patterned injuries on my torso are self-inflicted. But they weren't suicidal or self-destructive in nature. It's just one of those things you do when you're younger to remember which body is yours.
Alison: [makes a face]
Patrick: That's more sad!?
- Sex Shifter: One of the friction points that comes up during the dynamorph conference focuses around Kiele, who seems to shift sexes based on stress levels, and the tension Kiele accidentally causes by changing from female to male while in a female-only discussion group.
- Shout-Out: A couple Allison spots in Chapter 6 are based on Finn and Poe.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Cleaver's dialogue is coarse and salty, and Alison can get pretty foul-mouthed at times herself.
- Strapped to an Operating Table: Feral's plan to have her organs harvested. By choice.
- Straw Feminist: Given a shout-out in Issue 5. People talk about how a bill defining certain people as 'Innates' as supers is terrible, ignoring that many Innates want the bill, as it gives them resources. Violet, meanwhile, talks a big game about sticking it to the man... but ignores a date rape in progress.
- Super Strength: A power and nuanced on whether muscles are meaningful or not. Alison's superpower allows her super strength without an apparent change in mass but Cleaver's strength is traced to three different physiological changes.
- Surreal Humor:
- Paladin's swarm robots exhibit this. She didn't program it into them, but it spontaneously developed as a side effect of their prototype AI:Alison: [in Paladin's HQ] This place is so awesome! It's so beautiful, the art and everything, and the robots are incredible!
Swarm Robot 1: We are not robots. We are The Frick Collection, and you are the Famed Civil Rights Lawyer Ron Kuby.
Swarm Robot 2: HAHAHAHA!
Swarm Robot 3: FALSE!
Swarm Robot 4: DEMONSTRABLY FALSE!
Swarm Robot 5: HAHAHAHAHAHA!
- On the other hand, her androids seem to tend towards Dead Baby Comedy:
- Paladin's swarm robots exhibit this. She didn't program it into them, but it spontaneously developed as a side effect of their prototype AI:
- Tempting Fate: Hector (Pintsize) is stubbornly idealistic and does this a lot, despite calling others out for doing it (see the Hypocritical Humour entry on this page for details).
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: During a Dynomorphic convention, one of the attendees (Amanda, seen below) in a Women's Discussion Group points out that she can't feel beautiful because most wouldn't even consider her a "she" if not for the bow she wears, and even with it she's constantly misgendered.
- That's What She Said: This dialogue between Alison and Pintsize:Alison: Are you inside of me?Pintsize: That's what she said!!Alison: God, I hope not.
- There Was a DoorMega-Girl: [smashes through wall] I've got you now, Menace!Menace: Ah, Ms. Green. I take it the front door was locked?
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Amanda, an amphibious dynamorph, did some superhero work... which mostly consisted of enforcing fishing limits for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.Amanda: You'd be amazed at how simultaneously rare and boring most aquatic crime is.
- Übermensch: This gets thrown in Alison's face when she writes a class paper criticizing Nietzsche's views. Cohen gives her an F for it, claiming that she shouldn't be criticizing Nietzsche since she's such a good example of what he was talking about. Ironically, she's closer to The Last Man, only she doesn't have views to cling to.
- Vigilante Man: There's an invisible serial killer that exclusively targets the worst sorts of people (rapists, domestic abusers, Private Military Contractors). Turns out to be Moonshadow.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist:
- Moonshadow has good points, but stabbing the problem in the face with a knife isn't much of a solution.
- Alison appears to have stepped into this territory by forcing Max to use his power to boost Feral's power, under threat of crippling violence. One of the reasons this tears her up so much is because it works, with the end result being that Feral can provide replacement organs for literally the entire world without having to be constantly tortured. The only downside is Max being left in mortal terror of an unstoppable Knight Templar, and then it turns out to be not so effective after all almost immediately afterwards. Max goes into hiding, leaving him unavailable for any future use of his powers, and his Evil Matriarch of a mother is very mad at Alison.