Becoming The Wraith: Yuri Watanabe And The Nature Of Crime-Fighting Vs Law Enforcement

If you’re a gaming fan then I’d wager Insomniac’s Spider-Man has been at the top of your list to play. I’m happy to confirm it lives up to the hype, putting you in the tights of New York’s friendly neighbourhood webhead. It’s everything a Spider-Man game should be and the awesomeness extends to Spidey’s cast of side characters. One of the standouts is Yuriko Watanabe, a police captain who acts as Spider-Man’s ally within the NYPD.

Yuri’s role within the game is great, but she actually has an even more interesting history in the comics. The comic version operates as the vigilante, Wraith, an identity that’s been used by several characters. Wraith serves as a representation of what happens when a police officer takes the law into their own hands.

To protect and serve

From her earliest days, Yuri had a strong sense of justice. She joined the NYPD, coming up through the ranks alongside Jean DeWolff, who became the Wraith to honour her brother, Brian. DeWolff was one of the most dedicated people on the force and she eventually gained superpowers that allowed her to fight crime. Wraith’s powers included the ability to cast illusions and take control of a person’s mind.

Yuri saw DeWolff as an inspiration, and after the latter’s death, Yuri became more determined to uphold the law. One of the most personal cases that Yuri worked was around the sadistic killer, Massacre. As part of a hostage stand-off, Yuri failed to stop him from killing seven people in a bank. She and Spider-Man were forced to let Massacre go to stop him from killing anyone else.

When Massacre struck again, Yuri was taken off the case by Mayor J. Jonah Jameson, who wanted the villain to be taken out. Her experience with Massacre made Yuri feel that she wasn’t doing enough to protect the people of New York. She wanted to up her game by taking her crime fighting to the next level.

A spirit of vengeance

Yuri took on the Wraith identity by stealing a range of equipment from the evidence room at the NYPD headquarters. She used DeWolff’s mask, Mr Fear’s terror gas and Mysterio’s technology to scare the New York underworld. Yuri presented herself as a ghost who struck from the shadows, becoming increasingly violent.

She teamed up with Spider-Man against villains like Tombstone. Unfortunately, Tombstone was released through evidence tampering. At the time, Yuri lost her mentor, Teddy Rangel, who’d been killed in crossfire with Tombstone’s men. This incident pushed Yuri over the edge, with her telling Spider-Man that she refused to be bound by the rules of a cop.

Wraith targeted Mister Negative, going so far as to kill one of his men. Although Spider-Man tried to convince her to change, Wraith refused and attempted to kill Mister Negative.

“The Yuri Watanabe you know? She wasn’t real. That Yuri was a story I made up, a lie I told myself–The good granddaughter I thought I wanted to be. Do you know what a wraith is, Spider-Man? It’s a wisp, a trace, a ghost–The fading memory of someone who’s gone. There’s a reason I took the mask back so easily after giving it up. I didn’t understand that fully until I killed a man last night. Yuri Watanabe would have been horrified by what I did. But you know how I felt? I felt free!”

Fighting against an unjust system

Yuri’s transformation from a police officer into a murderous vigilante is fascinating. She started off believing in the justice system, but ultimately lost her faith. She saw fellow officers killed in the line of duty and the corruption that existed within the establishment she was meant to champion.

Through the Wraith identity, Yuri likened herself to a ghost. She shed her previous life in order to take up a new one. Given what she experienced, her motivations are understandable, though her methods are questionable. Wraith is definitely one of the most captivating characters in the Spider-Man universe, and I’d love to see her developed in the gaming verse, or appear in a film.

Author: thecomicvault

Short story writer, comic geek and cosplayer hailing from Manchester, England. Find my pop culture ramblings on The Comic Vault.

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