The Letters Page: Episode 2
Run Time: 78:01
In the first three minutes, Christopher says that there's another 45 minutes of episode to go. He vastly underestimated how much he and Adam are able to talk about The Wraith. By about half an hour.
Because she lives, works, and fights there, we talk a lot about Rook City. Check out the Sentinels Wiki for more information on that terrible place.
Adam perfectly NAILS the name "Madame Mittermeier's Fantastic Festival of Conundrums and Curiosities" right off the top of his head. Props.
Also, we linked to the Sentinels Wiki a bunch in these show notes. That's because the fine folks over there do such a great job. Keep up the good work, Wiki-mancers!
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- The Operative
- Iron Legacy
- Sara Scott
- Eduardo López
- Daniel Montgomery
- Abigail Montgomery
- Mr. Fixer
- The Freedom Five
- Grand Warlord Voss
- Absolute Zero
- Baron Blade
- Plague Rat
- Miss Information
- Zhu Long
- Mayor Overbrook
- They start off by describing the incident when she was a child when her father comforted her during a storm that we also see in her game bio and tell most of the rest of it as they go, I'll forgo repeating the high points since we already know it. They point out this important moment in that it got her into the mindset that she can become scarier than the things that frighten her - that this mentality is important to understand her way of operating. Being more [x] than the obstacle before her.
- She's not a genius-level intellect naturally, but more focused and determined than most which allows her to learn better than many others ("if she's supernatural in any way, it's in her focus and dedication"). That's what got her through school early and through an MIT-level university (Riemenschneider University, on the outskirts of Rook City, which is also where her parents Daniel and Abigail went). If she gets into a subject, she learns everything there is to know about it.
- The assault on her and her boyfriend occurred in her 2nd or 3rd year of studies at Riemenschneider [Christopher says 2nd, then quickly says 3rd - unsure if he was correcting himself or just giving a range]. They point out that her story is one built on grief more than just about anyone else. Now matter how hard she focuses/works, bad things still happen. She does her best, and her best is very good, but it's not enough.
- The training she got following her coma went not only into fighting with and without weaponry, but also perceptual things like assessing the situation. The studies in mechanical engineering were to enable her to build the equipment that would augment her combat abilities and allow her to not be in such a helpless position again. They start to say that she's a better fighter than anyone in Rook City at this point before walking that back since Mr. Fixer would be present in the city somewhere.
- Her comic book history began with her patrolling as "The Wraith" while still in college (and spent waaaay longer in college than you'd expect due to comic book time) and mostly around the campus at first. The urban crimefighter/college student dichotomy was the interesting hook.
- The "Red Scare" was a thing in the early Wraith comics and she was something of a commie-buster (often with college professors being the bad guy, convincing students to be communist spies, some scientific angle, or whatnot).
- "Maniac Jack" was her early named villain - burglar who would break into places, vandalize the place, steal things but just dump them in the gutter or something (i.e. he didn't keep anything, just liked breaking stuff). It's not like "fighting" was a part of their dynamic at the time (Comics Code Authority and whatnot) - it was mainly just her tracking down this vandal, recovering stuff he'd stolen, and eventually her apprehending him.
- Ermine (before taking up the name) was also a thief type villain who shows up early on too. She was another "socialite" character who ran in the same circles as Maia and there was a rash of burglaries of which she was a victim. Fast forward a bit to discover that she was the thief all along and that her being a "victim" was just a cover to throw people off her trail.
- So, Wraith's gimmick was "urban crime fighter/college student" and most stories focused around campus, slowly branching out into the city itself over time. After her (extended due to comic-book-time) time as a college student she graduates and becomes CEO of Montgomery Industries.
- Around here is were we get into the Freedom Five stuff with her, Legacy, and Bunker (all pre-existing characters with their own backstories) along with two new characters who will be discussed in later episodes.
- We meet Equity as an assassin she's fought (he appears in Ermine's deck).
