The latest Overwatch comic, Searching, is a tale of espionage, intrigue, and mystery. It’s also the best Overwatch comic to date, narrowly beating out Masquerade. I feel very strongly about this opinion, and after you read my reasons why, you will too! Of course, it’s not perfect, and we’ll dive into where the comic fumbles... but after reading Searching, I actually become rejuvenated on Overwatch lore. I wanted to see more and dive deeper into this wild world.
Searching is a direct sequel to Infiltration, so make sure you give that a watch. It’s pretty crucial to understanding what pieces are in play (and what the stakes are). Sombra also briefly references her Origin short.
We start immediately after Infilitration, where Zarya has been called in to answer to Sombra’s “assassination attempt”.
This scene is fantastic, because we see:
- Zarya is absolutely disarmed by even basic kindness from Katya Volskaya. Zarya’s a patriot to the core, but that loyalty came about from her home being annihilated by omnics. Yes, she’s a patriot, but she’s also pretty lonely. Katya, the most powerful woman in Russia, immediately offering her first-name basis friendship is powerful. Zarya is disarmed.
- Katya Volskaya knows what she’s doing. The entire comic, she intends to play Zarya like a fiddle. She’s very concerned that Sombra has dirt on her, and she’s just as good at playing the great game as Sombra is. Whereas Sombra uses tech, Katya Volskaya plays people.
If you think that Katya’s friendship is actually genuine, I’d like to point you towards this panel:
This is super manipulative! If my boss said this to me, I’d definitely be writing a bad review on Glassdoor. Of course, it’s just kind enough to avoid a conflict... but the message is pretty clear.
Orisa also gets a cameo, along with Efi. Okay, this isn’t story critical... but it’s cute. I’m only human. I get to like cute things. Don’t judge me.
They’re having so much fun!!!
Anyways, we meet Lynx Seventeen, Katya’s hacker contact. Lynx is nonbinary, and uses they/them pronouns. Zarya isn’t cool with Lynx, because they’re an omnic.
Okay, something worth noting here here - Zarya uses the term robot. This is interesting because robot, in the Overwatch setting, is probably a pretty serious slur. The origin of the word robot comes from a Czech play, Rossum’s Universal Robots, which is actually the first story about synthetic humans being created to serve man, being made too human, and overthrowing their creator. (It’s absolutely worth a read or a watch, and its a pretty critical piece to sci fi history. If you like Westworld, it’ll feel really familiar to you.)
So, why does that matter? Robot is Czech for slave. Zarya might not be intentionally calling Lynx Seventeen a slave, but she’s calling them ‘it’ in front of them and dropping that term. So honestly, Lynx is being a saint here. Between that and the murder threats, Zarya is basically walking into their home and taking a dump in front of the door. More on this later.
Zarya and Lynx end up chasing Sombra down to her base of operations, Castillo. This is where the Hero short took place, and a familiar face shows up in Searching.
Alejandra seems to have taken the whole hanging with 76 thing to heart, because she’s been doing some groundwork on her own. Zarya offers her the chance to be a hero, and Alejandra accepts it.
Can we talk about how rad that is? Alejandra tracked down Sombra. That’s something that 95% of the main cast of heroes are incapable of! It’s a little deus ex machina, sure, but it’s also exciting because what other skills is she working on? She’s fourteen and already deep in the trenches of doing detective work? That’s interesting, and there’s no way Blizzard aren’t heading somewhere with that.
Also, I just want to pause here to note that Lynx has little rabbit ears. They perk up and tilt when they’re surprised! Cute.
The meat of the comic is the showdown between Zarya and Sombra in a Dorado warehouse. They exchange some banter, and then drop some revelations: Katya Volskaya is dealing with the enemy to reinforce her mechs, Sombra’s real name is Olivia Colomar, and something is coming.
Sombra is referring to the All Seeing Eye, of course. The faction who detected her as an amateur hacker. She joined up with Talon to stop them, and she was genuinely hoping Katya would help her.
Despite being caught by surprise, Sombra did set up a self destruct sequence. Zarya saves Lynx, heads home to Russia, confronts Katya, and...
That’s it. Zarya leaves a little wiser, and a little more broken. She’s still a patriot, but she can’t trust Katya, and she doesn’t know how to feel about a lot of things.
There are a lot of things that work about Searching. Here are the pros:
- We get cinematic level content. We get substantially more story from Searching than Rise and Shine. Even Masquerade set things up more than it resolved active storylines. The creative team had to make a choice to tell a Zarya versus Sombra showdown in a comic over a cinematic. I think it was the right choice, and it had to take guts.
- Lynx Seventeen is another great example of how Overwatch is building a strong cast of NPCs around the in-game heroes.
- Zarya has long needed content, and this is juicy Zarya based content.
That being said, there are a few rough spots:
- The pacing is a little rough. We get only a glimpse of the Zarya/Katya resolution, and the Lynx/Zarya relationship is a little threadbare. I feel like there were two or three stories in here that could have sustained their own comic. If you compare this to a comic like Train Hopper, the pacing is absolutely breathless.
- The omnics as a symbol for intolerance metaphor is getting increasingly strained. We know Zarya doesn’t like omnics, but the way she talks to them is a really poor metaphor for how a racist or bigot would operate in a real space. Between this, Junkertown, and other Overwatch media, the omnic metaphor is starting to fall to shreds.
Overall, Searching was a very pleasant surprise. While it has room for improvement, there’s something fearless about the decision to tell this story in this format. I’m excited to see what comes next, and I definitely hope we see more of Zarya’s story sooner rather than later.