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Reaper fans are furious about Overwatch’s newest short story

Don’t fear the Reaper (just his short story)

Overwatch - the legendary Dusk Reaper skin, which is a heavily armored tactical set of gear Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

The newest Overwatch in-game Challenge, Reaper’s Code of Violence, debuted onto live servers yesterday. The Challenge was accompanied by a lore novella, depicting one of Reaper’s earlier missions with Talon to recruit the scientist Sigma. He works alongside Sombra, but most of the short story is spent in his head as he reflects on his old life as the Blackwatch operative Gabriel Reyes, and how it brought him into his current circumstances.

Unfortunately, a number of Reaper fans don’t like how the novella depicts Gabriel Reyes, who they have been creating fanfiction and headcanons of for years. (The fandom’s version of Reyes is a scorned ex with complicated feelings towards Soldier 76, a deeply petty man who revels in being both extra and extremely violent.)

And many fans have taken to social media to note their annoyance with the developments in Code of Violence. Some dislike the characterization of Reyes, while others have pointed out lore inconsistencies, like the fact that Gabriel Reyes knew Talon was a mega-corporation backed terrorist organization well before the events of Code of Violence due to the events of the Retribution comic.

We learn a lot about Reyes in Code of Violence. He used to be a cop who lived in a bungalow in Echo Park with his wife Martina and their son. He still thinks of Martina often, and it’s why he wears a mask and the name Reaper. One complaint is just how much time Reaper spends wistfully imagining how his wife would see him now, but we’ve only seen her in a single panel in a comic. At one point, he ponders “Would she smile now if she knew what I’ve become? Could she ever feel that way about me again?” We still know very little about their dynamic, whereas people have been shipping Reyes with Soldier 76 — and other Overwatch cast members — gleefully for years.

Overwatch 2 - Reaper in his Dusk skin squats, putting one shotgun over his shoulder. The futuristic Big Ben of King’s Row is in the background Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Reaper’s dramatic thoughts about his past life largely dominate the novella, including lines of narration like: “The memory of his previous life now felt like the tragic prologue to a tale of revenge he would write in blood.” These pulpy thoughts feel entirely on brand for a guy in a trench coat and owl mask who calls himself Reaper, so while it’s a bit much, it’s not too far off what I thought might be lurking in Reaper’s head.

But I noticed, when the story did take time to explore Reaper’s motivations, it introduced some elements that are inconsistent with Overwatch lore. At one point, Reyes thinks “the promise of Talon as the bullhorn of the voiceless, a battering ram against the walls of poverty, a fist to the jaw of blue-blooded elites whose fortunes had been crafted off the back of a servant class.” Whereas the Archives mission and comic Retribution show Reyes killing a Talon crime boss who brags about his wealth and power.

“Generally, the overall response has been positive, but the ones who dislike the story REALLY dislike the story and are going out of their way to express their distaste,” said Code of Violence writer Brandon Easton in an email to Polygon. “However, everyone has a right to their opinion and a right to say what is on their mind. I don’t mind criticism at all.”

Some fans, hoping that there’s an explanation for their concerns hidden behind the curtain, have started a theory that Reyes is an unreliable narrator. This wouldn’t be out of character for Talon — they brainwashed the sniper Widowmaker to kill her own husband, after all. However, Easton pushed back against this, noting there’s “much more to the Gabriel Reyes/Reaper story that many fans don’t know about.” Easton mentioned there is more to come with Reaper’s story, as part of a “long-term narrative.”

As for the fan backlash, Easton says “I don’t enjoy vulgar, mean-spirited, insulting or stupidly rude comments. But what can anyone do, it’s the internet? I generally get along with most fans and never engage in any major feuds on social media. Life is far too short to be angry about entertainment.”

The Code of Violence short story is just a drop in the Overwatch lore bucket. But as players continue to wait for Overwatch 2, even small content drops can ignite a controversy. Code of Violence has been derided by some readers, but others are hoping that Blizzard’s promise for a grand, overarching narrative can still come together.

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