- Ermine comes back as a thief character who's eventually revealed to be her old acquaintance Cassandra Lilya.
- In discussion about early Freedom Five team up books, lots of fighting against aliens and robots due to Comics Code Authority-type restrictions (can't kill people but rocky aliens with fire hands are fair game) - pretty much just monster-of-the-week kind of books and weren't meant to have greater significance (c.f. Voss invasion or Omnitron later being a huge thing and aliens/robots we see in these early disconnected stories could get retconned into these things later) and transitioning from "Red Scare" Communism to Vietnam War-era Communism as the foe - although often by way of metaphors (aliens representing Commies was a thing). Tachyon joining in FF Annual #1 (and Absolute Zero coming in later) was a relaunch of the title where supervillains like Baron Blade requiring a team to fight became a bigger thing. This also represented a major shift for Wraith given that the scope of her enemies had always been much lower-stakes than this - Mystery Comics had to adjust with the times as well due to this. While it remained more of a street-level book, the villains became more colorful/memorable characters and we get much more of her internal monologue going into things like her struggle to do things the "right way" instead of the "easy way" - that she doesn't want to give in and become what she's been fighting against. This change in tone also included "Rook City things" like Plague Rat and the Chairman, but also supporting cast, like...
- Sara Scott was her solo-comic best friend/foil (like Foggy Nelson for Daredevil). Friends since college - Sara had no idea that Maia was the Wraith, but she's useful in the narrative sense in that she's somebody for Maia to bounce things off of over coffee (the readers being in on the obfuscated meaning behind what Wraith's talking to her about).
- Eduardo López - Paralegal that works for the firm that supports The Organization (although early on this was just about crime that was being covered up - the Organization being a later invention), gets her stuff from the file room occasionally, etc. He's useful as an "ear on the ground".
- Over time things evolve and eventually the above two people become a couple (and neither know that she's the Wraith). She just comes across them in a coffee shop together with a "You two know each other!?!" and it comes out that they've been dating for like 3 months without telling her. It's a bit of a wake-up call for her as she realizes that she'd go to them for help (information or to talk about her own problems), but didn't really ask them about their lives.
- Lots of senseless murders at around the same time that a lot of "copycat"/recreations of old Maniac Jack robberies happens. Wraith shows up ahead of one of the robberies and preempts it. Guy goes to jail, but it's a set-up (more to come in the Spite episode as Maniac Jack is really Jack Donovan - short version is that Jack used money from people he murdered to pay the guy to recreate his old crimes then, after Wraith busts the guy he follows her and finds out who she is and what's important to her - he can't do much to Montgomery Industries, but her friends are perfect). Comics readers, after all of this is revealed down the line could go back and pick out that Jack is in the background following her for a long time.
- Sara and Eduardo are the people on the Spite card "Collateral Damage", they die when he drops them. He had kidnapped them and then left "clues" for Wraith to find to taunt her into tracking him so that she could be present for the "Oops." That's the instigating incident for her realizing that she can't do it all herself and brings in help (Freedom Five isn't just a team she helps, it's a team that helps her - the world changing on her, the threats becoming bigger is a part of this too).
- We get a few more team stories after that, with Miss Information and the whole betrayal angle there. Then the Vengeance story that brings back Ermine as a specific counter to her - for somebody who's been around for so long we only see her once in the game. That's because she doesn't really have a lot of goals of her own. She's not as heavy of a villain on her own, so the most interesting thing she does for the game's purposes is for her to show up for the incident where she's part of somebody else's big important plot. She's mostly just a thematic counter/foil for Wraith, right down to the fact that she's a thrill seeker where Wraith very much isn't.
- This gets a bit into her personality - she's focused and determined, but not grim. She can be jovial when it's appropriate. On her fighting style, she's an accomplished hand-to-hand fighter, but where she really excels is in the strike-from-shadows ranged combat area. It's much safer and easier to operate that way, especially when outnumbered, which is often the case.
