Umbrella Academy features many great, unique characters. Vanya Hargreeves ranks among the best characters in the franchise, and one of the most important in both the streaming series and the comic books it is based on. Comic book fans may know her better as the White Violin.
Vanya Hargreeves endures as something of an enigma in the original Umbrella Academy comics, written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá. Her powers and past form the crux of the earliest storylines, some of which were adapted for the Netflix television series. The complex and tragic saga of the White Violin likely points to some of her future in the show going forward.
Updated on June 22nd, 2022, by Darby Harn: In The Umbrella Academy’s third season on Netflix, Vanya becomes Viktor, with the character coming out as trans. When referring to the comic character Vanya in this article, she / her pronouns are used, and when referring to the live-action character Viktor, he / him pronouns are used. Though Viktor’s unique story is original to the series, the comics contain insights into the character that may inform how his story evolves in live-action. Vanya remains a fascinating comic book character worth exploring by fans as they prepare to meet Viktor and try to guess where this always unpredictable story goes next both in the comics and on-screen.
Dr. Reginald Hargreeves, a wealthy scientist, adopted Vanya Hargreeves and 42 other children, all of who possessed some kind of superhuman power. Except for her. Vanya displayed no super ability and was told she had none.
Despite this, Hargreeves adopted her. He encouraged her music lessons, in particular the violin, but otherwise was dismissive of her. Vanya felt so unwanted and alone that she very often wanted to run away even though it was the only home she knew.
Born On The Same Day
Vanya shares a unique distinction with dozens of other superpowered children – they were all born on the same day. In the Netflix series, Vanya arrives on the 12th hour on the first day of October 1989, along with 42 other children.
In the Umbrella Academy comics, the event takes place much earlier, in an unspecified time in the 1950s, though the births all occur at 9:38 PM perhaps a key plot point to remember before season three begins.
The White Violin
It turns out everything Dr. Hargreeves told Vanya about her lack of powers was a lie. She discovers as a young woman that not only does she have superpowers, but she in fact has the coolest powers among the Umbrella Academy. She embraces her power and names herself the White Violin.
Vanya’s power is ironically communicated through music. She can generate unimaginable power and destructive potential by playing a single note on her violin (or other instruments). The extent of her power is such that she could actually destroy the world.
The Meaning Of Her Name
Though Vanya’s transition to Viktor in the Netflix series does not occur in the Umbrella Academy comics, her name takes on a poetic resonance now. Vanya serves as a name for men and women in real-life and means different things in different languages.
In Russian, it’s masculine, a diminutive form of Ivan, meaning “God is gracious.” In India, Bulgaria, and elsewhere, Vanya is feminine.
Before her realization, Vanya spends much of her childhood in bitter frustration. She gets left on the sidelines and is rendered a silent observer as her brothers and sisters engage in various adventures. She only watches as the Umbrella Academy battles the Zombie Gustave Effiel.
She watched with her father aboard their airship Minerva as Effiel turned his tower into a giant robotic monster and used it to terrorize Paris. This sequence is among the many changes from the comics to the Netflix streaming series.
Vanya spends most of her time as a child on the Minerva, a highly advanced airplane that dwarfs any other in size. The plane serves as Dr. Hargreeves personal base and home in some ways and ferried him across the world to collect his children.
The airship confounded in its ability to simply stay airborne, given its size, and some believed the remains of King Amen-Kharej IV, an ancient Egyptian monarch, supplied the plane with its mystical power.
Writes A Tell-All
An aspect of the Umbrella Academy comics that did carry over into the series for Vanya is her writing a tell-all autobiography about her experience growing up. Extra-Ordinary: My Life as Number Seven spilled all the tea on Dr. Hargreeves and Vanya’s distant, complicated relationship with her family.
The book became a best seller and a point of contention among the Umbrella Academy members as it revealed many painful and embarrassing family secrets. One member who did appreciate it was Number Five, who can jump in and out of time.
Though Vanya generally gets left out of the Umbrella Academy’s missions as a child, she does participate in a battle with Doctor Terminal in The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite 3. He initially kidnapped Rumor and injured her before the others showed up.
Vanya helped fight him on numerous occasions, ultimately leading to Doctor Terminal’s incarceration in Hotel Oblivion in later comics.
Vanya’s love of music wasn’t always focused on the violin. As a teenager, she played bass in a punk band called the Prime-8s, a comic book storyline the Netflix show has not seen yet. Her brother Diego Hargreeves, alternately known as Number Two and Kraken, joined her in the band.
Kraken shared a similar contention for authority and especially Dr. Hargreeves with Vanya and the two were close during this period. But he ultimately left the band to fight with the Umbrella Academy, further complicating Vanya’s sense of isolation.
Vanya’s life changes forever – and so does the Umbrella Academy’s – when Vanya meets The Conductor. She accepts an audition with the Orchestra Verdammten, which actually turns out to be a cult dedicated to the wholesale destruction of humanity.
The Conductor lobbied Vanya to take back up the violin, though she hadn’t played it in many years at that point. He had discovered her latent superpowers and wanted to harness them in a bid to realize the cult’s apocalyptic ambitions.
The Apocalypse Suite
The Conductor unlocks Vanya’s destructive power and teaches her to play The Apocalypse Suite. This composition had the power to destroy the world if played by Vanya. This storyline provided the basis for much of the climax of the first season of the Netflix streaming series, among the best Netflix shows based on comic books.
Vanya initially rejects the Conductor’s offer, but when the Umbrella Academy fails to take her warnings about the cult and her power seriously, her longstanding feelings of resentment take over. She returns to the orchestra, kills the Conductor, and begins playing the Apocalypse Suite.
She Attacks Rumor
Vanya initiates the apocalypse, even cracking the moon in the process. The Umbrella Academy arrives to stop her, realizing too late that she was telling the truth about her power and the death cult. In the process, Vanya mortally wounds her sister Allison Hargreeves, known as Rumor.
In return, Number Five shoots Vanya and nearly kills her. All of this plays out differently in the show. Vanya does not injure Allison and it’s Allison who pulls the trigger on Vanya. Except she only uses the sound of the gun to break up Vanya’s concentration.
In the comics and the television series, the team goes back in time to Dallas, Texas in 1963. In the second season of the series, Vanya plays a big role. She does not in the comics as she’s recuperating from her gunshot wounds. She suffers from amnesia and can not walk.
Nevertheless, the team does care for her. The horrific experience of the Apocalyps Suite finally brought them together as a family and a team for the first time. Rumor even forgives Vanya for what she did and helps her in her slow and painful recovery.
The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion 4 sees Vanya recovering from her ordeal and trying to make sense of her life. This issue, “The Labyrinth,” features a momentous conversation between Vanya and Mother about her value as a person outside her siblings.
The Hotel Oblivion, a special prison for superpowered beings, plays a key role in the comic and it appears as though it will in the Netflix series’ third season as well.
Vanya struggles to accept Allison’s forgiveness and help, though. The more she recovers the more she struggles with the truth of what she did. This leads her ultimately to another team of superheroes in the Hotel Oblivion storyline that followed Dallas, The Sparrows.
The Sparrows are set to play a major role in the third season. They remain a bit of a mystery in the comics as well, though it seems they are among the 42 children with superpowers that Dr. Hargreeves had originally identified. Vanya joins them in the comics.
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