Disney+'s The Falcon & The Winter Soldier has afforded the Marvel Cinematic Universe a chance to dive deeper into Captain America lore. The show's premiere introduced John Walker as the "New Cap," who comics fans know as U.S. Agent. Episode 2 brought along Walker's sidekick, who styles himself as Battlestar and who is also a face from the comics. The series also reached back in Captain America's history to bring in Isaiah Bradley. But it's Isaiah's grandson, Eli, who caused the most significant wave of excitement among fans. So who is Eli Bradley? The Falcon & The Winter Soldier may be teasing the MCU's future.
Warning: Spoilers for The Falcon & The Winter Soldier Episode 2 follow. Isaiah Bradley's story is an important one for Sam Wilson's overall arc, as Bucky introduces him to the Black superhero who was erased by history books. The Captain America series has hinted that Bucky and Steve weren't the only ones who received super-soldier serum. Up until now, they were just the only known survivors. But Bucky has, for years, kept a secret about another soldier used by the government, Isaiah. His existence has been whitewashed from history.
But while all eyes are on the elder Bradley, some comics fans were perking up at the kid who initially answered the door. In the comics, Eli Bradley is the son of Sarah Gail, Isaiah's daughter. Although he is not born with his grandfather's abilities (or those of his uncle, Sarah's brother, Josiah), he grows up with a keen awareness of his family legacy. That awareness (and protectiveness) comes through in the show as he escorts Bucky and Sam out.
Eli's appearance excited fans because this is a kid who will eventually grow up to be a superhero in his own right — at least, according to the comics. At first, he's known as "Lieutenant America," styled after Cap, and then later, "Patriot." Much like Monica Rambeau from Captain Marvel, his appearance seems to herald the MCU seeding tomorrow's heroes among the cast of today.
If The Falcon & The Winter Soldier aired in August 2020 as the first Marvel show for Disney+, as was originally planned, this might have been the end of the story. Cute kid, cute easter egg, perhaps a sign of a future superhero down the line. But now, there seems to be more to it than that.
What casual fans may not know is that, in the comics, Patriot ends up leading a group known as the Young Avengers. Moreover, WandaVision directly preceded The Falcon & The Winter Soldier. That series introduced Wanda and Vision's twin sons, Billy and Tommy Maximoff, who manifested superpowers matching their comic personas, Wiccan (Billy) and Speed (Tommy). More importantly, both Speed and Wiccan are members of the Young Avengers in the comics.
The two series casually introducing no less than three of the Young Avengers' seven members in a matter of weeks has fans' attention. Moreover, this comes when the new Hawkeye series is busy filming, a show that will introduce a fourth member of the Young Avengers crew, Kate Bishop. And fans already know the group's fifth member, Ant-Man's daughter Cassie Lang.
With so many of the Young Avengers suddenly popping out of the woodwork, it's hard not to start theorizing a team-up is in the works. Some are already guessing this will be the next big-screen Avengers adventure that closes out Phase 4. Another theory is that Disney+ is building toward its own small-screen team-up, Defenders-style. Either way, it looks like the MCU's long-term plans may have more surprises than initially believed.
The Falcon & The Winter Soldier continues on Disney+ with new episodes every Friday.