In the latest episode of the Disney+ Marvel series, a brand new character gets introduced into the MCU, one who comes paired with huge ramifications for the shape of things to come. It’s a pretty big accomplishment, too, considering a few different figures pop up in “The Star-Spangled Man,” like the newest Captain America as well as some others stemming from the Super Soldier program. But one player in particular is positioned as a key player for a huge Avengers project.
Major spoilers for Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2 are ahead.
The Patriot — In Episode 2, Sam and Bucky come face to face with John Walker, the man currently in the Captain America spotlight. But they also meet others who have bobbed and weaved their way through Super Soldier lore.
For instance: Isaiah Bradley, the Captain America at the heart of Robert Morales and Kyle Baker’s comic book Truth: Red, White & Black. Rumors swirled about actor Carl Lumbly joining Falcon and Winter Soldier in this role, and those rumors were right. Back in the day, Isaiah Bradley fought and won in battle against the Winter Soldier — a fact the post-brainwashed Bucky remembers, even if history doesn’t.
Isaiah’s impact on the greater MCU could be huge — and should be huge. But there’s another person within this household who also has enormous potential within the still-growing Marvel universe...
...Isaiah’s grandson, Eli Bradley, played by Elijah Richardson. He’s not just related to a powerful man; Eli is a powerful one in his own right, as a founding member of the Young Avengers.
Who are the Young Avengers? — Debuting in Young Avengers #1 by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, the titular team of teens is … well, pretty much as advertised. They are Earth’s mightiest heroes, but younger. Everyone wins! Except for the old Avengers, who have just been called out.
The Young Avengers are distinctly their own deal, with different characters than the main Avengers lineup, albeit ones who harken back to the classic squad. For instance: Patriot, also known as Eli Bradley. Wearing a costume closer to the original Bucky than Captain America, Eli nonetheless honors Isaiah and all he ever fought for by taking on the mantle of Patriot. At one point in the comics, he earns his grandfather’s powers through a blood transfusion.
Patriot is just one member of the Young Avengers who is currently on the MCU table. Most recently, Billy and Tommy in WandaVision paved the way toward their full-fledged superhero identities, Wiccan and Speed, becoming part of the main MCU lineup of heroes.
There are others waiting in the wings, too, such as Stature, aka Cassie Lang, played by multiple actors up until now and soon to be played by Kathryn Newton in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. America Chavez, a hero also known as Miss America, is set to debut in the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel. Hailee Steinfeld plays Kate Bishop, aka the Young Avengers’ very own Hawkeye, in ... well, Hawkeye.
And these are just the Young Avengers in the MCU we actually, factually know about.
There are others who may find their way into the lineup as well. For example, Vision is actually a member of the Young Avengers, though he would need to be aged down; not the most impossible outcome given all we know about the android. There’s Iron Lad, who boasts key connections to both Tony Stark and supervillain Kang the Conqueror. There are a few different ways to go here, with popular theories positing Ty Simpkins’ Harley Keener from Iron Man 3 taking on the role. A key member is Hulkling, a shape-shifting Skrull who his name and physical power cues from the Incredible Hulk; no announcements regarding his arrival, but Secret Invasion feels like a likely spot for him to show up.
Oh, and how about Kid Loki? Have we mentioned him yet? Because he may be showing up imminently.
The Inverse Analysis — The point is, with Patriot’s arrival, something that was already fairly obvious is only becoming more so. The Young Avengers are forming up. We’re getting a lot of the characters who make up the various lineups, with room for versatility. For example, Ms. Marvel herself, Kamala Khan, could join the MCU version. And what about an eventual Miles Morales appearance? Heck, could Tom Holland’s very own Spider-Man swing in as a leader?
So, the big question isn’t, “Are we going to see the Young Avengers in the MCU some day?” The question is, “When and how are we going to see them together as a team?” Because frankly, they’re already here, even if not quite yet assembled.
Given that so many of them are debuting on Disney+, the streamer feels like the proper venue for a first epic crossover event. Much as it was when the likes of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America first showed up in their own feature films, with Black Widow and Hawkeye popping up in a couple of those lanes.
Then again, if Marvel wants to wait until the Endgame dust settles for a while, and then trot out a new group of Earth’s mightiest heroes? Then the Young Avengers squad could be the perfect Avengers 5 roster, whenever the MCU gets back at that.
The MCU dance card is rather full at the moment, and is constantly swelling up even further. But the trend of so many Young Avengers showing up in Marvel right now makes something pretty clear: the newest superhero team — a younger generation’s answer to an older generation of Avengers — isn’t just inevitable; it’s incoming.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier is streaming now on Disney+.