Brian has an overly professional demeanour, as well as a desire for personal freedom. He readily accepts burdens when it comes to his family and friends, but he values his ability to walk away from it at anytime.
Brian is a cautious individual who tries to prevent emotion from affecting his actions. He appreciates practicality, and tries to have a plan whenever possible. When pressured, Brian uses self-discipline and rules in order to cope. Tattletale described him as pragmatic, with a tendency to take a lot for granted and act automatically brought on by several years' experience as a cape. This points to long term issues with intimacy.
Brian is well versed in multiple martial arts, being able to pick up the basics very quickly, but he does not dedicate himself to one particular style, being more interested in using a plurality of styles. He was confident enough to train his teammates how to fight.
Brian took courses online, allegedly to help him pay for his apartment, so he didn't need to attend classes. He tended to forget school was a factor.
Brian had a falling out with his sister a year after he got his power and a year before joining the Undersiders. While he does love his sister, their extended time together has made it easier for his sister to know what annoys him and exploit it.
Grue initially reacts to Taylor’s advances on him with the response that he thinks of her more as a little sister. He had not had many relationships with unrelated women given his upbringing with his father.
However, following Grue’s second trigger, they had a brief romance. The author described theirs as a "failed relationship".
Shadow Stalker believed Grue was her "nemesis" because of the interaction between their powers. She used lethal force against him, violating her probation with the Wards and, eventually, genuinely earning his enmity.
Brian is an African-American teenager, physically mature for his age, with a muscular frame, and a lantern jaw. He wore his hair in cornrows. He was taller than any of the other Undersiders, at least a foot taller than Taylor when they first met. Multiple characters seem to consider him rather handsome.
He had a deep, masculine voice that could pass for an adult. When he used his power, it created an echoing, reverberating effect.
As Grue, Brian dressed in motorcycle leathers and a motorcycle helmet with a full-face visor sculpted to look like a stylized skull. These incorporated side vents to allow the darkness he creates to flow outward, creating an eerie, dramatic effect.
On at least one occasion, he carried a small crowbar.
His equipment would receive defensive upgrades when Skitter finished making spider-silk costumes for all the Undersiders. The new outfit possessed a helmet with a more demonic design, as opposed to the skeletal motif of his previous helmet. It was based on a figurine Brian bought for the express purpose of inspiration.
Brian can generate clouds of smoke-like darkness that erase all light and mutes sounds.
It also interferes with microwaves, radio frequencies, radiation, and certain Breaker powers such as those possessed by Shadow Stalker and Velocity. He does not actually 'see' this darkness, he is aware of its location and when it is affected but it does not obscure his vision in the least.
His darkness offers some resistance, like pushing through water, which can make it difficult to keep track of your position. Grue's darkness produces something like a steady air current flowing from his skin when active. This wipes away his scent whenever he uses his power. This makes it hard for those with an enhanced sense of smell compared to base line humans to track him. His power doesn't interfere with smelling other things that happen to be inside his darkness.
His darkness could be moved around by strong winds.
A common tactic of his was to wreathe himself in his darkness to distort his voice and distort where his body is. He can use this to make himself appear larger. He could form rough shapes out of his darkness, including a circular wall. He displays further versatility by making a body double out of his darkness that was often convincing enough to distract an enemy, This tactic would later be borrowed and improved upon by his teammate Skitter.
Grue is able to cause his darkness to dissipate at will, and could selectively dissipate sections at a time. It naturally faded after about twenty minutes.
After his second Trigger Event, Brian's darkness became thicker, heavier, and came out less quickly, but grew exponentially. He also gained the ability to use the powers of other parahumans while they were in his darkness, while suppressing their powers at the same time. He can only access one person's powers at a time, though he can rapidly switch between the abilities he uses.
While using these powers, he was essentially using them for the first time, lacking the experience and skill of previous users. He generally didn't receive the benefit of thinker powers, including secondary thinker powers used to handle the fine details of a power.
Grue was abused by his mother's boyfriend when he was young, and fought to develop the strength and fortitude to never be that weak again. After going to help his sister deal with the same man at his mother's house, he was brought back to his weakest, darkest moment as he dealt with his mother's boyfriend. With the man's eyes on him, he found the power to immerse the world in darkness. The combination of the environment, malign attention, and the desire to protect his sister all factored into his power being what it was.
Brian was active as the solo super-villain Grue for two years, he was primarily active outside Brockton Bay. He started out committing petty crimes, and acting as an enforcer for others, slowly scaling up over time. During this phase of his career, Brian learned about the importance of reputation. Choosing the name Grue due to its obscure etymology, he did so with the presumption that the alias would attract a more sophisticated clientele.
