“Retribution”: Overwatch’s Latest Comic

One of the things I like most about Overwatch is their unique way of delivering lore. You don’t have to play the game to become part of the fandom since they have provided most of their storytelling through external mediums. I mentioned this in a previous post about how the game itself serves as an AU for the franchise. I wanted to discuss the latest Overwatch comic though because it is a well-done piece of comic writing. As expressed by my professor, Tom De Haven, like a video game, a comic is more than its writing or visuals. It’s a combination of both and to use the medium fully, neither aspect should be able to exist on its own (although I would argue that some comics that are just art are quite interesting). Retribution works on multiple levels because the writers and illustrator kept this in mind while creating it.

Retribution uses its art and lettering to help foreshadow events both within the comic and to events both past and potentially, future. The comic starts with Gabriel Reyes sitting in a hospital room with an unknown figure. Presumably its some important to Reyes given that he is a high ranking officer and most likely wouldn’t go visiting just anyone for extended periods of time.

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In the top two panels, what stands out? Reyes in the light is the initial focus, but the giant, red “BEEP”s lead the eye across and down the top two panels due to their color and layout. They stand out and call our attention, but they’re overall mundane enough of an object that the reader doesn’t linger too long on them since they can be attached to the monitor. The reader can dismiss them as they move in time and place to the next panel.

A few pages later, when the BEEP returns, the reader already has that previous association with the monitor. Now, however, the BEEP is attached to the bomb being set up in the base.

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Because of this small signal, the reader is able to place their location and time within the comic, as well as the thread that connects everything, despite the fact that there are three congruent timelines playing across the comic.

There are a number of other panels that work on multiple levels, but the final four on the last page do a lot of work in a small amount of space. Even without the dialogue, the reader can visually understand what is happening.

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We are shown that a rift is forming between Jack Morrison and Gabriel Reyes, not just by the color or shift in the logo between the two panels. There’s the body language of Jack, arms crossed and closed off, and Gabriel walking away with his fists clenched. There’s the fact that it was shown with two panels when the same scene could have easily been conveyed with just one, even if they are locationally in different places. Both characters are in the shadows at this point, but the way they stand in the shadows is different. Jack is standing, already engulfed in the shadow whether he realizes it or not. Gabriel, meanwhile, is willingly walking into it with determination. It almost suggests that Jack is unaware of the way things are changing, whereas Gabriel is embracing the change and working with it in order to get his job done.

The third panel shows the full Blackwatch crew. While superficially it conveys less at an initial glance, there are again a number of small details that show a lot about the characters. While they are all supposed to be occupying about the same amount of space and the distance should be even, McCree appears to have a larger distance between himself and the others. He is turned away from them, face obscured by his hat and arm. While his posture is relaxed, the way he is posed suggests that he is trying to put more space between himself and the others. He seems to be turning away from them, suggesting that he doesn’t necessarily get along with the others, or at the very least Moira. Moira, meanwhile, appears to be checking her gear, but the fact that she has both orbs up could show her looking at her options. Having her set in between McCree and Genji could indicate the way that Blackwatch is trying to balance doing what is right while also using less than moral means to achieve their goals. Genji is a little more difficult to read in this panel, although the way he’s checking his gear could show how he’s still having a difficult time adjusting (this contrasted with McCree, who as previously stated is for the most part relaxed). In this panel, we continue to see Gabriel’s back. It’s interesting to note that both him and McCree seem to be looking different ways as well, potentially suggesting a rift in ideals forming between them as well.

The final panel is a nice little bit of foreshadowing and a nod to Gabriel’s final form, Reaper. The angle and lighting have created shadows to form the mask that he eventually wears as Reaper. Likewise, his hood is the same. Despite how harsh the lighting and angles of this panel are, there’s something very sad in his face. It further suggests that he is doing this not because he wants to, but because he has to in order to achieve his goals and protect his ideals, even if it means having to go into the shadows.

Blizzard is always good at conveying a lot in a small amount of space, be it in their cinematics or comics, but this comic stood out because of the careful panel placement, coloring, and overall style.

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