- Took part in the Iron Legacy fight (but most heroes do at some point), but didn't really do anything particularly notable. More interesting is her role in the Iron Legacy timeline - sacrificing her ideals ("The Price of Freedom") to deal with the situation. She does fight an army of Spite clones that Iron Legacy was using as shock troops. "This isn't a philosophy podcast" but does her killing them count as murder? Kills the Operative and Chairman and takes over running the Organization that she'd been fighting for years. Rook City is a more defended area than others because of this.
- A lot of Wraith stuff deals with her being shown what she could become and her not liking it (in the second Miss Information fight, in the hall of mirrors at Madam Mittermeier's Fantastical Festival of Conundrums and Curiosities). She, as a general rule, does not kill, but she's more worried about what it means for her than as a line in the sand (it's a slippery slope as it might often be the "most effective" method of negating a threat).
- Bunker and Wraith were never really seen as a potential couple (in the way that comics characters are often paired off), so there wasn't really a will they/won't they thing for years - the budding romance/flirting really only starts happening in the run-up to OblivAeon.
- Operative as a minion of Zhu Long returns to Rook City to sever ties with her old contacts (literally, you know with a sword). The crooked Mayor Eddie "The Barber" Overbrook ("the barber" because he always takes a little bit off the top - his family has been running the city since it was founded - "nepotism all the way down") contacts the Wraith to protect him, the deal is that if she saves him he'll leave and theoretically taking the corruption in the local government with him. "Epic fight" with the Operative - rooftops, traps, etc. Operative loses the fight and her Rook City privileges. Mayor reneges on the deal, but Wraith had recorded the whole previous conversation and had already sent it to news, police, and the Organization - so he decides to leave after all.
- For OblivAeon, she's more important in the lead-up events than in the OblivAeon event proper (sure she fights Scions, Aeon Men, and OblivAeon, but she didn't have any huge impact - just part of her team). In the build-up she's one of the people analyzing anomalies, the OblivAeon Shard they find, discovering that OblivAeon is a thing to begin with, and the fight with Progeny that was a big thing with the Freedom Five - the element shifting bit being something she noted and was able to capitalize on.
- Dark Watch continues to have a strong connection to the Chairman and the Organization, but does the Wraith given the Rook City connection? Absolutely. Her solo book as a more street-level thing and runs across that stuff a lot. The Chairman's deck represents an endless slog against crime. No matter how many thugs you take out, there are always more. Wraith isn't a part of Dark Watch, but she definitely works with them and shows up in the Rook City Renegades book, which is Dark Watch-centric before the Dark Watch title started. Chairman and Wraith definitely have one another on their respective radars and would love to remove that thorn in their side.
- Why does Wraith feel the need to keep her identity secret (considering the public status of many other heroes)? It's important to her, especially initially, because of her business dealings - it would give an easy target to villains. The rest of the Freedom Five know. Her parents don't and her associates Sara and Eduardo didn't. The death of the latter two in particular drove home the idea that keeping her identity secret would protect others (although it also causes her to stop building personal connections outside of her superhero life). She doesn't really have a social life as Maia Montgomery anymore - she goes to events and knows people's names. She knows how to appear to be social without actually bonding with anyone.
- Does she have equipment ready for any situation or does she gear up for particular jobs with foreknowledge? She carries a variety of gear. Really early on there was the gimmick that her utility belt had everything in it as a hand-wavy way to show her preparedness ("If only we had a live fish!" "I have a live fish right here in my utility belt!"). In more modern comics she has a variety of specific loadouts for different situations, but she also has a general set of things she typically will have on her. She's more of a combatant/crime-fighter/investigator than a Swiss Army knife. All she really needs are her mind and her expertise. The equipment she has is useful, but she's not dependent on them and will work with whatever she has on hand.
