On his blog, under the heading “For an upcoming Marvel gig,” Kyle Baker has posted a new image of Isaiah Bradley, the “black Captain America” who originally debuted in 2003’s Truth: Red White & Black, written by Robert Morales, with art by Baker.
Bradley was, according to Truth, a human guinea pig upon whom an alternate Super Soldier Serum was tested in the US Government’s efforts to create battalion of Captain Americas. Bradley was the only survivor of the tests, and after World War II became something of an underground legend, whose existence was known in the African-American community, but not known to the larger American population.
In the modern-day Marvel Universe, the long-term effects of the serum given to Isaiah has virtually incapacitated his mind and body, resulting in Bradley now living a life that is similar to an Alzheimer’s victim. Isaiah has two descendants carrying on his legacy – Josiah X (created form his DNA while Bradley was in prison), and Patriot, Bradley’s grandson who is a member of the Young Avengers.
So what does all this have to do with Reborn coming this summer by Ed Brubaker and Bryan Hitch?
Maybe nothing, maybe everything. Marvel has been telling retailers that Captain America #600 will result in major national news, as the next phase of the Captain America story is widely expected to break in a weekly newsmagazine, either Time or Newsweek on June 15th, the same day Captain America #600 (preview)will be on sale in comic shops. Many fans have speculated that Reborn will tell the story of the original Captain America (Steve Rogers) return, but at the same time, there has been an undercurrent of speculation that “Reborn” could refer to the African American Captain America lineage.
Could this be a red herring from Baker, something he posted just to get people to look at his blog (which they should be doing anyway, shame on those who aren’t)? Possibly, but doubtful. Previously, with his Hawkman work on DC’s Wednesday Comics, Baker has posted spoilerific art, that clearly showed what character he would be working on next without naming the project.
Could this be for something unconnected from Reborn? Again, possibly, and a little stronger this time. This summer Brubaker and his Captain America collaborator Steve Epting are working on The Marvels Project, a story about the earliest days of the Marvel Universe, and the race to create the world’s first super-soldier. You really can’t go back to the earliest days of the Marvel Universe and the race to create the world’s first super-soldier without touching upon Bradley. Could Baker just be drawing a hitherto unrevealed Bradley as Cap sequence? Possibly.
Would Marvel replace a Bucky-Cap (the current Captain America) with an African-American Cap in the present day? Why not? Marvel under Joe Quesada, has never shied away from controversy (dead Princess and other rare events excluded) or publicity, or publicity-fueled controversy, and replacing Captain America with an African American version would hit all those marks. Consider that there’s been speculation of Will Smith playing Captain America in the upcoming film, as well as Marvel seeing it’s highest sales in years on an issue of Amazing Spider-Man with a guest appearance by a certain African American who stepped into a job that’s always been held by white males, and well, it all is a possibility.
But who would be the “Reborn” African American Cap? Well, of all of this, that’s the easiest. While Josiah X and Patriot could easily step in, there’s always been (at least to me) the tragic undertones with Bradley that here was Steve Rogers, this All-American, white, blond-haired, blue-eyed Adonis who got a “mystery potion” and essentially lives forever at the peak of youth and health, but yet, Bradley, who was used and abused by the Army was sent to prison and now, is old and infirm. Yes – that was part of Truth - that Bradley was treated unfairly by his country – the allegory was part of the story. But now that it’s been established, and it’s known that he suffered, could Bradley be re-invigorated in the present day? All it would take is one character appearing and saying, “Mr. Bradley, can you understand me? We think we’ve found a way to re-activate the serum in your body, and at the very least, return you to mobility and a better quality of life.” Bingo-bango, you’ve got a reinvigorated Cap. Although, as much as we can fall in love with that idea, Bradley is shown holding a shield that has historic ties, rather than modern.
So what do you think?