Friday, September 22, 2023

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Isaiah Bradley Explained

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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is quickly shaping up to be one of the darkest MCU projects to date. As the dust for Avengers: Endgame sets in, the world needs Captain America more than ever. But like Sam Wilson finds out in episode 2, the same government that created Captain America has skeletons in their closet, and one of them is named Isaiah Bradley (played by Carl Lumbly). Who Isaiah is, and how his MCU debut predicted days dark ahead for Steve Rogers’ friends and admirers? Let’s explore what we know and why the series reveals the grim truth behind the myth that is Captain America.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Isaiah Bradley: The First Black Captain America

Isaiah is the main protagonist of 2003’s Truth: Red, White & Black. Written by Robert Morales and drawn by Kyle Baker, the series reveals that Steve Rogers was far from the only soldier the government tried to turn into a tool. of superhuman propaganda. Because the formula for Super Soldier Serum is lost when Dr. Abraham Erskine is killed by a German spy, scientists at Project: Rebirth have no choice but to try and recreate it through trial and error. They do this by experimenting on hundreds of African-American soldiers, men considered by eugenics-obsessed Dr Josef Reinstein to be consumable tools for the cause.

The series draws heavily from the real world Tuskegee Syphilis Study, an infamous program in which researchers studied the long-term effects of untreated syphilis in hundreds of African American men without their full knowledge and consent. Likewise, Truth shows that hundreds of soldiers are subjected to experimental sera without fully understanding what they were recruited for or the significant risks involved. Isaiah is one of only five test subjects to survive the process. The remaining untreated soldiers and researchers are executed, ensuring that only a handful know the origin of these new super soldiers. And after his comrades are killed in the line of duty, Isaiah becomes the sole survivor and the only living proof of this twisted attempt to create a new Captain America.Isaiah (second from left) is the only surviving test subject whose body is not twisted and deformed by the imperfect serum.  (Image credit: Marvel)

Isaiah (second from left) is the only surviving test subject whose body is not twisted and deformed by the imperfect serum. (Image credit: Marvel)

Isaiah’s fate is hardly better than that of his brothers, unfortunately. He was ultimately court martialed and jailed, spending most of the next two decades as a government lab rat. That’s how his son Josiah was born – an attempt to clone the last known relic of Project: Rebirth and create a new generation of super-soldiers.

Isaiah is eventually pardoned by President Eisenhower and left to live the rest of his life in obscurity. His body and mind also gradually succumb to the effects of his faulty super-soldier serum. However, word of his exploits and sacrifices begins to spread among the African American community. When Steve Rogers belatedly learns of Isaiah’s existence and visits him, he sees a house filled with photos of Isaiah alongside 20th-century icons like Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, John Lennon, and Nelson Mandela. His legend has not been forgotten by everyone.Art by Kyle Baker.  (Image credit: Marvel)

Art by Kyle Baker. (Image credit: Marvel)

Elijah Bradley: young avenger

Episode 2 also introduces us to Isaiah’s grandson, Eli (played by Elijah Richardson), a character who may well be destined for big things in the MCU. In the comics, Eli is a founding member of the Young Avengers who takes on Patriot’s mantle and wields the same triangular shield once worn by his grandfather. His teammates naturally assume that Eli inherited his super strength from his grandfather with this shield. But Eli hides a dark secret of his own. Because Eli’s mother was born before Isaiah was put through the super-soldier test, he is, in fact, a perfectly ordinary human. It compensates for this by relying on mutant growth hormone, a super steroid that can temporarily impart incredible potency, but at a terrible physical cost.

After being clear about his deception, Eli joins the Young Avengers, only to be seriously injured in battle. He ends up receiving a vital blood transfusion from his grandfather, a transfusion that has the added benefit of finally granting legitimate powers to Eli. Since then, Patriot has continued to carry on his family legacy both alone and as a young avenger.

We expect to see a version of that origin story set in the MCU, but maybe in a future project after The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. But one thing is already clear: Eli shares his grandfather’s rage and resentment over Captain America’s toll on their family, and for good reason.

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Every Coming Movie and TV Show

Recreate Super Soldier Serum

The character of Isaiah Bradley is meant to be a commentary on America’s bloody and racial history and how the country’s higher ideals often obscure the brutal reality faced by people of color. He is also a tragic victim of one of the greatest conflicts in the Marvel Universe, which has unfolded in the decades since the end of World War II. The creation of Captain America is a real defining moment in this world. It sets off a superhuman arms race, with all the major world powers locked in a competition to develop new and better super soldiers to fight the wars to come. The fact that the science that made Cap possible was lost with Erskine only adds to their desperation.

This notion of a superhuman arms race is even more prevalent in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe line, which has inspired the tone of the MCU as much as anything else over the years. In the Ultimate Universe, virtually every hero and villain can be traced back to Captain America and Project: Rebirth in one way or another. Even the mutants of the Ultimate Universe are an artificial phenomenon. Wolverine is basically patient zero in this genetic breakthrough.

Nick Fury and Black Panther of the Ultimate Universe both share a lot in common with Isaiah Bradley, as they are also black men subjected to torture and experimentation in the name of superhuman science. While this plot point hasn’t transferred to the MCU, the general idea that ordinary soldiers (especially people of color) are just pawns in an amoral system designed to build more weapons. big and better definitely has it. You don’t get a hero like Captain America without leaving a long trail of death and misery behind. And with Steve gone, it’s up to Bucky and Sam to come to terms with this toll.

Project: Rebirth and Weapon Plus

Even in the classic Marvel comic book universe, contemporary creators have worked to unify the many underground organizations and connect the dots between super soldiers like Captain America, Wolverine, and Deadpool. This trend really took shape during writer Grant Morrison’s New X-Men series. In a storyline titled “Assault on Weapon Plus”, Wolverine learns that the Weapon X program is not named after the letter X, but the Roman numeral. As Weapon X, Logan is the tenth super-soldier in a larger program stretching back to Captain America and Project: Rebirth.

In fact, Cap himself is Weapon I. This line also includes other familiar Marvel characters. Luke Cage is Weapon VI, Nuke is Weapon VII, and Typhoid Mary is Weapon IX. Project: Rebirth was even revived for Weapon V, with several soldiers bound to pieces of an ancient symbiote decades before Venom arrived on the scene. Even after this discovery, Weapon Plus continues to pump out new super soldiers, including Weapon XV (an advanced Sentinel called Ultimaton) and Weapon XVI (a viral religion called Allgod).

Could Weapon Plus be used as a glue that connects characters like Cap and Wolverine in the MCU? Now that the X-Men are finally under the Disney umbrella, it is certainly possible. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has already shown their willingness to delve into this darker, more unpleasant side of Captain America. It’s also worth pointing out that the island nation of Madripoor (Wolverine’s favorite playground) is mentioned in a line of text during the show’s end credits. We previously speculated that the brightly lit city seen in the series’ trailers could be Madripoor, and that theory seems all the more likely now. The series probably won’t show us Wolverine, but it can delve into the twisted organization that created him and countless other living weapons.

To learn more about the Falcon and the Winter Soldier, check out Sam Wilson’s tenure as Cap in the comics and find out more about the new villains known as Flag-Smashers.

Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by follow @jschedeen on Twitter.


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