The last time we saw Isaiah Bradley in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he was finally getting the honors he deserved.
In last year’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) learned the tragic history of the Super Soldier program, which involved the sacrifice of deceived Black soldiers. In the present, Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) is alive to tell the tale.
Now Bradley will return in Captain America: New World Order, which opens in May 2024. In what capacity Isaiah returns remains unclear. However, the Super Soldier serum is still coursing through his veins, and his grandson is destined to be a Young Avenger himself. It’s not hard to speculate that New World Order could see the return of history’s first Black Super Soldier, or the start of a new legacy.
At D23, Kevin Feige introduced the movie’s cast, including Mackie, Danny Ramirez, Tim Blake Nelson, and Lumbly. Little else was revealed, including its plot and what its characters have been up to since we saw them last. However, Lumbly did share a few words about what it means to be back in the MCU.
“Being here is just stunning,” Lumbly said. “Because sometimes you don’t know what to ask for, and sometimes, something is handed to you. And when it is, you think, ‘Well, that’s wonderful, that probably won’t happen again.’ And now here we are. So I look forward very much to seeing where this is going.”
Lumbly offered no spoilers, but his presence could tease one or two exciting developments in the MCU.
The Return of History’s First Black “Captain America”
Notably, Isaiah’s story in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier revolved around the fact that he didn’t want to be associated with the mythology of Captain America. He’s rightfully aggrieved and resentful over his service, which included decades of imprisonment and testing. Who would want to wear the red, white, and blue after that?
As Isaiah told Sam, “Those stars and stripes don’t mean nothing good to me.”
Isaiah, who was first introduced in the comic Truth: Red, White, and Black, came around by the end of the series, when Sam showed him a statue in his likeness that now stands in the MCU’s Smithsonian. While a statue can’t undo decades of pain and stolen time, or return the lives of the Black men the program wasted, the recognition at least moved Isaiah, who hugged Sam to close the series.
It’s still unlikely Isaiah would ever suit up as a superhero — in addition to his age, it goes against his character, no matter how his perspective shifted in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. But with careful writing and directing, New World Order could find a way for Isaiah to have one more go as a Super Soldier to assist the new Captain America. It would certainly mean something to Sam.
Setting up Eli as the Patriot
Elijah Richardson, who played Isaiah Bradley’s grandson Eli in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, hasn’t had a role in New World Order announced. That could mean a surprise appearance, a recasting, or simply that his character isn’t slated to appear.
But Eli’s first appearance in the MCU introduced a character who, in the comics, is a young Black man who dons the mantle “Patriot” and joins the Young Avengers.
Isaiah’s return to New World Order could set Eli up to become Patriot. Perhaps Isaiah meets his end in one last mission, and his grandson is motivated to continue his legacy. Maybe Sam himself inspires Isaiah, or maybe the incoming threat of Kang the Conqueror simply means it’s all-hands-on-deck and anyone with any power is invited to join the fray.
Phase Four of the MCU has planted the seeds for the Young Avengers. Kate Bishop, America Chavez, Cassie Lang, and even Wanda’s kids Billy and Tommy have all been members of the team in the comics. Ms. Marvel hasn’t been a Young Avenger, but she’s been both an Avenger and a founding member of the similar teen-centric team, the Champions, making her easy enough to shuffle over.
Phase Four has spent a lot of time introducing a new generation of heroes to lead the MCU into the future. New World Order may tell the story of Sam and Isaiah, but it wouldn’t be the MCU if it didn’t lay the foundations for a character like Eli to become his own hero.
Captain America: New World Order will open in theaters on May 3, 2024.