During this time Brian met The Adepts, and by extension Epoch. From this encounter, Brian discovered a deep hatred for people whose powers messed with time.
He was eventually collected by Coil along with the other Undersiders and persuaded to form a team with them around a year before the beginning of Worm. With them, he began committing higher-profile robberies.
At some point, he was injured in a fight with Shadow Stalker and bled all over the Undersiders' couch.
Coming off a successful robbery of the ABB's Ruby Dreams casino,  they ran into a new bug-themed super-villain. Saving the villain from Lung, they were able to quickly make their escape before Armsmaster arrived on the scene. he had been a supervillain for three years by that point.
They would meet up with the villain later in civilian garb to recruit her to the Undersiders. They were successful and Taylor joined the team.
After Rachel attacked Taylor in an attempt to test her and possibly drive her off, Brian stepped in to stop things from going to far. He admitted to Taylor he would much rather have her on the team than Rachel but that his hands were tied.
He was devastated to learn that his teammate and closest confidant on team was a hero who had been planning to betray them.
↑ 3.03.1It's sorta kinda permanent. You think they're just going to let you leave, when you've seen the faces of local heroes? When you've seen behind the curtain and have seen dirty laundry aired (like how someone could comment on Kid Win's unofficial weapon, for example). Or are they going to lean super heavily on you until you agree that maybe you could compromise and move to a small town with 2-3 capes and minimal activity, or let you go but maintain weekly visits and more oversight and more regulation? Joining the Wards/Protectorate is a big deal. I mean, you're signing up for partial school days, heavy oversight, testing, and all that. Brian is helping to deal with Aisha the hellion, and maybe for a time, he just can't see himself having that time to set aside to deal with official stuff. Look at things from his perspective. If he signs up, he's adopting this more regimented, official lifestyle, and he's seen how his dad has struggled to deal with Aisha from the same vantage point. Once he confines himself, limits himself, then that just gives Aisha more leeway to mess with him or go do her own thing. If he's stuck with official stuff to do, what can he do if Aisha recognizes that and decides that every time she's going to run away, she's going to hop on the first bus out of town? Could the PRT deal with that? Maybe. Probably. Could they give him leeway? Bend rules or pull resources, as part of his bargaining with them to join? From Brian's standpoint, even if he's cynical about it, I imagine he imagines they could. But Brian has to weigh the negatives against the positives, and keep in mind that he's dealt with the 'system' for a time (CPS and Aisha and his parents), and even if he's more like his dad than his mom, pay attention to the small details - he does martial arts but doesn't stick with one class. He's in school but he's doing it online, more freeform. He walks his own path, he doesn't subscribe to much - he could theoretically ditch the Undersiders at any time. Less so with the PRT.
If it goes wrong, he can't back out easily. It's likely he didn't just jump into high profile burglary for high profile clients. Smaller jobs, smaller stuff, to cover Aisha's bail or help his dad pay for something to keep things more copacetic in the household. Maybe he found he was setting money aside, he started thinking about looking after Aisha himself, things scaled up, and then he found the Undersiders (or the Undersiders found him). Edit - this is why I'm reading the let's read and discussion - I'm looking at fleshing out Brian a bit more in the rewrite/polished version, and I'd thought about this stuff but writing this out it dawned on me how little I'd shared. - Comment by Wildbow on SufficientVelocity
↑Orders, demands, statements, condemnations, use of skull in costume: solo operator, organized, careful to divorce emotion from action & agenda. Falls back on order, rules, self discipline in times of stress. - 8.x (Bonus Interlude)
↑ 5.05.1"You and Brian are similar, but I wouldn't say he's cautious. He's… pragmatic. You both are. The difference between you two is that he's been doing what he does for three years, now. Two years of experience, before he joined the group. So a lot of what he does is automatic. He doesn't give a second thought to the little things he's done dozens of times already. He takes a lot for granted." - Excerpt from Shell 4.2
Grue's central challenge is one of intimacy & attachment. He's driven by group affiliation and a need to attach himself to others, but disharmony and imbalance plague him at all stages of his life, first through Aisha, then through trauma.- Major Arcana, bolded addition by Wildbow.
↑He’s not talking about competence. He’s talking about the philosophy and focus. Grappling vs. striking, example holds, Tae Kwon Do vs. Karate as a striking style, etc. He pretty much admits he didn’t get any mastery.
