Marvel’s Infinity Saga Deserved Isaiah Bradley

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.

I love the MCU and for the most part, I love the Captain America movies. All three. Yes, even The First Avenger. As a child of the Rocketeer era, Joe Johnston’s serial retro/future aesthetic for World War II always put my mind back to a joyous period of my life where I had zero responsibility and all the time in the world.  The First Avenger was no exception. That said, it will always have a place of unease in my heart because, like many of the films set in that time, it glosses over the plight of Soldiers and citizens of color.

In the 1940s, every male citizen was subject to the draft. While women weren’t drafted many volunteered. As a result, the 16 million men and women serving during World War II was made up of a million African Americans, hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans, tens of thousands of Native Americans and tens of thousands of Asian Americans. When you look at media produced at the time or depicting that era, you never get that sense of diversity. When you don’t portray the sacrifices of a people, but call it the “greatest generation,” there’s an implication there that no one acknowledges. And while the MCU is not designed to be a history lesson, it’s hard not to notice the absence of any issues during a period of strife.

The character of Captain America initially existed during a time of intense racial injustice, but it is ever mentioned in The First Avenger. I know someone that likes to mention that the reason Captain America isn’t their favorite Avenger is because he likely used “whites only” bathrooms. While I don’t necessarily agree with that rationale for not being a fan of Rogers, it’s difficult to ignore the era in which he grew up and the intense social tension surrounding it, though Marvel has done just that in the MCU. There’s an argument to be made that this is an alternate history of events and maybe, just maybe, the same problems didn’t exist. If that were to be the case with the MCU, glossing over the grimy parts of actual modern history wouldn’t be a better answer.

Taking into account all of that history, it’s why I remember being so taken aback by Truth: Red, White & Black (written by Robert Morales and drawn by Kyle Baker) in 2004. The graphic novel told the story of Isaiah Bradley, oft referred to as the “Black Captain America.” Bradley served in the United States Army during World War II and, drawing parallels to the real-life Tuskegee Syphilis Study, was subjected to testing, along with several hundred other African American Soldiers, in order to recreate the super soldier serum that created Captain America a year prior.

All of the Soldiers died, either during the initial implementation or subsequent field testing, save Bradley, who was granted all the same abilities as Steve Rogers. Depicted as a loving husband and reluctant Soldier, Bradley is pressed into conducting a suicide mission, from which he is not expected to return. It’s a great, but ultimately heartbreaking tale that, due to Morales’ research, weaves in real-world events and political views to give the story an extra bite. The results are truly well worth the read.

With the Infinity War Saga complete, it’s apparent that Bradley will not be part of the MCU as an easter egg or otherwise. That said, there’s still an opportunity to bring him into continuity and it involves the X-Men, specifically, everyone’s favorite cigar-chomping Canuck.

James Howlett, aka Wolverine, like Steve Rogers, is part of the Weapon Plus program. This could be a great opportunity to weave in the story of Bradley, if Marvel makes the MCU version of Wolverine a product of the program. While Wolverine is Weapon X, Bradley is typically lumped in with Captain American as being part of Weapon I.

RELATED – Marvel Cinematic Universe ‘Planting Seeds’ For Young Avengers And Power Pack

When Captain America: The First Avenger casting discussions were first being had, I recall the fervor when it was repeatedly rumored that Will Smith would be offered the role and could be taking up the mantle of Captain America in Joe Johnston’s film. That never came to pass, but people were melting down at the mere prospect of a black Captain America. Fortunately, those voices were headed and Marvel doesn’t seem likely to try anything like that in the future.

I bring that up to discuss this: While some people were losing their minds at the prospect of Steve Rogers being black, a lot of people were happy to have Smith portray Bradley. Had it occurred or had there been some easter egg regarding Bradley, it would have given more depth to a recently rumored project, should it come to pass.  

For a while now, there has been some discussion that the future Avengers movie will actually be the Young Avengers. One of the founding members of the team is the grandson of Isaiah Bradley, Eli Bradley, aka Patriot, imbued with all the same powers as his grandfather, due to a blood transfusion. Now, would it have been wonderful for Marvel to seed this easter egg way back in 2011 and to pay it off several years later? Yep. Does that mean it’s too late to do it now? Nope. “The Time is Always Right to do What is Right.”

History is wrought with terrible atrocities. One of the great things about Marvel characters is that they are characters that have lived through the worst and grimiest parts of human history, like Isaiah Bradley, and help hold a mirror to society.  Delving into moments and characters like that on screen could not only yield some of the most compelling and human stories in the MCU, but also sew the seeds for the future that Marvel seems interested in exploring, with characters like the Young Avengers.  Perhaps in a world where the jury seems to still be out on the merits of the national socialist party, the discomfort that comes from holding up a mirror may be what is in order. 

I loved the story of Truth: Red, White and Black and seeing some semblance of it in the MCU would be a fantastic homage to a great story. Beyond that, as the title implies, the tale adds more honesty to the MCU, the story of Steve Rogers and recontextualize what it means for Sam Wilson to adopt the mantle of Captain America, whilst also setting up what’s rumored to come. Here’s hoping Marvel finds a way to make it happen.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Truth: Red, White and Black? Would you like to see Isaiah Bradley brought into MCU continuity? Let us know your thoughts down below or on twitter @lrm_exclusive and @sirjonesiest.

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Brandon Jones

Unexcitable. A killer. A gentleman. Nerdy before it became cool, Jonesy is a lifelong techie, cinefile, gamer & political junkie. He knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

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