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[This story contains spoilers for episode six of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.]
The final episode of Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sets up multiple new status quos for its sizable cast, but while the likes of Sam Wilson and Sharon Carter have clear next steps, the fate of the show’s most interesting newcomer is left purposefully vague. What’s next for John Walker, now that he’s become the U.S. Agent?
While Walker (Wyatt Russell) proved too flawed to be Captain America long term — murdering someone on camera in a foreign country proved to be problematic when it came to being a high-profile government agent, who knew? — the authorities apparently still have some use for him, with the morally ambiguous Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) outfitting him with a revised costume a new identity … even if his mission was left undefined.
Those looking to the character’s comic book history for clues might find a somewhat complicated answer. Although Walker’s onscreen storyline broadly parallels the original comic book narrative, it’s far from an exact parallel. Walker’s parents are the ones killed by terrorists instead of his partner, and Walker’s transition from Captain America to U.S. Agent is far more complicated; he convinces Steve Rogers to resume the Captain America role, and then fakes his death before assuming the Agent identity. His transition to U.S. Agent in the comics was also infinitely messier, with many abandoned directions as multiple writers and artists struggled with the question of what to do with a character who couldn’t quite handle being the personification of America.
(In a moment of quiet genius, character co-creator Mark Gruenwald had Johnnie Walker assume the fake identity “Jack Daniels” after faking his death. It’s a fair assumption that the core audience for the title in the late 1980s didn’t appreciate the joke.)
Initially, the comic book U.S. Agent worked for the Commission on Super-Human Activities, a governmental oversight body tasked with ensuring that none of the massive superhero fights got too out of control; as such, he regularly butted heads with other Marvel heroes and antiheroes, whether it was the West Coast Avengers — a Los Angeles-based offshoot of the regular team that he was embedded with — or the Punisher, whom he was sent to investigate.
As an agent of the Commission, he’d later head up a special operations division of the U.S. Marshals, called STARS — the Superhuman Tactical Activities Response Squad — which dealt with threats beyond the norm, including alien invasions and out of control superhuman wrestlers (of course).
STARS was one of a number of groups he’d belong to across the years, with others including The New Invaders — a reunited team of World War II heroes with Walker taking the place of the original Captain America — as well as Omega Flight, a group of Canadian heroes Walker was sent to monitor as potential threats to U.S. interests. (It only seems like a joke.) He also temporarily belonged to a corporately sponsored team called the Jury, as well as being affiliated with a second privately funded group called the Americops; sometimes, bills need to be paid, even by the most patriotic of wannabe heroes.
Perhaps the most likely future for the MCU version of the character can be glimpsed in the fact that the comic book original was, for a short period, warden of the Raft — the super-powered prison introduced in Captain America: Civil War which showed up again in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. As such, he was instrumental in the formation of a new version of the Thunderbolts, a Suicide Squad-esque group of incarcerated supervillains compelled to act in the interests of the greater good, whether they like it or not.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier nodded in a Thunderbolts direction more than once during its six-episode run; not only the reintroduction of the Raft, a concept previously seen in the MCU five years ago, but also the use of Zemo, the villain who in comic book lore founded the original Thunderbolts. Zemo is, of course, currently incarcerated in the Raft, as of the end of Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Coincidence?
Also worth noting: the Contessa’s behavior in the show has been, to be blunt, pretty Amanda Waller-like — which is somewhat at odds with her comic book portrayal, where she’s historically been somewhat cooler in demeanor whether as the superspy lover to Nick Fury or the villainous Madame Hydra.
So, is the MCU Walker destined to be the Rick Flag of Marvel’s ersatz Suicide Squad? It could be a good fit for him, and a useful new franchise for Marvel Studios — but, with Secret Invasion on the horizon, it’s just as possible that Walker is being set up to deal with another alien threat that no one could see coming … or being set up by an alien threat.
After all, one of the many characters revealed to be a Skrull imposter in the comic book Invasion was the Contessa herself.
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