That came as quite the jarring surprise for a show centered around how Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) will navigate life without Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) around as Captain America. The new vibranium-shield wielder is John Walker (Wyatt Russell), who is also known in the comics as US Agent. First appearing in Mark Gruenwald’s “Captain America No. 323,” which was released in 1986, Walker has at times been a central figure in Cap-related stories.
With more information on Walker undoubtedly forthcoming in future episodes, here is what we already know about him from the comics.
John Walker Became Captain America After Steve Rogers
The final scene of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” has strong ties to the comics. When asked by the U.S. government to officially become a government agent, Rogers formally retired from the role of Captain America. Given that the government viewed Captain America as a government creation and its property, a search was conducted for the next person to take up the mantle.
Known at that time as Super Patriot, Walker was selected to become the next Captain America and leave his old life behind. Walker studied Rogers’s moves from his time as Captain America and underwent intense combat training.
It’s unclear how much the show will delve into Walker’s origins or how far along he is on his own path by the time viewers meet him. Given the ties that are already apparent between the comics and the show, there are a few story beats that could come into play.
John Walker Isn’t as Righteous as Steve Rogers
Defined by his sense of what is right and good, Rogers is viewed as one of the most respected leaders of the Avengers. Rogers had an idealistic view of service and valued his personal morals and ethics over government orders. Walker doesn’t exactly operate the same way.
Considered a more severe operative, Walker could be a bit more extreme in his methods. This manifested in ways that illustrated a lack of restraint and self-control. Rogers had lines he wouldn’t cross, but Walker killed in the heat of battle numerous times. Notably killing at least 10 members of the Watchdogs as revenge for the death of his parents. Walker then turned on two former friends – Hector Lenox and Jerome Johnson – whose revealing of his secret identity led to his parents’ deaths, tying them to an oil tank with a lit torch.
A string of actions increasingly disillusioned people of Walker as Captain America. The government eventually faked his death so that he could continue to serve as US Agent while Rogers returned as Captain America.
There’s a Comics Saga That Seems Familiar
With the way events transpired in the debut episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” things are setting up in ways that could tie back to a fairly recent comic book stretch that involved Sam Wilson as Captain America. “Captain America: Sam Wilson” is a series written by Nick Spencer that spanned 25 issues from 2015-17. The series takes place after Rogers has the super-soldier serum removed from his body and turns into an elderly man. No longer able to fight, Rogers gives his shield over to Wilson to take up the mantle of Captain America. Sound familiar?
In this series, Wilson has run-ins with the villain Flag Smasher – we’re introduced in the first episode of the Disney Plus series to a group called the Flag Smashers – and US Agent, who is sent to take back the shield for the government. While Wilson voluntarily donated the shield to the Smithsonian in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” there is a government official who thanks him for “coming forward” with it. This could be a nod towards Texas senator Tom Herald in the comics who is vocal in demanding the shield back from Wilson.
Prior to the release of “Captain America: Sam Wilson No. 11,” Spencer sat down with CBR.com to discuss how Walker and Wilson would interact in the comics.
“I certainly don’t view John as any kind of a villain,” Spencer said. “It’s very important to me that that’s reflected in the story. We might be looking at a story where John and Sam very much disagree and see things differently, but that doesn’t necessarily make John the bad guy.”
John Walker, Meet Jack Daniels
When the U.S. government decided to fake Walker’s death it also decided to alter his appearance, speech patterns and memories to create a new identity for him: Jack Daniels. Assuming a red, white and black costume during his run as US Agent, Walker operated as a government liaison with the Avengers. In this role, Walker’s attitude ran him afoul of many of the heroes, including Hawkeye, with whom he developed a long-standing rivalry.
It didn’t take too long for Walker to recover his former memories, however, and Jack Daniels became nothing more than another alias. He continued to serve on various superhero teams, including the Avengers, Force Works, Invaders and Omega Flight.
Given that “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is only a six-episode series, it’s unlikely that that show will have room to explore this specific arc of Walker’s story. However, that shouldn’t shut the door on any future portrayals of Walker, who is often in the periphery of various stories.
How Sam Wilson Could Benefit From John Walker
At the end of Walker’s first run as Captain America, the government asks Rogers to return and take up the shield once again. For the same reasons he stepped away in the first place, Rogers is reluctant. It was only at Walker’s urging that Rogers decided to once again become Captain America. Walker’s time in the role made him understand the weight of responsibility that came with being Captain America, and he felt Rogers was the only person capable of performing those duties.
It was a moment of redemption for the character in the comics, and it could prove to be one on the screen as well. While the scenario would undoubtedly be different, perhaps it’s an inspiring speech from Walker in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” that gives Wilson the belief that he can fulfill Rogers’s wish and become the next Captain America in the MCU. That would be an interesting bit of symmetry between Walker’s role in the comics and the show.