Spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2 follow.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2 just introduced us to Super Soldier Isaiah Bradley, played by actor Carl Lumbly – probably best known to TV viewers for his appearances in JJ Abrams' Alias. This was briefly teased in the credits for episode 1, which briefly showed us a picture of Isaiah with the label 'subject #07656'.
As revealed in the episode, Isaiah is a Black Super Soldier, created to fight for the US military like Steve Rogers was. The difference is, Isaiah's accomplishments were swept under the carpet – so much so that even Steve didn't know that Isaiah even existed. The key thing we don't learn is whether he actually held the Captain America title or not, which in the comics, he did.
Isaiah Bradley is not an original creation – he's firmly embedded into Marvel Comics history at this point, and a fairly well-known character to long-time superhero comic book readers. Below, we're going to explain everything we know about Isaiah Bradley, including how he fits in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and what's worth highlighting in his comic-book history.
- Marvel movies in order
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier explained
- What we know about Loki, coming to Disney Plus in June
Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Isaiah Bradley's MCU history explained
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2, we learn that Isaiah Bradley encountered Bucky – as the Winter Soldier assassin, controlled by HYDRA – during the Korean War in 1951. "Tell him the guy from the bar in Goyang is here. He's gonna know what that means," Bucky says to Isaiah's grandson, Eli, as he tracks Bradley down in Baltimore.
Isaiah then recalls his encounter with the Winter Soldier: "We heard whispers he was on the peninsula, but everyone they sent after him never came back." He then says that he was dropped behind enemy lines by the US military to deal with Bucky. Bradley mentions that he took half of Bucky's metal arm in Goyang when they battled.
Bucky describes Isaiah like this: "He was a hero. One of the ones that HYDRA feared the most. Like Steve."
We then learn that Isaiah was a Super Soldier, like Steve Rogers, but the clear suggestion is that he was swept under the rug by the US Government. Bradley says that instead of being celebrated for his service, he was put in jail for 30 years, and experimented upon.
"Even your people weren't done with me," Bradley says, suggesting that HYDRA made more efforts to come after him following his encounter with the Winter Soldier.
Bucky warns Isaiah that there's "more of you and me out there", referring to the fact that the pair of titular heroes just fought a whole new bunch of Super Soldiers – the reason for Bucky's visit to begin with. But Isaiah, who's clearly endured enough horror, tells them to leave.
Sam then expresses frustration that there was a Black Super Soldier decades ago and no one knew about it – Bucky confirms that even Steve Rogers didn't know Isaiah existed.
Will he come back into the story? That remains to be seen, based on what we've learned here.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Isaiah Bradley as Captain America in the comics explained
Bradley was created by late Marvel Comics writer Robert Morales and artist Kyle Baker, and was first introduced in the miniseries Truth: Red, White and Black back in 2003. Even to read now, this comic feels bold for something published by Marvel – at the time it must've seemed astonishing. It's available to read on Marvel Unlimited, the subscription service, and it's a challenging but fantastic piece of work.
In the comics, Bradley was the first Black Captain America – the result of efforts by the US army to recreate the Super Soldier serum by experimenting on 300 African-American test subjects. Bradley ends up being the sole survivor of the group, with many of the victims being killed horribly during the tests, before they even saw battle.
The experiment that led to Bradley's creation and the treatment of its subjects is an allusion to the real-life Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
Bradley runs a number of missions during World War II, but ends up being captured in Nazi Germany. He's smuggled out of Europe, but upon returning to the States, he's put in jail for stealing Captain America's costume. This tallies with what we've seen in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – though in the comics, Bradley was imprisoned for 17 years, rather than 30.
Bradley is later released in the comics after a campaign by his family, and Steve Rogers tracks him down – returning the tattered Captain America costume that belonged to Bradley. The character's history was then absorbed into the mainline Marvel Comics continuity.
Is Eli Bradley's appearance in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier significant?
We know from the credits in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2 that actor Elijah Richardson plays Eli Bradley – in the comics, this character is pretty important. Bradley's grandson grows up to be a member of the Marvel superhero team Young Avengers called Patriot, using Mutant hormones to simulate Isaiah's powers.
Why does this matter? This is the second MCU show in a row to introduce a founding member of the Young Avengers team, as originally presented in the comics. Speed and Wiccan, two other heroes from the roster, are Wanda's children as seen in WandaVision – Billy and Tommy.
Nothing is a coincidence when it comes to the MCU – so is something slowly being pieced together here?
How will Isaiah Bradley fit into future episodes of Falcon and the Winter Soldier?
Presumably, the show introduced Isaiah because of his association with the Super Soldier serum – the fact that the Flag Smashers now have those powers potentially makes him a useful asset in bringing them down, or learning more about their background. That's if Isaiah changes his mind about helping Bucky, his former enemy, anyway.
The other potential character reason for introducing Isaiah is likely to show Sam the importance of the legacy he gave up when he handed Captain America's shield over to the US Government – a point that Bucky made earlier in the episode.