After receiving a name change last month, Overwatch’s Cole Cassidy has made his debut in a new digital comic series. The first issue of a five-part series by Dark Horse Comics, titled New Blood, sees the cowboy wrestling with his past as he embarks on a journey to become someone different. It’s impressively deep, with Cassidy getting existential about it all, and it left me misty-eyed.
For those out of the loop, Cole Cassidy was previously called Jesse McCree, named after the now-ousted developer of the same name who took part in the controversial and extremely unprofessional “Cosby Suite” meet-ups. Publisher Activision Blizzard is still dealing with several lawsuits regarding its toxic workplace culture, and the name of Overwatch’s cowboy was a sticking point in the widespread conversation. It led the Overwatch Team to scrap his moniker and rejigger his past. It also caused Blizzard to pledge to never name in-game characters after real employees again.
Overwatch dropped a new biography for the character on October 22, the same day it announced the name change. But New Blood is our first look at Cole Cassidy in Overwatch lore. It sees him exploring not just his past “running as a mercenary,” but also his future as a potential team leader.
New Blood starts with Cassidy talking to himself about “something big coming,” before riding off to meet Overwatch vet and support hero, Ana Amari, in Cairo, Egypt. They catch up over drinks, reminisce, the things old friends do. But at several points in their conversation, there are hints about how Cassidy doesn’t want to “repeat the past,” from before his Overwatch crew was dissolved. Ana starts digging through his previous lives—the Deadlock Gang, Blackwatch—before the two are thrust into a kinda epic shootout against some nondescript soldiers, drawn by artist Irene Koh.
“Despite your act, I could tell you felt trapped by the life you’d be living,” Ana says to Cassidy during the shootout—probably the worst time to examine someone’s psyche. “You can change, too,” she later says once things die down outside, leading him to her new hideout. “You could use this opportunity to do some good, assemble a team of your own. On your own terms.”
“The old days went sour,” he ponders to himself. “But what if things could be different?”
It’s all really powerful stuff. What makes us human is our ability to adapt and evolve, to take on new identities and shed old ones, to embrace a new version of ourselves.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be held accountable for our past lives. We carry that complicated history with us, whether we’re proud of it or not. But who we were informs who we are, which allows us to become someone new. Without the room to grow, the space to reflect on and reexamine the past, we can’t hope to envision a new future for ourselves, let alone the world.
This reinvention is something I’ve done many times in my life, something I’m doing even now as I embrace a new version of myself in New York, a city I’ve only dreamed of living in. The shedding of the skin, all snake-like, is necessary for growth. And it’s a growth vital for Cassidy to become someone different.
Do I think the same should apply to the real McCree? I want to say “no,” but I honestly don’t know. It is incredibly hard to apply these principles when people have crossed particular lines, how to balance a desire for reformation, with a desire for accountability. It’s a question this comic makes unavoidable.
Dark Horse Comics’ New Blood coincides with an Overwatch in-game event running until November 23. Dubbed Cassidy’s New Blood Challenge, it gives you the opportunity to unlock the Sandstorm Cassidy skin, the same outfit he sports in the comic. It’s just as you’d expect, with Cassidy in a primarily brown ensemble and a scarf wrapped around his neck. There are other unlockable rewards as well for those who watch hours of Overwatch Twitch streams, including cute sprays of Ana, Cassidy, and Pharah.