The Falcon and the Winter Soldier brings in Marvel's first Black Captain America: What this could mean for the MCU
Warning: Spoilers from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier season 1, episode 2 are discussed in this article.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is turning into a Captain America family affair. Various characters who've carried the vibranium shield and assumed the moniker of Captain America across Marvel comics are popping up in the Disney+ series in fun ways. Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) are two of them, but also John Walker (Wyatt Russell) was prominently appointed as the U.S. government's pick to succeed Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).
Now, another comic book Cap has been welcomed into the MCU fold, but more as an Easter egg for fans.
"The Star-Spangled Man" sees Bucky taking Sam to Baltimore, Md., where they meet a man named Isaiah Bradley, played by actor Carl Lumbly.
In the comics, Isaiah was known as the first Black Captain America in the timeline of the 1940s. He was part of an all-Black military platoon who were subjected to harsh experimentation and injected with super-soldier serum in an effort to replicate Steve's abilities. Isaiah and his battalion were then shipped off to Germany to fight Nazis.
The show reworks Isaiah's origins to fit into Bucky's backstory. Isaiah, now in his elder years, met Bucky as the Hydra-brainwashed Winter Soldier in 1951 during the Korean War. The U.S. military sent Isaiah in to take care of Bucky when all those who sent prior never came back. Isaiah took half of Bucky's metal arm in the midst of a fight in Goyang-si, South Korea.
But Isaiah isn't introduced in the MCU for a fun commemoration. His presence is to show how there are secretly many more super-soldiers out in the world than previously thought. Isaiah says he was put in jail for 30 years where he was subjected to traumatic experiments. He also points at Bucky and mentions "your people," which suggests he was subjected to Hydra tests at some point.
This all gives Sam and Bucky new leads on how the Flag-Smashers could've gained super-soldier abilities, and they decide to head to Germany to pick the brain of someone who knows all about Hydra, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), who's still sitting in a Munich cell for his crimes in Captain America: Civil War. The episode also makes mention of a group called the Power Brokers, which seems to be a nod to the character Power Broker, a shady entrepreneur who gave the comic book version of John Walker his powers. Might there be some connection to Isaiah?
While fans chew on all this, Isaiah's presence offers some bigger implications for where the MCU might be headed — and it has more to do with his grandson.
A boy answers the door when Sam and Bucky come knocking at Isaiah's house, and the end credits of the episode confirm this is Elijah Bradley, played by Elijah Richardson. Why is Elijah important? Because in the comics he becomes known as Patriot, a Captain America-esque character and a member of the Young Avengers.
Marvel's Phase Four slate of movies and TV shows have been sprinkled with prominent characters from this team of adolescent superheroes.
Billy and Tommy, a.k.a. Wiccan and Speed, appeared in WandaVision by way of child actors Julian Hilliard and Jett Klyne. The Baby-Sitters Club star Xochitl Gomez will play American Chavez, a.k.a. Miss America, in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The Hawkeye series has Hailee Steinfeld (Dickinson) as arrow-slinger Kate Bishop, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will have Kathryn Newton (Freaky) as Cassie Lang, Scott Lang's daughter who becomes the size-altering character Stature in the comics.
A Young Avengers movie or series hasn't been announced at this time, but Elijah appears to be another big piece to this puzzle of how all these characters might be involved.
When asked directly about whether a Young Avengers project is in the cards, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige told EW, "As a comic fan, anything in the comics is always our inspiration and our guide point. How those things come together and in what shape, it's always subverting expectations, it's always half the fun as meeting them. But, yes, you can certainly see that Phase 4 is introducing all sorts of new types of characters with the potential being endless. Now, all of us at Marvel Studios feel like Nick Fury at the end of Iron Man 1, as new actors and new performers come in and we tell them they're part of a bigger universe. They just now have to do the work required to build their audience. I'm happy to say everybody that's here, certainly where I'm sitting now, is doing amazing work and [I] can't wait to show them the world."
In other words, Marvel believes that children are the MCU's future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.
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