The Best Superhero Story Isn’t A Comic Book (or a Film)

TL;DR: It’s actually this, an online serial novel entitled “Worm”.

Taylor Herbert is your average ordinary high school girl. By day, she gets picked on by the mean girls. By night she’s a superhero.

Okay, so not so average ordinary.

Under the alias Skitter, Taylor basically smashes her way through a whole host of villains, making Squirrel Girl and Superman look like elementary school dodgeball players. And she does this with only two powers: 1) she senses all bugs (insects, spiders, worms, &c) within several hundred feet and 2) she can control the bugs she senses within the same radius.

The whole thing is a massive (and I do mean massive) deconstruction of the entire superhero genre. It hits all the standard notes: worldwide superhero league, supervillain prison, a team of incredibly dangerous supervillains, existential monsters that make enemies like Doomsday and Galactus look like tutorial bosses, a multiverse….

But I really shouldn’t say too much, because there are a ton of twists and turns to the story. Suffice to say that this novel takes all those common superhero elements and delves into why they exist at all: where did these superpowers come from? Why are those with superpowers so prone to voilence — either causing it as supervillains or fighting crime as superheroes?

Worm also has hands down the best superpowers in the genre, considering not only just the powers themselves, but the changes to a person’s mind and body that such powers would require. Taylor, for example, gains a huge boost to her ability to multitask to compensate for her need to constantly micromanage the army of bugs under her control.

The author also adds two useful categories for superpowers: Tinkers and Thinkers. Thinkers are supers with great mental powers, such as telepathy and prescience, but also things like super-analysis. One character, Tattletale, is basically Sherlock Holmes. Tinkers, then, have access to advanced technologies so far advanced that no one else is able to even repair the things they build. So in this world, people like Iron Man and Batman are justified in not mass producing their great inventions simply because they can’t.

I should warn that this story gets really dark. Lots of characters die, some in very horrible ways. There’s also quite a bit of cussing and a little sexual content.

That being said, if this post hadn’t already thoroughly implied as much, I very much suggest reading this. It’s amazing and beautiful, and is more than just a good superhero story but a good story in general. The thought put into this is phenomenal.

In case you missed the top, click

here

to read.

Wonder Woman Analysis

So this was a film.

It was a good film. I’d watch it again, probably. I’d probably suggest you watch it. It wasn’t bad, that’s for sure. I guess I kinda have mixed feelings about it.

I don’t know. Maybe it was too hyped for me, or I just didn’t notice all the really good parts. I did have quite a bit of criticism for the film, which I’ll get to (a lot of it deals with spoilers, but I’ll put up a tag when we get to that part). I really wanted to like this film, at least.

First, this was clearly made for 3D. I saw it in 2D, so I got a bunch of shots that were like “Isn’t this so awesome in three dimensions? Here, we’ll slow down the action for a shot so you can appreciate how awesome the shot is in three dimensions.” A lot of the action (particularly the action regarding Wonder Woman) felt very CG, a little in the uncanny valley.

Overall the plot felt a little cliche, very much like we’ve been here before. I kinda get this, we wanna start at the beginning when a new superhero shows up, but eventually doing a superhero origin story for every superhero gets a little tiring. (I’m looking forward to Spider-man: Homecoming, because that one promises to not be an origin story.) Diana / Wonder Woman herself had character development that oscillated from decent and fun to awkward and cliche, ultimately, unfortunately, ending on the latter.

The characters were a lot of fun, particularly Steve Taylor’s band of misfits (cause of course they’re a band of misfits, but hey, I loved them). The villains were also good, mostly. Most of the Amazons were cool too, though I have some issues with Hippolyta (Diana’s mother).

***Spoilers Begin***

Chronology

I was rather confused with what is supposed to have happened when, especially after the revelations at the end. So in the past, at some point, the gods fought one another, which ended in Ares being cast out and Zeus’s death/the conception of Diana. This is all implied to have happened at some point in the distant past, but by 1918 she’s only physically in her twenties (granted, none of the Amazons seem to age much past beyond that point either — which probably comes with their immortality thing).

