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Fallen heroes – Overwatch’s Soldier: 76 and Reaper origins

The Overwatch team may have solved the world’s biggest conflict to date when they came out victorious from the Omnic Crisis, but that didn’t mean the organization was flawless. In fact, much of Overwatch‘s current story has to do with the fallout after the Omnic Crisis was done and over with. As saviors of the world, the Overwatch team enjoyed a golden age of admiration and adoration from the general public…but it wouldn’t last.

And although outside queries and suspicions of corruption are often cited as the reasons for Overwatch’s downfall, the truth is a little more personal than that. It involves a rivalry between two heroes who were recruited to save the world, did so — and promptly let jealousy tear not just their friendship, but the team that saved the world apart from within.

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John “Jack” Morrison

John “Jack” Morrison grew up in rural Indiana, a farmer’s son with a heart of gold and a spark of determination that shone brighter than the fields in Indiana could ever hope to contain. When he was old enough, Morrison joined the military — with every intent to return home after a few years in service. But Morrison caught the eye of his superiors due to his strong work ethic and courage. And before he knew it, he earned a spot in a controversial soldier enhancement program, whose details are still classified to this day. What we do know is that the program involved genetic enhancement, giving soldiers superhuman speed, strength, and agility.

When Overwatch was originally formed in response to the Omnic Crisis, Morrison and one of his friends from the program, Gabriel Reyes, were asked to join the team. Reyes was appointed leader, but it was Morrison who really kept the team together and had the greatest impact. Morrison simply brought out out the best in those around him, inspiring them despite their differences and shaping the team as a whole into a cohesive fighting force. Morrison’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed, and when the Omnic Crisis was over, he was given leadership of the team, becoming the first official commander of Overwatch.

But Reyes wasn’t happy about being overlooked for the promotion, and tensions began to rise between the once-close friends. This all culminated in a fight at Overwatch’s Swiss headquarters, and an explosion that not only destroyed the facility, but killed both Morrison and Reyes. In the wake of the destruction, Overwatch was disbanded. Morrison was supposedly buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but in truth, his body was never recovered from the explosion. The farmboy never made it home to Indiana, and Overwatch crumpled without him serving as its guiding hand.

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Soldier: 76

Five years after Overwatch was disbanded, reports began to surface of an unidentified male striking out at various financial institutions and former Overwatch facilities. This shadowy figure, called Soldier: 76, seemed to be intent on retrieving Overwatch technology. His efforts were noted by authorities, and an international manhunt soon developed, focused on capturing and neutralizing Soldier: 76.

Become a Watcher

Easier said than done. Although Helix Security Internation tried to engage and apprehend him at the site of one of the thefts, they were unable to catch him. No one was killed, but rumors circulated that Soldier: 76 possessed almost superhuman strength and speed, and a suggested aptitude for military training. After footage of the attacks was analyzed by a forensic expert, it was noted that Soldier: 76 appeared to be the same height and build as Morrison was in his last public appearance.

The truth was plain to see, for those that knew Morrison — he wasn’t dead at all. But Soldier: 76 bore little resemblance to Morrison, the golden boy from Indiana who wanted to save the world. Reckless and dangerous, Soldier: 76 seemed instead to be a man with an agenda — one who was acting in his own interests for reasons unknown. Rumors suggested that he may even be trying to hunt down and uncover the truth behind Overwatch’s collapse, to try and clear the organization’s name in the history books.  Yet it seemed to those that took a closer look at Soldier: 76 that for all intents and purposes, Morrison was in fact dead. Soldier: 76 was just a shadow he left behind, seeking justice for Overwatch’s downfall.

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Reaper

Morrison wasn’t without his faults, but then neither was his former friend. Gabriel Reyes was born in Los Angeles, and just like Morrison, he joined the military — although Reyes seemed to be in for the long haul, eventually achieving a senior officer position, and then veteran status. He became a part of the soldier enhancement program right along with Morrison, and the two were close — they decided to join Overwatch together. Reyes was given leadership of the fledgling group, likely due to his seniority more than anything else.

But Morrison quickly outshone him, and when Reyes was passed over in favor of Morrison for a promotion, it created a rift between the two of them. Reyes became part of Overwatch’s covert ops division, Blackwatch. Little is known about the program, which was probably a deliberate move — the unit was unhindered by bureaucracy and acted largely on its own. And Reyes quietly began an internal rebellion that soon tore Overwatch apart, literally.

Supposedly, Reyes died alongside Morrison at Overwatch’s Swiss headquarters. But when Soldier: 76 resurfaced, so did others…including a ruthless, deadly mercenary called Reaper. A remorseless killer, Reaper left behind a trail of pale, empty husks drained of life, their cells showing signs of intense decay. And rumors suggested that Reaper was some kind of genetic experiment gone wrong, the failed alteration causing his body to both decay and regenerate at an accelerated rate.

More importantly, closer inspection of that trail of bodies left behind suggested that Reaper was systematically hunting down and targeting former Overwatch agents. And he was just as interested in Overwatch technology as Soldier: 76, going so far as to break into a museum alongside Widowmaker in a bid to steal Doomfist’s gauntlet, which was thankfully foiled by Winston and Tracer.

Future lore

Both Reaper and Soldier: 76 made brief appearances in the animated shorts trailer shown at last year’s BlizzCon, heavily implying that we’ll see more about the story between these two figures in the future. The upcoming Overwatch graphic novel involves the Omnic Crisis and formation of Overwatch, which means we’ll see even more — and with other comics on the way, maybe we’ll see more information on the enigmatic Blackwatch unit as well.

While many of Overwatch’s heroes are simply former members of the once wildly popular team, Reaper and Soldier: 76 both came into play well after the fall of the Overwatch organization. Their origins tie directly into the downfall of the team — and the rivalry between Morrison and Reyes had plenty to do with that downfall. It’ll be interesting to see in the months to come how that story is developed in media outside the game…and whether or not Overwatch’s name will one day be cleared.

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