With the second episode of Disney Plus and Marvel’s The Falcon and Winter Soldier out, we’ve got a better look at some of the major players outside our heroes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has stepped up their game when it comes to writing their antagonists in the past few years. Fans have had a hard time completely writing off the motivations of characters like Eric Killmonger in Black Panther, Adrian Toomes (the Vulture) from Spider-Man, or even Thanos from the Infinity Saga.
That trend seems to be continuing with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as the characters who are based on Marvel villains are all being portrayed with at least a slice of sympathy. Here are all the characters so far who are being set up as antagonistic forces to Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, you be the judge which ones sound the most like villains in this Marvel Universe.
First appearing in Captain America #312 in December of 1985, the original Flag-Smasher was Karl Morgenthau. Created by Mark Gruenwald, Flag-Smasher was made to symbolize anti-patriotism and was made specifically as a counter to Captain America. He was the son of a wealthy Swiss-banker turned diplomat and wanted to be just like his father. Until his father was trampled to death in a riot in Latveria.
From that point forward, Flag-Smasher believed that humanity needed to do away with the concept of countries and nationalism that made people feel superior to those of different nationalities.
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the Flag-Smashers are a group of rebel freedom fighters. They’re led by Karli Morgenthau. There’s a chance that Karli could be the daughter of her comic namesake, but for now, it seems as though she’s simply serving as a female version of the original character.
The other similarity between Karli and her comic counterpart is what they’re fighting for. It’s mentioned in the show several times that the Flag-Smashers think the work was a better place post-blip when national borders were broken down and countries were allegedly all working together to understand and survive in a world after the snap.
When Sam and Bucky are in the jeep with John Walker and his partner Lemar “Battlestar” Hoskins, Hoskins gives us a better idea of why a group like the Flag-Smashers might have appeared. It’s not that the world suddenly all went back to hating each other (though some very likely did) and re-establishing borders. He explains that in the chaos of the Government re-activating social security and trying to help those who have come back, the programs put in place to help refugees of the snap were being forgotten.
The snap created one kind of crisis that the world had to learn to deal with for five years, when the events of Avengers: Endgame happened and the Hulk brought everyone back, it created a new crisis. And those who would be most affected by this new crisis were the survivors of the original snap.
The Flag-Smashers are supposed to be painted as villains, but the show goes out of its way several times to mention that they’re trying to get medicine to several camps around Europe. We also see and are told that common folk throughout Europe are willing to help them as well. While they may be antagonists to Sam and Bucky, they’re certainly being painted as heroes to others.
Jonathan Walker, the New Captain America
In the comic books, John Walker is a US Army veteran who was given enhanced strength from an organization known as the Power Broker. He’s served as both a rival and ally to various heroes, he’s even led some Avengers’ teams.
What’s most pertinent to our conversation around The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, is when Sam Wilson took up the mantle of Captain America in the comics, the Senate contacted Walker to confront him and take the shield back. Walker refused to do so, even though he disagreed with Sam’s politics.
It’s no secret we all despise Walker in the show, he’s not our Captain America, after all. He says all the right things and sure seems to want to be on the side of right. But, there are little things in the way he acts that tell us things probably aren’t going to work out just the way anyone wants them to.
He tries to work with Sam and Bucky twice in the latest episode, but Sam spells it out near the end pointing out that Walker and Hoskins have to work through red tape. The Falcon the Winter Soldier on the other hand are more like free agents. Walker then begins to perhaps show some of his truer colors when he says they need to stay out of his way.
It’s clear that John Walker wants to be a hero, his interview at the start of the episode details his time in the military that would suggest to the American people, he already is one. But there are a few key moments that bring into question where his heart truly stands. When getting Bucky released from custody, he refers to him as an ‘asset’ which is exactly what Hydra saw him as.
Despite becoming a hero in the comics as U.S. Agent, it’s entirely possible Marvel will send him down the road of a true villain. Even in WandaVision, Agatha Harkness was the villain despite being Wanda’s mentor in the comics. Are John and Lemar being set up as the support to our protagonists, or the bad guys waiting to happen?
The Power Broker
Here we have the biggest question mark so far with the show as we only got a single name-drop near the end. When the Flag-Smashers are loading cargo onto a plane they get a call that someone is on to them and they have no time. One of the volunteers sacrifices himself so the others can make an escape. We’re expecting either Sam and Bucky or Walker and the US Government to be onto them, but they drop the name The Power Broker.
In the comics, the Power Broker is a company founded by Curtis Jackson and ran by Dr. Karl Malus. Together, they experiment on superhuman individuals and use technology to augment the strength of paying individuals. This is likely where the Flag-Smashers all got their super-soldier serums from.
Also in the comics, John Walker and Lemar Hoskins both end up getting their superpowers from the Power Broker. It’s likely that once Sam and Bucky catch up with the Flag-Smashers, they realize they’re not the villains they thought they were. Meanwhile, Walker and Hoskins realize they have the same goals as the Power Broker and team up to take on both the Flag-Smashers and the Falcon and Winter Soldier.
The 2021 Marvel TV shows are really stepping up their game. We’ll find out more in one week when episode three of Marvel’s The Falcon and Winter Soldier airs on Disney Plus.
Marvel’s The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is director by Kari Skogland. It’s star’s Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russel and Erin Kellyman.
More Comic Book News & Talk on The Other Identity Podcast
Feature Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios