The conclusion of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” introduced several big changes for Marvel moving forward.
Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) has now officially adopted the mantle of Captain America and helped Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) put down the Flag Smashers. Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) has been revealed as the Power Broker, and John Walker (Wyatt Russell) has now been recruited to become U.S. Agent, adopting a new outfit in the process.
Yet, while those changes are directly on the surface, Marvel may have been setting up its future in a few subtle ways as well.
Will Eli Bradley Become an MCU Mainstay?
Among the new characters introduced in the show was Eli Bradley, the grandson of Isaiah Bradley, one of the first super soldiers in existence and an iteration of Captain America. The elder Bradley plays a key role in the later episodes through conversations with Wilson, and he is finally memorialized in the Captain America Exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum for his actions during World War II.
The younger Bradley doesn’t have much to do throughout the series, but he plays a big role in the comics and Marvel may be setting him up for a similar run on-screen. Fans harboring those hopes got a nice surprise from Elijah Richardson, the actor who played Bradley in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” on Instagram.
Richardson ends his post by saying “This may only be the beginning of Eli Bradley,” and it’s plausible the actor has some notion of what’s in store for his character. In “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Bradley is shown as a feisty character who is fiercely loyal to his grandfather. He has multiple conversations with Wilson and Barnes, but he doesn’t get involved in any of the action.
That doesn’t mean that will always remain the case, however. Marvel has slowly been introducing some younger characters in the MCU, and Bradley perfectly fits among that group after his introduction in the Disney Plus series.
Eli Bradley’s History as Patriot in Marvel Comics
In Marvel Comics, Bradley carries on his grandfather’s superhero legacy and adopts the identity of Patriot. Although he does eventually gain superhuman abilities after a blood transfusion from his grandfathers introduces his body to the super-soldier serum, Bradley is not initially a super-powered individual.
That doesn’t prevent Bradley from becoming a founding member of the Young Avengers, however. Bradley injects himself with a Mutant Growth Hormone to simulate the effects of the super-soldier serum and assist his fellow teammates while the main Avengers team is disbanded. In the initial Young Avengers lineup alongside Bradley are a young version of Kang the Conqueror, who goes by the name Iron Lad, Teddy Altman/Hulkling, Billy Kaplan/Wiccan and Kate Bishop/Hawkeye.
Throughout Marvel’s Phase 4 plans, many of these characters have been or will be introduced in the MCU. In “WandaVision,” Billy and Tommy Maximoff are shown as the children of Wanda Maximoff and Vision, and they possess the same powers as Wiccan and another Young Avengers member known as Speed. In the forthcoming “Hawkeye” series from Marvel, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) is expected to be featured prominently alongside Clint Barton. Cassie Lang, another member of the Young Avengers in the comics, has already appeared in multiple MCU movies, and the daughter of Scott Lang/Ant-Man could have a bigger role moving forward.
Now Bradley can be added to the mix, and Marvel has a solid starting foundation for the Young Avengers if the studio chooses to head in that direction. It was recently leaked on Twitter that Marvel wanted to have multiple different Avengers teams active at once, and the Young Avengers were named as a group planned to be created in the MCU.
So, even as Marvel makes a move as substantial as naming a new Captain America, they may be quietly signaling what the future of the MCU will look like at the same time.