Soldier 76 as Captain America and Reaper as the Winter Soldier
What we’ve seen of the mythos of Overwatch is built upon long-held comic book tropes — in this, the Blizzard Entertainment developers’ passion for comic books is unabashedly present. Winston is a reversal of DC’s Grodd. Tracer, though a teleporter like Nightcrawler, might be an FPS’s closest approximation to the speedster archetype. Pharah’s powersuit is akin to Iron Man. With this in mind, the mythos surrounding Soldier 76 — and possibly other characters we’ve already seen — begins to take shape with only minimal information. Soldier 76 is the Captain America of Overwatch. Knowing this, it’s possible we can find the roots of other Overwatch characters, too. Let’s speculate, shall we?
Soldier 76 as Captain America
Through the in-universe fiction released during the lead up to Soldier 76’s reveal, we learn some important things about him in a past life. His name was Jack Morrison. He was modified by the military to be a super soldier. He was the commander of Overwatch, defender of — and embodiment of — everything good and righteous. He was a moral man, a true hero, but always saw himself as a soldier first and foremost. That lines up with the prevailing image of Captain America. Comic books being what they are, even Cap has had story arcs where he walks down a darker path, but his character always comes back to those things: strong morals, a clear picture of right and wrong, and he is a soldier above all.
If we need more evidence of Soldier 76 filling a Captain America role, we can look to the source material. So far, this is a rare case of Overwatch source material existing at all: 76 is an old creation belonging to Chris Metzen, posted years ago to the Sons of the Storm website — Sons of the Storm being an artists’ collective within Blizzard Entertainment. In his original form, Soldier 76 is a man who survives an assassination attempt, and when he recovers, he discovers his country has fallen apart. He’s a veteran American soldier and embodies that brand of American patriotism — even in aesthetics, he’s something akin to Captain America meets G. I. Joe. That name, too: Soldier 76. Much like the Philadelphia 76ers, that’s surely a nod to 1776, the year in which the United States of America declared its independence.
Widowmaker as Black Widow
We’re going to make a detour to Widowmaker. In name and essence, she fits Marvel’s Black Widow. Once upon a time, Widowmaker was a normal, everyday woman named Amélie Lacroix, until an organization known as TALON brainwashed her and shaped her into an assassin. That is, essentially, Black Widow’s origin story, too. There isn’t necessarily a direct link between Soldier 76 and Widowmaker, but if we’re going to dig into this theory, she may be relevant.
If you’ve seen the Avengers (and Captain America) films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’ve seen Captain America and Black Widow certainly have a rapport. This has sometimes been true in the comics, too. They were both Avengers at one time or another, often but not always simultaneously. It wouldn’t be reaching to say, in the long, long run of these characters’ existences, they are tied. If we’re chasing this theory, we should assume that, in some way, Widowmaker fits into the overall mythos of Soldier 76. Widowmaker’s story might lay the foundation for future revelations.
Jack Morrison’s Bucky Barnes
In the material released prior to Soldier 76’s official reveal, Olympia Shaw — an in-universe reporter — reminisces on the hero Jack Morrison once was, lamenting the thought he might still be alive and gone vigilante. Jack was supposed to be dead, a victim of the aforementioned assassination attempt. In this Jack-fueled nostalgia, Olympia Shaw also mentions a character named Gabriel Reyes, a man who was — like Jack — on the short list to be made commander of Overwatch. Though Reyes was initially given leadership of Overwatch, and initially the two were good friends, Morrison eventually eclipsed Reyes and became commander of Overwatch. Tensions rose between them. In the words of Angela Ziegler, better known as Overwatch’s Mercy:
“After Morrison’s promotion to strike commander, his relationship with Reyes changed. The tension became more pronounced as time went on. I tried to mend things. We all did. Sometimes when the closest bonds break, all you can do is pray you stay out of the cross fire.”
Both Morrison and Reyes were presumed dead in the incident that destroyed the Swiss Overwatch base where both were present. As Olympia Shaw reports:
[…]records indicate that a rebellion tore the group apart from within. On one side was Morrison, determined to hold together what remained of Overwatch. On the other side was Reyes, whose agenda remains unknown to this day. A battle raged between these men deep within Overwatch’s base. At some point, their fighting triggered an explosion that destroyed the facility and sent the dreams of an entire generation up in flames.
