While the MCU hasn’t given a scientific explanation why Isaiah Bradley’s Super Soldier Serum worked, there are clues as to the possible real reason.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier never explained exactly why the Super-Soldier Serum worked on Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) while other test subjects died, but what fans know about the serum and its effects on other recipients offers some clues. Isaiah was introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2 and he was revealed to be one of the most tragic figures in Marvel Cinematic Universe history, although Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) restored some of Isaiah Bradley’s faith by becoming Captain America.
In the 1950s, Bradley was one of a handful of African-American soldiers who received a recreated variant of the Super-Soldier Serum. The original formula for the serum was lost when its creator, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) was assassinated by Hydra in 1943 shortly after the serum successfully transformed Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in Captain America: The First Avenger. Bradley and the other Black soldiers were used as test subjects for a new serum but they were lied to and told it was for tetanus. The test subjects gained enhancements but some were unstable and they began dying off. However, the serum worked on Isaiah, who became physically stronger. After Bradley was deployed in the Korean War and even destroyed the cybernetic arm of the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Isaiah Bradley was imprisoned because he went AWOL to rescue his fellow soldiers from a POW camp. The U.S. Government feared the ramifications of « a Black Captain America » so Bradley’s existence was expunged and he spent 30 years in prison, with various agencies including Hydra drawing his blood in order to determine why the Super-Soldier Serum worked on him.
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There have been numerous attempts to recreate the Super-Soldier Serum in the MCU and most of the results have been negative, from Johann Schmidt/The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) to the U.S. Agent John Walker (Wyatt Russell). Steve Rogers was the shining example of the Super-Soldier Serum not just working but exceeding expectations. The reasons why were summed up by Dr. Erskine to Rogers: « The serum amplifies everything that is inside. So, good becomes great. Bad becomes worse. » It was a simple fact that Steve Rogers possessed an ineffable positivity – simply put, he was « a good man » – that caused the serum to work so well on the original Captain America. Even Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl), who loathes super-soldiers, admitted that « There has never been another Steve Rogers. » However, Isaiah Bradley may have been the second Steve Rogers based on how well the serum apparently worked for him.
Assuming that Isaiah Bradley’s Super-Soldier Serum was as potent as Erskine’s formula was for Steve Rogers, the issue with why others became unstable or died possibly lies with the other test subjects. Erskine disqualified many potentials for the serum based on their negative personality traits after he saw how his drug amplified the worst qualities of the Red Skull. It’s doubtful that the U.S. used a thorough recruitment procedure when it picked a number of Black men to test their new serum on, and they likely based their choices on physical qualities. But the psychological and emotional makeup of the Super-Soldier Serum’s recipients has proven to be incredibly crucial to its success.
A similar result was seen in Captain America: Civil War‘s flashbacks to Hydra attempting to create more Winter Soldiers. Several recruits were injected with a Super-Soldier Serum created by Howard Stark (John Slattery) in the 1990s and they all proved so unstable, the project had to be literally placed on ice. Steve Rogers was the rare case of the Super-Soldier Serum ideally enhancing the right person’s physical attributes and also tapping into their innate goodness and heroism. Barring a future (pseudo) scientific explanation from the MCU, the best guess as to why the Super-Soldier Serum worked on Isaiah Bradley is that, like Steve Rogers, he is simply a good man. Tragically, as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier revealed, Isaiah was cruelly and unfairly punished for it.
Next: The MCU Can Give Isaiah Bradley The REAL Old Captain America Role
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- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
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