FULL SPOILERS AHEAD
Pieces are starting to come together with “The Star Spangled Man,” the second episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. What kind of man is John Walker, the new Captain America? What are the Flag Smashers trying to accomplish? And how many new characters are straight from the comics? Let’s dive in and answer these questions!
We start with a little more information on John Walker, the new Captain America. He’s ex-military, has no powers, and really feels the weight of the title of Captain America on his shoulders. Bucky is instantly not a fan, cornering Sam and telling him that giving up Cap’s shield was a mistake. The two engage on a mission tracking the Flag Smashers as they’re stealing vaccines and find out that a number of them appear to be super soldiers. Turns out they hate that the world governments seem to help those returned from the Blip more than the people who remained, but we the audience haven’t seen enough of that 5 year period to tell what it was really like and whether the world was united in the ways they claim it was. One member of note is Karli Morgenthau (Ms. Erin Kellyman, I talked about her in episode 1), a possible leader of the organization and someone I’m convinced the show is going to pull a big reveal on later. What we do know is someone is texting that they’re going to kill her for stealing… something. Anyway, Sam and Bucky get some help from “Captain America” and Lemar Hoskins, AKA Battlestar (Clé Bennett), but neither Sam nor Bucky want to work with Walker. Wondering how there are more super soldiers, Bucky takes Sam to meet Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), an old man who still has super strength and fought the Winter Soldier during the Korean War. Turns out for his service he was jailed for 30 years, and Bucky’s “people” experimented on him during that time. He wants nothing to do with them and to make matters worse, when Bucky and Sam are arguing in the street afterwards, cops come and instantly assume Sam is the aggressor. Even superheroes can’t escape systemic racism. Bucky gets arrested for missing his court appointed therapy session, but Walker get him off because he still wants to work with Cap’s ex-partner. Therapy is more amusing than anything else with Sam and Bucky bickering, but we do learn that Bucky feels really hurt that Sam would give up Cap’s shield, something Steve trusted him with. And if Steve can’t trust Sam, can he really trust Bucky? The duo rebuff “Captain America” and Battlestar again, but Walker’s done playing nice with them. Realizing that when Isaiah talked about “your people” to Bucky that he meant Hydra and not white people in general, the two reluctantly agree that they need to talk to someone who has researched Hydra extensively: Zemo (Daniel Brühl), last seen apprehended at the end of Captain America: Civil War.
So we got several new characters, all of whom are straight from the comics. Lemar Hoskins is an old friend of John Walker. He first appeared unnamed in Captain America #323 (1986) as a supposed devotee of Captain America’s, trying to stop the introduction of a new hero, Super-Patriot, AKA John Walker (this was also Walker’s first appearance). But didn’t I say they were friends? Doesn’t that sound like a setup to make Cap look bad? They were minor annoyances until Steve gave up his identity as Captain America when the government ordered him to do their bidding, allowing Walker to become the new Captain America and Lemar to become the new Bucky in Captain America #334 (1987), later changed to Battle Star when people remembered that “buck” can be a slur against black people. Oops. One big difference between the comic and Disney+ versions of John and Lemar is that in the comics, the two had undergone the Power Broker procedure that gave them super strength. But with the possibility of extra super soldier serums floating around, who knows what future episodes may bring.
Moving on to the other new black character, Isaiah Bradley’s story is told in Truth: Red, White & Black #1-7 (2003). When Dr. Erskine was killed, the US government still wanted super soldiers but they needed test subjects, and the country that gave us the Tuskegee Experiments decided that black soldiers were prime candidates. Isaiah was the only survivor out of around 300 soldiers, the rest died due to the cruel and indifferent nature of the US military viewing them as test subjects no one would miss. In the comics, Isaiah in the modern day is barely responsive due to super soldier serum side-effects and years spent in solitary confinement for the “crime” of stealing a replica of Captain America’s costume, but this Isaiah is able to talk, yelling at Bucky and Sam to leave him alone. Also worth noting is the boy living with him is named Eli Bradley in the credits. That’s Isaiah’s grandson who in the comics took on the mantle of Patriot and received super strength as the result of a blood transfusion from his grandfather. And yes, the events in the comic happened in that order; Eli had a rough time as a hero and has since retired, but that could mean another Young Avenger has appeared in the MCU. I’ve mentioned the team before, but so far we have potentially Billy Kaplan (Wiccan) and Tommy Shepherd (Speed), the reincarnations of Wanda’s twins (it’s complicated and I go over it during WandaVision); Cassie Lang (Stature/Stinger), Scott Lang’s daughter in Ant-Man who is set to have a new actress in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania; Kate Bishop (Hawkeye), who will debut in the Hawkeye Disney+ show; and America Chavez (Miss America), who is set to debut in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. There was also Kid Loki and a version of Vision, but that’d take too long to explain. Anyway, don’t be surprised if a Young Avenger movie or series is announced in the future!
Before I end this, it should also be noted that there’s a moment in Truth: Red, White & Black where the black super soldiers ambush Germans delivering medicine, only later to find out that the “medicine” was actually Germany’s attempts at replicating the serum that created Captain America. I’m not saying the vaccines the Flag Smashers stole were secretly test serums–honestly, a better bet would be them stealing medicine away from refugees of the Blip–but it could be something.
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