- You mentioned last week that Legacy has strained relationships with Chrono-Ranger and Fanatic because they tend to kill their enemies, but what about Wraith killing Spite? Is she willing to kill in general or was that a special case? As they mentioned earlier this episode, Wraith doesn't kill as she's worried that once she starts taking the "easy" route that she won't stop. She's more worried about what it would mean for her. "Spite is [...] definitely the most horrible person in the game." She was willing to kill him going into the fight, but she "just couldn't do it". The big reveal here is that what we see as Agent of Gloom Spite's last memory was misleading. Wraith was hesitating to pull the trigger on him and it was Parse who could see that she either wouldn't do it (or at least wouldn't in time) and did it herself with an arrow.
- Why does she use blades to fight? Where did she learn the fighting/stealth skills and did she have to keep them secret from her parents)? Has she ever had a sidekick? She uses blades to incapacitate enemies and uses them instead of other options because of their relative small size in comparison and the fact that they're fairly reliable at range. They talked about her training earlier, but the stealth thing was mostly experience starting around the campus (and remember her extraordinary focus - she is very good at analyzing her own performance after the fact, like football players reviewing the tape for a game). She was starting in a relatively small area with low levels of opposition and expanded her area of patrol as she got better at it. She didn't take on a mentor role during the Multiverse era.
- Has she ever had a chance to drive a Bunker suit after they started dating? Not after they started dating, but an early Freedom Five story at Wagner Mars Base involved Bunker-derived space suits for the team. She didn't like the experience - she couldn't use her own gadgets and it's not very agile.
- Does she have some special interest in Absolute Zero (in Sentinel Tactics she pays off the balance remaining on his suit, she refers to him as "Ryan" during the Chokepoint event, etc.)? The Freedom Five are all friends/comrades-in-arms who spend their spare time together. They're all much closer than just "co-workers" and, after a certain point, are much more like family. They'll go more into the paying off of his suit in the Future section.
- What happened to Wraith's heroic hairdryer after it came to life on Imbued Vitality? Has it gone on to have further adventures? During the Imbued Vitality thing, her Hair Dryer has a "cartoony voice that sounds like a hair dryer". Now that they're no longer in the Realm of Discord and their gear is no longer animated, she's still occasionally wondering "Is it still in there yelling its stupid hair dryer voice at me and being really eager to fight crime? Was it always sentient in there and was only given a voice at this point." We have not yet seen the last of The Hairdryer.
- Tactics: The Freedom Five are even more of a cohesive unit and don't really operate separately. Post-OblivAeon, the government and public sentiment is largely that supers were the cause of all of it and the government is cracking down on "vigilante" activity. As a result, the Freedom Five sever their relationship with the government and, as part of that, Maia reveals her identity, liquidates Montgomery Industries and uses those funds to essentially "buy" the team from the Government. That included paying off AZ's suit, but it also meant buying enough material to keep Tachyon's lab and Bunker's suit/development/maintenance up and running. She's now a full time hero working with the FF and she couldn't be prouder.
- RPG: she still maintains her secret identity. Montgomery Industries takes a major role in rebuilding Megalopolis, but (along with RevoCorp, under entirely new management, and Pike Industries) especially Rook City. A major difference between RPG and Tactics is that the destruction in Rook City due to OblivAeon is less bad in some important areas in RPG and gets rebuilt better than ever as opposed to being kind of left to decay further, although the three companies mentioned have their own interests and are pulling it in different directions as it becomes a thriving city where people actually want to live. Also, the RPG timeline also has the Freedom Five stop being front-line crimefighters so much and become the Sentinels of Freedom instead, mentors/trainers for the next generation of heroes. Wraith's role in particular is combat training, "boot camp for new heroes" alongside Bunker (with one mostly focusing on tactical and the other strategic thinking). Additionally, RPG characters are considered canonical characters and they're excited to see more player-shaped events in the future (as opposed to SotM or Sentinel Tactics approaches where they come up with everything and we just play around with their toys).