Jack Morrison was the “white hat” agent of Overwatch. Gabriel Reyes, on the other hand, seems to have had a different outlook entirely. In an interview with the South Korean Player’s Cut, Jeff Kaplan reveals two notable items. First, Overwatch contained within it a unit known as Blackwatch to perform the less-savory, but still necessary tasks involved in keeping the world safe. Second, Reaper was himself once a member of Blackwatch. With that in mind, a piece of artwork from Soldier 76’s origin story might hold a revelation of its own.
In this image we can identify Soldier 76, Reinhardt, and Torbjorn immediately — all three have been announced as playable characters. In the bottom left, we see a woman who is most likely Pharah’s mother. To quote from Pharah’s character page on the official site:
As a child, Fareeha dreamed of following in her mother’s footsteps and joining the global peacekeeping force, Overwatch. She enlisted in the Egyptian army, and her dogged persistence and tactical prowess caused her to rise up through the officer ranks. She was a courageous leader and earned the loyalty of all who served under her. With her exemplary record, Fareeha was well placed to join the ranks of Overwatch, but before she had that opportunity, Overwatch was disbanded.
Who’s that fifth person, though? Who’s the man standing between Soldier 76 and Pharah’s mom? It could be Gabriel Reyes — and if it is, his choice in firearms speaks volumes.
Gabriel Reyes broke bad. According to Reaper’s character page:
Those attempting to track his movements have begun to see a pattern in his appearances. They believe that Reaper is hunting former Overwatch agents and systematically eliminating them.
If you watch Soldier 76’s origin story, the duality between Soldier 76 and Reaper is everpresent. Reaper hunts former agents of Overwatch. Soldier 76 hunts those who brought Overwatch down. The rebellion that supposedly killed both Jack Morrison and Gabriel Reyes didn’t manage to take down either of them. Both live on. Soldier 76 lives on as an anonymous vigilante, still trying to fight the good fight. Gabriel Reyes (in theory) lives on as Reaper, trying to finish what he started.
Was Gabriel Reyes always such a bad guy, though? If he was a sleeper agent, he maintained the facade of heroism for over twenty years before making a move on Jack Morrison. And why would a sleeper agent help create Overwatch in the first place? If Gabriel Reyes wasn’t there to fill a position of leadership when assembling Overwatch, there might never have been an Overwatch to take down. Was being passed over for promotion enough to turn him to the dark side? Does he have other motivations for what he does — a corruption we haven’t seen?
Following the idea that Soldier 76 is Overwatch‘s version of Marvel’s Captain America, consider Bucky Barnes. Bucky, in the comics of old, was Captain America’s young sidekick. In the version of Captain America known from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Bucky was Captain America’s protective friend. Bucky watched out for Captain America back when he was just a scrawny guy named Steve. When Steve became Captain America and rose to hero status, Bucky suddenly found his position reversed. Steve was the big damn hero and Bucky was just another guy. In the heat of battle, Bucky fell to his death — or was assumed to have fallen to his death. The same organization that molded Marvel’s Natasha Romanoff into Black Widow brainwashed, trained, and controlled the presumed-dead Bucky and made him into the Winter Soldier, eventually tasked with taking down S.H.I.E.L.D. — an organization that is, for all intents and purposes, equivalent to Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch.
Much like Natasha Romanoff was molded into Black Widow, Amélie Lacroix was molded into Widowmaker, and Bucky Barnes was molded into the Winter Soldier, has Gabriel Reyes been molded into Reaper to take down his former employer? Through Widowmaker, we know the organization known as TALON has the capabilities. They’ve done it once. They could do it again. If they could do it, why wouldn’t they? Taking Overwatch down from the inside would accomplish their villainous goals without ever getting their hands dirty.
As announced this year’s San Diego Comic Con, Blizzard Entertainment will be releasing a graphic novel focusing on Soldier 76. Once it ships, we’ll find out just how much of the above speculation turns out to be true.
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