Just like a very talented singer can learn a song after hearing it once, Grue can pick up the basics of a fighting style after seeing them demonstrated once or twice, which helps learn the katas. In addition, he doesn’t need to learn the very very basics of, say, striking or grappling, because the very very basic stuff translates relatively well between two striking or two grappling styles.
Once you get into the differentiating aspects of two styles, you get into the stuff that interests him. That’s what he’s talking about.
There are problems with this ‘lesson’/chapter, but what you describe isn’t what concerns me (maybe I’ll outline it better). - Comment by Wildbow on Agitation 3.2
"Ah, right," Brian said, "I forget about stuff like that."
"You guys don't go?"
"I take courses online," Brian said, "My folks think it's so I can hold a job to pay for my apartment… which is kind of true. Alec dropped out, Rachel never went, and Lisa already applied for and tested for her G.E.D. Cheated using her power, but she has it." - Insinuation 2.6
↑Relationships & a struggle with relationships & the impossible task of balancing relationships with the monumental goals she's set for herself are a thing in Taylor's story. Look at how she develops as a character, the failure in her relationship with Brian, with teammates and friends, having to find her own way of bonding & holding on to incomplete bonds. With Brian, especially, it sort of breaks from the norm in terms of how protagonists of YA works typically find their love and live happily or unhappily ever after. The break from that pattern & everything it entailed, awkward and all the rest, making peace with something imperfect and incomplete, ties into what Worm is about, in an abstract sense. - Comment by Wildbow on Spacebattles
↑"Last and certainly least, we have Regent."
"Fuck you, Grue," Regent retorted, with a chuckle and a tone of voice that made it clear he wasn't really that offended. - Gestation 1.5
↑On the opposite side of the room, Brian was rubbing the back of one of his hands. The three dogs were sitting in a neat line ten feet away from a girl who was lying on the ground. The girl had blood running from both of her nostrils. I recognized her from the picture I had seen on her wiki page. Rachel Lindt. Hellhound. Bitch.
“I fucking hate it,” Brian growled at the girl, putting emphasis on the swear, “When you make me do that.” - Insinuation 2.8
↑Alec explained to me, “She’s got it in her head that Brian is her nemesis. You know, her number one enemy, her dark opposite. She’s been going after him every chance she gets.”
Tattletale shook her head, “Her powers and Brian’s sort of have a weird interaction with one another. - Agitation 3.3
"Couldn't make it in time," Aegis grunted, "Told her to stay put."
"She's going to hate that. Doesn't she have this huge hate-on for Grue?" - Interlude 3
↑“Her power doesn’t work well while she’s inside Brian’s darkness, for whatever reason. She isn’t as fast or agile, he can see her better, and she can’t see him in the darkness,” Tattletale told me, “So it becomes something of a very intense game of tag, with one very fast person that’s essentially blind and deaf but carrying lethal weapons, while Brian, the other, is trying to take her out without getting shot.” - Agitation 3.3
↑"Now she’s a probationary member of the Wards, with the condition that she uses tranquilizer bolts and nonlethal ammo for her crossbow.”
“Which she isn’t,” Brian growled, “At least, not when she comes after me. That arrow she shot through my side had a fucking arrowhead on it.” - Agitation 3.3
↑“The boss is helping on that last bit,” Lisa said, “The allowance and a share of the other income Brian is getting is coming back to him in the form of a paycheck from a legitimate company, and the manager of said company is both willing and able to provide a glowing recommendation on his behalf.”
