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Parahumans: Worm, a review

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“Parahumans: Worm” is a complete web serial, an online novel that updates one chapter at a time. Started in June 2011 and finished in late 2013, “Worm” is completely online, completely free and comes broken up into small chapters for your convenience. At over 1 million words, “Worm” is an intimidatingly long read, but it is definitely worth trying. 

Most superhero stories begin with brightly colored spandex and plans to stop world domination. Secret identities are bafflingly flimsy, and jails can’t hold superpowered criminals but continue to try anyway. Various superpowers and top-of-the-line tech are used to beat up enemies, and cities must be rebuilt repeatedly. The status quo never changes. Everything will return to normal after Superman, Wonder Woman or some other superhero beats up the bad guy. 

Some people will tell you that “Worm” is one of those average superhero stories. Those people are wrong. “Worm” is a superhero story solely because its main characters and much of the ensemble cast have superpowers. A more accurate description of its genre would be superhumans in the real world.

Fanart of Parahumans: Worm (Photo courtesy of Abi Ibarra)

More reminiscent of “The Boys” than Batman, “Worm” takes a more nuanced, dark approach to superhumans. Property damage doesn’t get endlessly fixed with no consequences, and the government does not have the resources to constantly rebuild destroyed cities like Metropolis or Musutafu or aid homeless people displaced in fights between heroes and villains. People without super strength cannot be tossed around without injury; supervillains (usually) know better than to team up with people like the Joker. 

A common trope of the superhero genre is questions left unanswered: Why do people have powers? Why such arbitrary limits (Green Lantern and the color yellow)? Why commit violence? Why don’t villains target civilian alter egos more often? Why not use your powers for a more productive cause? I’m looking at you billionaire supergeniuses spending money on power armor while the world goes downhill. Throughout the 30 arcs of “Worm,” these questions are finally answered. 

“Worm” is set in the fictional city of Brockton Bay, which is almost on its last legs. The Bay’s main source of income has dried up, its streets are crawling with superpowered gangs and the heroes are more focused on maintaining the status quo than ousting the Nazis and drug lords. 

Teenage protagonist and unreliable narrator Taylor Hebert recently gained the unheroic power to control bugs. Having dreamt of being a hero since childhood, Taylor debuts anyway and is almost immediately mistaken as a villain. Taking advantage of the situation, Taylor infiltrates a group of villains, leading her down the rabbit hole of the cape scene, where her morality will be tested.

The main conflict of the first few arcs of “Worm” is the internal self-conflict within Taylor. Taylor grew up idolizing heroes, and she is not prepared for the reality of the world of capes. As the villain Tattletale puts it, “It’s a game of cops and robbers.” Heroes aren’t paragons of virtue, blinding Taylor and leaving her vulnerable.

“Worm” has a unique feature that enhances the reading experience. At least once in an arc, a relevant character will feature in an interlude, giving deeper insight into side and background characters, along with new perspectives on the current conflict. 

Almost grimdark in its intensity and constant escalation, “Worm” is not for sensitive or underage readers. Readers should be warned that in “Worm,” you will find graphic torture, murder, body horror, various types of abuse, references to sexual assault, child soldiers, Nazis, insects, spiders, kidnapping, drugs, racism and more. 

Remember that “Worm” is not a professionally published and edited novel.

You can read the entirety of Worm for free at https://parahumans.wordpress.com/.

Rating: 5/5 Spinnaker sails

5 spinnaker sails







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