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WandaVision: Who is Grim Reaper and what are his powers?

Image of Marvel's Grim Reaper
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Marvel Studios' WandaVision has officially premiered on Disney Plus, with the first two classic-sitcom-inspired episodes reaching the streaming service Friday morning. And while the show sets up a mysterious status quo for Wanda and Vision in their new neighborhood, which is undoubtedly much more than meets the eye, some subtle Easter eggs found in the newly released episodes hint that WandaVision is even more of an Avengers family affair than previously known.

The animated credits for the second episode, inspired by '60s sitcom Bewitched, show off a helmet that looks suspiciously like the distinctive headgear worn by the deadly Avengers villain the Grim Reaper – an undead, murderous mercenary who also happens to be the brother of a classic Avenger, and part of Wanda Maximoff and Vision's complicated extended family.

WandaVision Grim Reaper

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

If Grim Reaper is involved in WandaVision, it could spell disastrous consequences for the people of Westview – and open the door to a chapter of the Marvel Universe and the Avengers mythos that Marvel Studios has only begun to tap into.

Spoilers ahead for WandaVision.

Who is Grim Reaper?

Image of Marvel's Grim Reaper

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Though he's hardly as well-known as Thanos or Ultron (more on him soon), Grim Reaper is one of the oldest Avengers villains, created by seminal Avengers writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema (who also created Vision) all the way back in 1968's Avengers #52, first in his secret identity of Eric Williams – the brother of Avengers enemy-turned-ally Simon Williams/Wonder Man, who perished after being imbued with ionic power by the villainous Baron Zemo.

Eric Williams was a criminal who attempted to save his brother Simon's failing company by investing his ill-gotten money, a scheme which failed, leading to Simon undergoing the experiment that turned him into Wonder Man in a bid to attack his rival Tony Stark, whose Stark Enterprises was putting him out of business.

When Wonder Man's attack failed, he decided to join the Avengers and help take down Zemo and his Masters of Evil – but died in the fight. Later on, when Ultron created the Vision, he used parts from the body of the original android Human Torch, and based Vision's 'Engram' brain pattern on that of Simon Williams, which had been preserved by Ultron's creator (in comic books anyway), Hank Pym.

Following all of this, Eric Williams sought out the villainous Tinkerer (MCU fans will remember him as Vulture's tech-savvy ally in Spider-Man: Homecoming) to outfit him with a weapon to defeat the Avengers, who Eric blamed for his brother's death. To wit, Tinkerer sawed off Eric's arm and installed the gnarly cybernetic scythe that gave Eric his villainous identity as the Grim Reaper.

Using his scythe's ability to drain lifeforce, Grim Reaper fought the Avengers to a standstill before Black Panther appeared out of nowhere and took him down, earning a place on the Avengers in the process. Grim Reaper went on to fight the Avengers (especially the Vision) countless times both as a member of Ultron's Lethal Legion supervillain team, and as a solo villain – a path that led him to a fate even darker than his brother's.

What are Grim Reaper's powers?

Image of Marvel's Grim Reaper

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Initially, Grim Reaper was possessed of a cybernetic scythe that could drain the lifeforce of his victims (a convenient way of not having an actual vampire supervillain, something against the Comics Code at the time, and a trick Roy Thomas pulled several times at Marvel, as with his X-Men villain creation Sauron). This would empower him physically and let him shoot a variety of energy beams from the scythe, making it a versatile and deadly weapon in its own right.

But Grim Reaper was also originally possessed of a dark kind of super science-based necromancy – a skill that gave him a special obsession with the Vision. And when it comes to Grim Reaper, his deadliness is almost less about his somewhat limited powers themselves, and more about the ghastly nature of his schemes and what he does with those powers.

Given Vision's personality was initially based on the 'Engram' of Simon Williams, Grim Reaper wanted to use his dark science to transfer Vision's mind into the body of the deceased Wonder Man, both restoring Simon Williams to life and giving Vision a true flesh-and-blood human body, something that, at the time, played into Vision's longing for humanity.

Though Vision always refused, Grim Reaper's quest to revive his brother continued, leading Grim Reaper to eventually enlist the magical Black Talon to resurrect Simon. Now obsessed with discovering whether Vision or the resurrected Wonder Man, who rejoined the Avengers, was the 'real' Simon Williams, he eventually decided to kill them both, attacking Vision, Wonder Man, and the Avengers countless times – eventually leading to Grim Reaper's apparent death during a conflict between Vision, Simon, and Grim Reaper's Lethal Legion.

But that wasn't the end for Grim Reaper – he himself was resurrected by the necromantic villainess Nekra, who would repeatedly raise Grim Reaper from the dead to take on the Avengers. In this incarnation, Grim Reaper had essentially the same powers as before, but as a kind of undead, he was forced to absorb lifeforce through his scythe to survive, making him even more murderous.

After a long cycle of death and rebirth, Grim Reaper gained his own modicum of dark magic, using it to resurrect long-dead Avengers to fight their still-living allies, and even summoning demons to fight for him.

Later, Grim Reaper was resurrected by the Apocalypse Twins, scions of the one-time X-Men villain, as their Horseman of Death, which included a whole host of new powers centered on his service to the despotic villains.

In one of Grim Reaper's most recent appearances, he showed up in Tom King and Gabriel Walta's Vision series, attacking the Synthezoid family Vision had built for himself in an attempt to move on from Wanda and live a kind of normal life. He destroyed Vision's daughter Viv (though she was later rebuilt), and was in turn killed by Vision's wife Virginia, who buried him in the back yard - a turn of events that led to the end of Vision's suburban life.

How could Grim Reaper fit into WandaVision?

Image of Marvel's Grim Reaper

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The first two episodes left nothing but questions (with plenty of hints at possible answers) about what's going on with Wanda and Vision. One thing seems certain – Westview isn't entirely real, and Wanda has some control over its environs. It seems Vision is more confused than anyone about what he's doing in Westview – he has questions about what his workplace actually does – though he's going along with the flow.

Given Vision 'died' in Avengers: Infinity War (as much as a Synthezoid can die), it's possible Vision himself is part of Westview's illusion. Given the first episode showed someone with pale, creepy skin watching everything unfold in Westview through a series of remote monitors, could that be some version of Grim Reaper, obsessed with somehow resurrecting Vision or otherwise using Wanda and Vision in a similar scheme?

Reliable rumors have held that Grim Reaper will play a role as one of WandaVision's main villains, alongside none other than Mephisto, Marvel's primary analog for a version of the Biblical devil.

As for Simon Williams himself, he was originally written into the MCU in a cameo for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, played by Nathan Fillion in a role designed to reflect Simon's comic book status as a one-time Hollywood actor and stuntman. 

Interestingly enough, years after Vision's mind was wiped and Wonder Man was resurrected, Simon Williams and Wanda Maximoff fell in love and briefly became a couple.

With Grim Reaper's history of demonic magic, and the role demons – specifically Mephisto – play in the comic book saga of Wanda and Vision's children (who Wanda spontaneously became pregnant with at the end of WandaVision episode 2), it's beginning to look a lot like the classic comic book tale of Vision and Wanda's extended 'family' of Grim Reaper, Ultron, Hank Pym, Tony Stark, Wonder Man, Quicksilver, and even X-Men villain Magneto may be at the heart of the MCU's first superhero sitcom.

Newsarama staff writer who learned to read from comic books and hasn’t shut up about them since.