Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Truth and its aftermath: Introducing the Bradleys

Tonight I shall be discussing a topic that is near to the heart of legions white Captain America fanboys everywhere. Namely the 'Truth" miniseries and its introduction into the Marvel universe of the Bradleys, the black Captain America family.

Truth Issue 1


Now, this whole story begins with the cover you see above and Marvel's sudden announcement a few years ago that they were adding a new chapter to Cap's backstory. The idea was that the American government chose to test the super soldier serum that created him on a bunch of black soldiers and ended up with one black supersoldier who also wore the costume.

Predictably the wails of outrage from fanboys could be heard all across the internet. People objected to the series on pretty much any grounds they could come up with. The book was called a stab at political correctness and proof of Marvel's idiot leadership, and that was when people were being nice. As it is a lot of people like to treat it as not being in continuity. For reasons I shall get to later, they can't do that anymore. That makes me happy.

Anyway, the series ended up being about Isaiah Bradley, the only survivor from a group of black soldiers who were guinea pigs for the serum. Its a series I defended strongly online and wanted very much to like. In the end I came away with mixed feelings. There are spots where the writing is nothing short of brilliant but then there are also large patches where I found it uneven and badly paced. And then there's the art. Now I'm a big fan of Kyle Baker's work and I think his 'Nat Turner' series has a good chance of being one of those books you give to your comic hating friends to show what the medium is capable of. That said, for a large chunk of this series he dropped the ball in a huge way. The art and coloring rarely fit with what was actually happening. He ended up making a whole lot of serious, well written moments look cartoonish. That said, he also gave us this scene which was one of the most moving in the entire book.


Still, for all my issues with the series, it was a good story and it gave us Isaiah, who then begat the next person on our list, Josiah X

Elijah Bradley (Justice)

And now we come to Josiah X a.k.a. Justice. In case the name and the headgear had you wondering, yes he's Muslim. A black Muslim in the Captain America suit and carrying the shield. Josiah was the brainchild of Christopher Priest, the mind behind the best Black Panther stories ever written, among other things. Unsurprisingly The Crew, the book he was introduced in, barely made it to 7 issues before the weight of being a predominantly black team book written by Priest.

The idea behind Josiah was that the serum left Isaiah sterile and with the mental capacity of a child. However the military was able to collect genetic material from him before he went sterile and an egg from his wife. They used those to create an embryo which was implanted in a surrogate mother, creating Josiah. Unfortunately for them she had an attack of conscience and took him to his mother who hid the baby on a train in order to keep him safe. From there he grew up in an orphanage, ran away to fight in Vietnam, joined the Black Panthers, found his family, then worked as a mercenary before finding Islam and opening up a mission in one of the worst parts of New York. One of the things The Crew was supposed to explore was him becoming a hero, wearing the suit and becoming comfortable carrying his father's shield. Sadly we never got there and it was questionable for a while whether anything from the Crew was going to remain in continuity. Again that is now resolved because of this kid

Patriot

Elijah Bradley, a.k.a Patriot of the Young Avengers. Isaiah's grandson by way of his daughter. This, of course, is disclosed in classic angry black man fashion. Initially we are led to believe that he received a blood transfusion from his grandfather which gave him his powers. Later though we find out that he's been using MGH, a drug in the marvel universe that gives normal people powers for a limited time. Young Avengers has therefore given him two stereotypes. He's the angry black man who uses drugs. I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Generally I like the writing on that book, but I am very wary about how he's being treated.

At the same time, by using him, and having him mention Josiah they've pretty much cemented all of the Bradleys in Marvel continuity probably much to the chagrin of certain fanboys who were hoping the entire thing would be disregarded and could quietly slip out of continuity.

20 comments:

KangolLove said...

Good post. The Truth was one of those series that I always wanted to check out but never got around to. But I did think Josiah X was a very interesting character and it's a shame The Crew was cancelled before he could become more developed.

Marbles said...

Very helpful post. I've been playing around with the idea of grabbing Young Avengers. Your breakdown gives me a lot more insight into what I might be getting into.

A couple of uestions...is Josiah still running around with powers or do we not have any info on him since Crew ended? And is Captain America aware of this whole experiment?

MR. MAJOR said...

What a great post. I pretty much share your sentiments regarding the Truth mini-series and treatment of the Bradleys after it. I think the series ultimately failed for the reasons you listed but I appreciate the attempt they made to do something daring and thought provoking. If the fanboys get shaken up in the process all the better. Great post.

buckshot said...

Fear of a black captain? I love it. Great entry, man. Looking forward to more.

JRennoldz said...

The Truth miniseries moved me.

Everything from the nasty little liason coppin' pleas to the "expiremental" Caps dying in the stone-cold labs was powerful.

The ending was really sad because the "slow" Bradley came off as a real damaged but true-to-life dude you couldn't help but feel for.

Incredible post and an amazing miniseries to boot. I highly reccomend you read it ASAP.

Kwasi said...

