Falcon and the Winter Soldier shocker: Who is Isaiah Bradley?

Isaiah Bradley
Carl Lumbly as Isaiah Bradley Pic credit: Marvel

Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for the latest episode of The Falcon and the Winter Solider

The MCU just rewrote the history of Captain America.

The latest episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) meeting the aged Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), who had a stunning revelation to the history of the Super-Soldier Serum.

This discovery will change Sam’s course over the series and a new direction for the history of Captain America.

The search is on

The episode opened with Sam finally meeting once more with Bucky (Sebastian Stan), both affected by the government appointing John Walker (Wyatt Russell) the new Captain America.

Sam tried to brush it off as he and Bucky hunted the Flag-Smashers with a battle on a moving transport truck. The pair was rocked to realize the Flag-Smashers were all Super-Soldiers who had long been thought dead.

The pair were aided by the new Cap and his partner, Lemar Hoskins, aka Battlestar (Cle Bennett). Walker was cordial to the pair, openly stating he knew he could never replace Steve Rogers but trying to be the best Captain America he could. 

When Sam wondered how any Super Soldiers could exist, a solemn Bucky took him to a house in Baltimore to meet Isaiah Bradley. Sam was thrown to hear the pair had met during the Korean War in 1951 when Bucky had been a Hydra assassin.

He was even more shocked when not only did Bucky say Isaiah tore his metal arm off, but the aged man then threw a paperweight so hard it stuck into the wall. Sam thus realized Bradley was a Super Soldier himself. 

Who is Isaiah Bradley?

Isaiah Bradley
First Captain America Isiah Bradley Pic credit: Marvel Comics

For all intents and purposes, Isaiah Bradley is the first Captain America.

In 2003’s “Truth: Red, White and Black” mini-series, it was revealed that before Steve Rogers, the U.S. government tested the early Super-Soldier Serum on “volunteers” who all happened to be black. 

This was obviously an allegory for the infamous Tuskegee Study, in which African Americans were secretly exposed to syphilis for decades. This shameful experiment caused an outrage when it was finally made public, with President Bill Clinton formally apologizing for it in 1997. 

Many of these “volunteers” were horribly mutated by the serum in the comics until it worked for Bradley. But while he was the pinnacle of athletic health, the color of his skin meant the 1940 U.S. military didn’t trust Bradley to be their public agent. 

Stealing an early version of Captain America’s uniform and shield, Bradley went on his private mission to stop the Nazis from creating their own formula. He succeeded (even punching out Hitler at one point) but was court-martialed and sentenced to 17 years in Leavenworth.

By the time he was released, Bradley’s mind was deteriorated by the effects of the serum (which also slowed his physical aging so he looked far younger than his true age).

Steve Rogers was horrified when he finally learned the whole story, personally ensuring Bradley got the public acclaim for his heroism. 

What this means for the series

Marvel's Disney+ shows are introducing the Young Avengers
The Young Avengers. Pic credit: Marvel

Obviously, the revelation there was a black Super-Soldier in the 1950s is hitting Sam hard.

It adds to the guilt he feels on giving up the shield for Walker to take it as he admits in a “therapy session” he was afraid of somehow tarnishing Steve’s legacy.

While much of Bradley’s history is still secret, his bitter tone reveals he spent thirty years in prison for something that happened during the Korean War and feels betrayed by his government. The fact he was constantly tested on in hopes of replicating the Serum doesn’t help his attitude. 

Another factor is that answering the door to Sam and Bucky is Bradley’s grandson Eli (Elijah Richardson). In the comics, Eli uses a special drug to replicate his grandfather’s powers to become the Young Avenger Patriot. 

After he’s nearly killed in battle, Eli gets a blood transfusion from Isaiah that allows him to have his own version of the Super-Solider Serum. 

His presence adds to how WandaVision used versions of Speed and Wiccan, the Hawkeye series will have Kate Bishop and Ant-Man: Quantaumania utilizes Cassie Lang. Which means Marvel may be planning a Young Avengers project down the line. 

As it stands now, Sam discovering someone with his skin color once served as a Super Soldier may be affecting his decision to take up the shield himself down the line. 

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier streaming new episodes every Friday on Disney+.

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