“Which I’m less than thrilled about,” Brian admitted, “It’s… convenient, I don’t know how else I’d manage it, but I don’t like being so reliant on someone I don’t know at all." - Shell 4.4
↑ 19.019.1It was easy enough to pin down Regent, Tattletale and Bitch as teenagers. It wasn't much of an intuitive leap to guess that Grue had been one too. - Gestation 1.5
↑Grue had dark chocolate skin, shoulder length cornrows and that masculine lantern jaw you typically associated with guy superheroes. He wore jeans, boots and a plain green t-shirt, which struck me as a bit cold for the spring. I did note that he had considerable muscle definition in his arms. This was a guy who worked out. - Insinuation 2.6
↑There were two girls, a guy, and a fourth I identified as male only because of the height. The tall one approached me, while the others hurried to the edge of the roof to watch Lung and the creature duke it out. - Gestation 1.5
↑Grue was startling in appearance, by contrast. Taller than me by at least a foot - Insinuation 2.6
↑His voice was deep, masculine, but muffled by the helmet he wore. - Gestation 1.5
↑He had a nice voice. It was an adult voice, even if his appearance gave me the sense of a guy in his late teens. - Insinuation 2.6
↑ 25.025.1His voice echoed, reverberated, with a hollowness to the sound, like something alien and far away. He was using his power to play with the sound, “Tattletale, see to the door. Bug, with me.” - Excerpt from Agitation 3.7
↑"The infamous Undersiders," Eidolon spoke. His voice reverberated slightly, an effect similar to Grue's. - Queen 18.4
↑"If you've figured something out, spit it out," Grue spoke in his echoing voice - Agitation 3.9
↑Brian had showed me how the visor had vents at the edges, to direct the effect of his power around the sides and top of his head, so it wouldn't obscure the face. It wasn't that he couldn't see through the effects of his own power – he could. He'd explained that the vents were there to create an effect where you could see glimpses of a black-painted skull floating in the vaguely human shaped form of even darker black. - Excerpt from Agitation 3.7
↑Grue, for his part, withdrew a short crowbar from within the darkness that smoldered around his body. - Agitation 3.8
↑Grue’s costume was not unlike his motorcycle leathers in terms of thickness and design, making him one of the most heavily armored of our groups in terms of the amount of material he was wearing. His headwear was the part I’d changed the most: I’d modeled the face-plate after a figurine(see shell 4.4) he’d bought at the market. It was a step away from the visor he’d worn up to now, more demonic than skeletal. The only real trick there had been making it non-porous enough that his darkness wouldn’t bleed through. A quick experiment proved that my efforts had turned out alright. In costume, the face-mask down, the darkness framed his mask but didn’t cover it unless Grue forced it to. A demon’s face in dark gray in a vaguely human-shaped twist of darkness. -Colony 15.1
↑From what I knew of Grue and Hellhound, they were both marginally successful B-list villains who had been barely scraping by. Now both were on a team that was pulling high profile heists and confounding even the likes of Armsmaster. - Insinuation 2.5
↑We know so little about them. Grue and Hellhound were working on their own before they joined the group, so there's some information there, but the other two? They're nonentities. - Gestation 1.6
↑ 34.034.134.234.334.434.5I looked up Grue. There was actually information about him, but nothing detailed or definitive. The wiki stated he had been active for nearly three years, dealing in petty crimes such as robbing small stores and doing some work as an enforcer for those who wanted a little superpowered muscle along for a job. Recently, he had turned to higher scale crime, including corporate theft and robbing a casino, together with his new team. His power was listed as darkness generation in the sidebar under his picture. The picture seemed crisp enough, but the focus of it, Grue, was just a blurry black silhouette in the center. - Excerpt from Insinuation 2.2
↑Grue used his power, and the room was plunged into darkness, the volume of the screams and wails dropping to utter silence in a matter of seconds. - Excerpt from Agitation 3.7
↑ 36.036.1"Grue's power isn't just darkness. You can't hear in there either. And it feels strange too," Browbeat spoke, "There's resistance, like you're underwater, but not floating." - Interlude 3
↑We were only halfway down the length of the alley when there was a sound behind us, like the crack of a whip. It struck me as deeply wrong, since we shouldn't have been able to hear anything through Grue's darkness. - Shell 4.7
↑Shatterbird, meanwhile, was drawing closer, using the glass-storm to bar Ballistic’s access to the crate of explosives. Grue’s power was serving to counter hers, and any glass that entered the darkness seemed to drop straight down like rain, bereft of her abilities. Momentum still carried, however, and any glass shards that entered at a high enough velocity seemed to exit at roughly the same speed. - Excerpt from Snare 13.6
↑Then every bug in the area reacted to that sound I couldn’t make out, the one I’d heard when Cricket went after Coil’s soldier. It was loud enough for them to hear through the darkness, but… entirely out of my range of hearing.
I couldn’t say for sure, but I got the impression the ones closer to Cricket had heard it a fraction of a second sooner.
“Grue!” I screamed into the oppressive shadow. “Move!”
Cricket turned toward him and lunged in one motion, bringing both scythes down in an overhead swing. Grue moved out of the way just in time.
“She has radar!” I shouted, my voice barely audible to myself. Didn’t matter. Grue could hear me. - Excerpt from Buzz 7.8
↑The texture of the darkness was inconsistent, making it hard to identify the full scope of my movements. I was reminded of those times I had been underwater and lost track of which direction the surface was. - Insinuation 2.8
↑Grue was the first I ran into, and the easiest to identify. Some of my bugs had tiny hairs on their bodies that could sense air currents, and the steady output of darkness around Grue generated something like a steady air current around him. - Agitation 3.9
↑His power wipes out his smell when it’s been freshly used/is in use. Taylor notes the distinction at another point in time. - Comment by Wildbow on Buzz 7.7
↑“Bitch, hold up,” speaks the scentless man. Scentless man makes Brutus nervous because he is big but he has no smell. But he is Master’s alpha so Master stops and listens. “You’re going out?” the scentless man asks. - Interlude 4
↑ He was wrong. My bugs could feel Grue out there. If the driver had been injured, that might account for why Grue had lagged behind. But Stormtiger couldn't smell Grue? - Excerpt from Buzz 7.8
↑To make our escape all the more terrifying, I knew the dog couldn’t see. She was following Brutus by scent, and Brutus was going by Grue’s directions. - Agitation 3.12
↑If you recall, after the bank robbery, the dogs were riding through the darkness with Grue piloting one, the other two following after, using the scent of the lead dog to guide them. (3.12) - Comment by Wildbow
↑ 49.049.1Stormtiger raised one hand in the direction he'd come and created a blast of wind to clear a path through Grue's darkness and reveal Hookwolf and Cricket.[...]
"Stormtiger, find the others of her group." Hookwolf snarled, apparently not considering my words worth responding to.
"Can't," Stormtiger spoke, from where he stood above me. "Not smelling them."
"You smelled her."
"And I smelled the two uniforms from the ambulance. Other one's bleeding, sitting near the ambulance somewhere over there." - Excerpt from Buzz 7.8
↑As I looked for the source of the noise, I saw Grue's cloud of darkness shrinking. Debris began to slide towards the epicenter of the darkness, and the wind – the pull – began to increase in intensity. - Excerpt from Shell 4.7
↑He was using his power at a low degree over the entirety of his body. The darkness soaked into and through the porous leather of his costume, making him look like a living shadow. - Excerpt from Agitation 3.7
↑Near Vista, a large figure staggered out of the darkness, shadows still clinging to him, bellowing and screaming incoherently about bugs. He thrashed for several moments, then collapsed into a heap a short distance from Vista. Someone that large could only be Browbeat. Vista apparently reached the same conclusion I did, because she took a few steps closer to him, looking around helplessly for a way to help him.
An instant after I realized that I didn't actually have bugs on Browbeat, the figure struck Vista across the side of the head, laying her flat. I saw the briefest glimpse of Grue's skull mask before he and Vista were covered by a fresh tide of his darkness. - Agitation 3.10
↑Tattletale murmured something to Grue, and he surrounded us with darkness, leaving a clearing so we could communicate. - Queen 18.7
↑We climbed down the far side, and Grue banished the darkness around us. - Shell 4.7
↑Grue swept his arms forward, and the darkness parted. [...] Some of Grue's darkness clung to the surfaces of the doors and the windows, but the room was otherwise clear in a matter of moments, lit only by the florescent lights. - Excerpt from Agitation 3.7
↑He has stated he doesn’t get a lot out of thinker powers. Also, he doesn’t get the passenger assistance, so a lot of the administrative/coordinating stuff for the power isn’t acquired (ie. controlling where the power is applied). - Comment by Wildbow on Sting 26.5
↑Grue was abused by his mother's boyfriend when he was young, and fought to develop the strength and fortitude to never be that weak again. To go to help his sister with the same man, and to see the house and be brought back to his weakest, darkest moment, the man's eyes on him, he found the power to immerse the world in darkness. Environment and malign attention and the desire to protect his sister all factored into his power being what it was. - Comment by Wildbow on Reddit
↑I was remembering right, both Grue and Hellhound had lived in different cities prior to teaming up and setting roots in Brockton Bay. - Insinuation 2.5
↑ 65.065.1“You and Brian are similar, but I wouldn’t say he’s cautious. He’s… pragmatic. You both are. The difference between you two is that he’s been doing what he does for three years, now. Two years of experience, before he joined the group. So a lot of what he does is automatic. He doesn’t give a second thought to the little things he’s done dozens of times already. He takes a lot for granted.” - Excerpt from Shell 4.2
↑“The Undersiders. They’ve flown under the radar so far, but more recently, they’ve started pulling higher profile jobs. They hit the Ruby Dreams casino five weeks ago, and now they just robbed the biggest bank in Brockton Bay. This time we were lucky enough to get in their way. That means we finally have intel on their group.” - Excerpt from Interlude 3