Marbles,
Eli mentions Josiah in YA so that means he's officially in continuity. I'm hoping someone who can actually write does something good with the character.

Oh, and Cap finds out about the experiment at the end of Truth

JiggysMyDayJob said...

Great post man. I was mad when it first came out because of the racist backlash of all those fanboys on the net. But I never got to read the series. I did buy the whole crew run and I enjoyed it a whole lot I wish they would have kept it going.

But alas racism is everywhere even in the comic world. I stil hear folks hating on BP and the Black Fury from the Ultimates line.

Dang almost makes me wanna change my stance on storm...................................................................................................................................................................................... Naw she still a hoody

invisiblist said...

goddammit. I was gonna put something in here. Now i can't. It isn't worth pushing this one down yet for the comedy I was gonna do outta boredom.

Kwasi said...

The BP and Nick Fury backlash is several types of scary. So is the backlash against the new Firestorm.

Every once in a while I read some of those comments online and they make me want to go drink myself into a stupor

Brandon said...

Had planned on checking out this series before. Will most definitely do so now.

Gone said...

Great article, particularly putting it in context of the post-Truth landscape of the Captain America books. As someone who's never read any other Cap book besides Truth, it is interesting to learn how they've placed it within continuity.

I have one question: What does
"barely made it to 7 issues before the weight of being a predominantly black team book written by Priest" mean?

AFKAP of Darkness said...

Now I'm a big fan of Kyle Baker's work and I think his 'Nat Turner' series has a good chance of being one of those books you give to your comic hating friends to show what the medium is capable of. That said, for a large chunk of this series he dropped the ball in a huge way. The art and coloring rarely fit with what was actually happening. He ended up making a whole lot of serious, well written moments look cartoonish.

i've more or less come to terms with the fact that Kyle Baker just is not suited for doing "serious" comic books because Kyle Baker fundamentally does not respect "serious" comic books. it's just not his thing... Baker isn't so much a "comic book artist" as he is a "cartoonist"

(yes, i am working on a blog entry about that... i just need to get some illustrations scanned.)

AFKAP of Darkness said...

I have one question: What does
"barely made it to 7 issues before the weight of being a predominantly black team book written by Priest" mean?


the combination of a black team (which is already a tough sell in the current marketplace) with the legendary "Priest curse"... any title written by Christopher J. Priest is certain to be cancelled (cf. televisions "Apatow curse")

Gone said...

Thanks for that Priest explainer, afkap. I had no idea!

Though I must say, on the Baker thing, the implied connection between "serious" work and "superhero" books I find laughable. I look forward to your extended thoughts on Baker's unsuitability for serious books, with particular interest in how you define serious books. And point you toward Baker's work on "The Shadow" along with he and Morales' strip in Vibe (though I don't think that's been collected), that book with the Boondocks guy and the one with the hitman. Nat Turner has been mentioned, but as I suspect the art style he's chosen for that one is designed in part as a heads-up to 17th/18th century political illustrative styles (I think so anyway, but I haven't actually asked so I could be completely wrong) I'm not sure if that one fits what I presume to be your premise. So go do your research and make your case! I wanna see it!

Melanism said...

Great piece. I was extremely disappointed by the revealation that Issiah was using MGH especially considering he was the reaosn I was so excited about the book in the first place.

Melanism said...

One more thing...how long before Hudline takes Josiah X and adds him to his current arc in Black Panther.

Hudlin is pretty much making the case for The Black Avengers.

Kwasi said...

Hudlin's use of Marvel's black superheroes is a great thing. I'm also hoping Josiah gets worked in somehow.

Plus I'd love to see a black Avengers type book. Considering what happened to The Crew though........

moralesnyc said...

Thanks for your comments re: Truth.

I was very flattered to see Isaiah and Faith's story continue in The Crew and The New Avengers, even as I recently told someone at Marvel that I hope to see new Black characters that AREN'T related to the Bradleys. Any more super-Bradleys, and it'll smack too much of "that Black kid's okay ... because I know his parents." Plus, before the line got whittled down to Isaiah, there were a number of brothers in the Super Soldier program tomcatting their way across Europe in between missions.

Anyhow ...

I have to disagree totally with anyone here who thinks Kyle's art approach was a misstep. It's deliberately NOT superhero art, because we wanted the book to be read by people who don't read - and can't - superhero comics. The style was modified from what Kyle did in our work for Vibe about, oh, 8 million years ago - before people were shooting each other in hip hop.

That cartoony look of his, where you actually tell dozens of Black people APART, works.

PenisMan said...

Cool site on elephant man Check out my Penis Enlargement Pills

MrFenris187 said...

"Young Avengers has therefore given him two stereotypes. He's the angry black man who uses drugs. I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Generally I like the writing on that book, but I am very wary about how he's being treated."

Last I saw, they'd fixed the drug issue. What with Eli Bradley taking a few bullets to 'save' Captain America, and then actually getting the blood transfusion he had initially claimed to have recieved at the onset of his story line. I'm not up-todate on anything that's happened sense then, though.