The Young Avengers are a team of adolescents who formed in the wake of the Avengers: Disassembled storyline in 2004. In terms of publication, there have been two complete volumes of stories, the first by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, the second by the infamous comics team of Gillen/McKelvie in 2013. They were initially assembled by Iron Lad who used a secret Avengers Fail-Safe Program to find them. The Fail-Safe Program was designed by the Vision, who was recently deceased in this storyline, to find and recruit the next generation of Avengers in case the worst ever happened – and the worst just had happened.
We are exploring the Young Avengers because, recently, Marvel has been introducing a lot of those characters in their Disney+ shows and films and it just feels like they are secretly building up that team.
Who Is Patriot?
Any good proxy team for The Avengers needs an all-American, patriotic leader similar to Captain America; hence, the Young Avengers have Patriot. His first appearance was Young Avengers #1, where he is revealed to be the grandson of Isaiah Bradley. Why is this pertinent? Because Isaiah Bradley is a super soldier, just like Captain America – except, he was never given the pomp and circumstance of Steve Rogers because he’s not white. We first saw this in the limited comic series, Truth: Red, White & Black, by creators Axel Alonso, Robert Morales, and Kyle Baker, back in 2003.
This particular story became more popularized as a major plot development in the Disney+ series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, where Bucky sent Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, to meet with Isaiah so he could learn the sullied truth of what America had done to recover its lost super-soldier formula. The American Government didn’t want Steve Rogers to be their only super-soldier, but they had to experiment on humans to get the formula right. Not wanting to sacrifice white American men, the government — a la the Tuskegee experiments that actually happened in actual American history — ran their human trials on unsuspecting black Americans.
So we’ve already met the MCU version of Isaiah Bradley in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as played by Carl Lumbly, but we’ve also already met Eli Bradley. Remember Isaiah’s grandson who was always hanging around? He was more in the background of a lot of scenes and only had a couple of lines here and there — that was Eli Bradley, as played by Elijah Richardson. Whether Marvel is planning to use Richardson to portray Patriot — or if they are planning to have Patriot at all — remains to be seen, but with the way Marvel plans out their universe, it seems a foregone conclusion that Richardson would portray him in any possible Young Avengers series or movies.
But who exactly is Eli Bradley, aka Patriot, in the comics?
When we first meet him, he’s wearing a costume that resembles that of Bucky Barnes as reimagined by Ed Brubaker in his now-iconic Winter Soldier storyline. This is for good reason as he is the next generation of super soldiers. As we learn in the series, at a young age, Eli was in an accident and required a blood transfusion. He ended up getting this transfusion from his grandfather — you know — the first black super-soldier. As it turns out, an unintended side effect of this transfusion was that Eli inherited a lot of the same powers as his grandfather: enhanced speed, enhanced strength, and enhanced agility.
So the Young Avengers have themselves their own super-soldier!
We see him use these super skills in the first story arc where they defeat Kang, but this gets the attention of Captain America, who suspects something is not right. He pays a visit to Isaiah Bradley, with whom he is now on friendly terms, to inquire about his grandson. Isaiah admits that his son, Josiah X, inherited his powers — again, due to unauthorized genetic experiments — but Elijah did not. Pressed further about the blood transfusion when Elijah was young, Isaiah informs Cap that never happened.
In Young Avengers #7, during a fight with Mr. Hyde, it’s revealed that Elijah has been lying about the transfusion and that, in fact, all of his speed, strength, and agility come from his continued use of an illegal narcotic common in the Marvel Universe called Mutant Growth Hormone, or MGH. He had wanted to follow in his family’s legacy, to become a superhero like his grandfather and Uncle Josiah, but mere skill training had not proven to be enough. To keep up with his sup-powered teammates, he had taken the MGH anytime they’d gone into battle.
However, he actually soon gets his wish of being a super-powered being when he sacrifices himself to save Captain America. During a fight between the Kree and Skrulls on earth, Patriot jumps in front of some weapons fire intended for Cap, taking the damage himself and putting him in the hospital in dire need of a blood transfusion, which his grandfather gladly gives. This transfusion does indeed give Elijah the powers of a super-soldier, thus giving him the confidence and push to once more take up the mantle of Patriot.
Like the African-American super-soldiers before him, Patriot struggles with what it means to be a black hero clad in the stars and stripes. Even with all of its struggles, the concept of America is not a hard thing for a man like Steve Rogers to grasp: he’s a white man. The system was built for him and, though he’s certainly taken umbrage with America more than once, the concept of who America could be was never lost on him. However, for heroes like Eli Bradley and his grandfather before him, it’s nowhere close to that simple. After all, why would Eli take up the mantle of the country that treated his grandfather the way it did. And yet, that’s exactly what he wants to do.
It’s a struggle for him in the comics in the same way it was a struggle for Sam Wilson, in both his comic book run as Captain America in and in the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
It’s a struggle for him in the same way it was a struggle for his Uncle Josiah as well as his grandfather, the original black Captain America, Isaiah Bradley. He admits to Bucky in his comic, Young Avengers Presents: Patriot, that, “To be a black kid calling myself ‘Patriot’… I don’t really feel like I love this country a lot of the time.” Bucky tells him that Steve Rogers “… hated a lot of things this country has done. But somehow, he still managed to see the dream. The idea that made this place great to begin with.”
Whether that’s the right answer or not, it’s the answer that satisfies Eli – at least for now.
We’ll leave you with some panels from that issue to see more of his struggle with the meaning of being a black hero championing the ideals of a country that has failed him and people like him since before its founding. In the first set, Eli is asking about why the Winter Soldier dropped by earlier to pay him a visit. In the last picture, Eli has finally caught up to Bucky to talk to him about Captain America, his grandfather, and the legacy he is inheriting.
There are more stories we could cover, but those are the primary story beats for Patriot. At least, those are the ones with which you should be familiar.
In our next article, we will discuss the wonder twins of Wanda and the Vision — Wiccan and Speed!
So keep watching Geek Girl Authority for more Young Avengers action!
This article was originally published on 8/17/21.