So that seems to imply that Diana’s childhood lasted for thousands of years, which seems a little silly. Though I suppose the alternative is that the time between the official beginning training with Antiope and the big practice fight right before Steve shows up takes the vast majority of those millennia. That being said, Diana seems way too naive for someone presumably several thousand years old.

The other possibility is that Diana really is only about in her twenties or thirties, but then that would mean that the war of the gods only happened about 20-30 years ago, so in the 1890’s. Which doesn’t seem very likely, given Ares’s role as warbringer. And the whole Greek aesthetic of the gods and the Amazons.

Hippolyta

I had quite a few issues with this character. On the one hand, she seemed way overprotective of Diana; on the other hand, she was still permitting Diana to learn to fight and to do what she felt she needed to do.

But Hippolyta knew Diana was the god-killer, which makes her reluctance to get her daughter involved in training rather strange. More strange, however, would be the silence of the other Amazons at Hippolyta’s reluctance, since surely they would also know Diana’s origin and purpose. Antiope, at least, seems to be heavily pushing toward Diana’s training, but the others seem content to just follow Hippolyta’s lead.

I mean, I get that Hippolyta would be super wishy-washy on this: even if Diana is the god-killer, Diana’s also her daughter, and any parent wants to make sure their child is safe. So Hippolyta is trying to balance her duty as guardian of the Amazons (and Earth) and her duty as mother. But I guess I feel this internal debate could have been shown better. Perhaps if less focus had been on Diana at the beginning, but I don’t know how you’d balance all that.

I mean, you have ominous comments (which there were plenty of), but none of them hinted at this part of Diana’s nature.

Ares

Ohmigosh Ares.

I have to admit, I did not see that coming. And yet it was pretty brilliant: after all, we know the horrible armistice and the Treaty of Versailles basically directly lead to World War 2, which was even more horrible than the first World War. Though it still seems a little small-minded of him (indeed, for all his talk of bringing humanity to its destruction, Ares doesn’t seem to have really done that much). Perhaps the implication, though, is that WW2 would have been even worse with Ares’s influence.

I really liked Ares, particularly him talking about humanity’s faults. His initial arguments were pretty cool, but then they kinda devolved into “Weak weak weak!” which changed him from a villain I liked to super cartoony.

Diana’s retort “But love!” was also super cartoony, though. I really wanted to see them engage in actual debate, not this really bad cartoony stuff. I guess I wanted something more like this:

Diana: “But love!”

Ares: “Just a device to perpetuate their destruction across the world.”

D: “But dancing! And music!”

A: “Bonding exercises to convince themselves that their lives have any kind of good effect.”

And so on. Cause Ares at least seems to have his argument far better put together than Diana (though she has naive stubbornness on her side).

Linguistics and Isolationism

So as previously mentioned, the chronology of the Amazons seems a little unclear. Diana claims to speak hundreds of languages (okay, given, since she’s lived presumably a very long time), but among them modern Spanish and English.

Okay, but how does she know modern languages when she lives on an isolationist island hidden from the world?

I had the same issue with Atlantis: The Lost Empire, that after a few examples of speech, suddenly the Atlanteans are able to speak fluent English. Like, no, linguistics don’t work that way. I mean, you can get a good idea of how a language works from a small sample, but it’d have to be a very specific sample — not just any sample will do.

Does this mean there’s a squad of Amazons that keep tabs on the rest of the world? But as an isolationist culture, why would they find it necessary to learn so many languages? Or keep tabs on the world? (Perhaps to keep a watch for Ares?) But even then, why would they teach Diana so many languages? Surely she doesn’t need that many for fighting Ares? Unless Hippolyta and Antiope were expecting her to journey out into the world eventually. Or it was part of the standard education.

Further complicating this is that Diana’s read classical Greek texts, but doesn’t seem to have read anything more recent.

And then despite knowing modern languages, the Amazons don’t seem to have upgraded ever to modern weapons. Like, you know, guns. I mean, granted, they have crazy fighting skills and bullet-stopping armor (probably magic), but that doesn’t suddenly make guns obsolete or less useful than their bows and swords.

Anyway, those were my thoughts. Responses, things I missed?