Warning: This article contains some spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier!
Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has now ended, but the return of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) has left a lot of questions. And one of the big ones is where does Wyatt Russell’s character John Walker, a.k.a. the ex-Captain America, a.k.a. U.S. Agent, go from here. As always, we can look to the comics to get an idea.
Who is U.S. Agent? Is he friend or foe to the Avengers? Read on for everything you need to know about Marvel’s other patriotic super-soldier.
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=how-sam-wilsonfalcon-became-captain-america&captions=true”]
John Walker as Captain America
After his older brother was killed in action, John Walker wanted nothing more than to honor his legacy and become an American hero. Unfortunately, he did so by turning to a villain called the Power Broker and becoming a star-spangled (and misguided) baddie called Super-Patriot. Fortunately, a few run-ins with Captain America taught Walker the error of his ways. When the government selected Walker to become the new Captain America, he did his best to live up to Steve Rogers’ example, though the pressure nearly drove him mad.
After Steve Rogers reclaimed the Captain America mantle, Walker took up a new costumed identity as U.S. Agent. Though more brash and headstrong than Cap, U.S. Agent has consistently proven himself a valuable ally to the Avengers and a hero worthy of his family legacy.
U.S. Agent: Origin and Background
John Walker made his debut in 1986’s Captain America #323, though it would be years still before he actually took the name U.S. Agent. Walker is initially portrayed as a brutal vigilante named Super-Patriot, one who has all of Captain America’s intense patriotism but lacks his strong moral compass. His brash attitude and extreme methods instantly win him public support.
When a disillusioned Steve Rogers chooses to abandon the Captain America mantle rather than work as an agent of the US government, Walker is chosen to become his replacement. This is one example of a popular trend in the ’80s and ’90s, where Marvel temporarily replaced iconic heroes with rookie newcomers (James Rhodes as Iron Man, Eric Masterson as Thor, etc.).
While they weren’t exactly friends in the past, Walker does his best to honor the legacy and example of Steve Rogers during his time as Captain America. Unfortunately, that proves easier said than done. Between his own extreme methods and some less than savory missions from his handlers at The Commission, Walker begins to crack under the pressure of being Captain America. He’s further pushed to the brink when his former sidekicks expose his secret identity and cause the murders of his parents.
Walker’s tenure as Cap comes to an end when the Red Skull orchestrates a confrontation between Walker and Steve Rogers, now going by the codename “The Captain.” The two heroes instead team up to defeat their common foe. In the aftermath, Steve reclaims his identity as Captain America and Walker is allowed to retire under a new cover identity and try to rebuild his ruined life.
It wasn’t long before Walker returned in his new guise as U.S. Agent. The Commission installs U.S. Agent in the newly formed West Coast Avengers, hoping to maintain government oversight over the team. Though Walker repeatedly butts heads with his new teammates (especially Hawkeye), he also proves himself worthy to fight alongside Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. After the West Coast Avengers disbanded, U.S. Agent became a member of other teams like Force Works, The Invaders and even Canadian super-team Omega Flight.
Even losing multiple limbs battling rogue super-soldier Nuke wasn’t enough to keep Walker down. He became the warden of the maximum-security prison known as The Raft, helping Luke Cage wrangle the Thunderbolts (basically Marvel’s answer to DC’s Suicide Squad) into an effective fighting unit. Walker later had his body restored to full health and took up the mantle of U.S. Agent once more.
U.S. Agent’s Powers and Abilities
He may look and fight like Captain America, but U.S. Agent is considerably stronger. Where in the comics Steve Rogers’ body has been boosted to the peak of normal human potential, John Walker has true superhuman strength, agility and endurance. That’s allowed him to gain the upper hand on Cap in the past, though Cap’s decades of experience tends to level the playing field.
Walker has also been trained in various forms of armed and unarmed combat. He’s even been coached by Taskmaster in how to aim Captain America’s unbreakable shield. Walker carried that shield during his tenure as Captain America. After becoming U.S. Agent, he’s made use of several alternate shields, including a vibranium shield created by Black Panther and a star-shaped shield with retractable spikes.
[ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2021/04/23/the-falcon-and-the-winter-soldier-episode-6-review]
U.S. Agent in the MCU
For as long as U.S. Agent has been active in the Marvel Universe, you’d think he’d have spent more time outside of the comics. But to date, he’s only made a handful of appearances in video games like Marvel vs. Capcom, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Marvel Heroes, usually in the form of an alternate costume choice for Captain America.
However, that U.S. Agent drought is now at an end. John Walker made his live-action debut in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which hit the Disney+ service on March 19, 2021. Wyatt Russell (Lodge 49) plays the character, who first took on the mantle of Captain America in the wake of Steve Rogers (though interestingly his Cap costume was a play on the U.S. Agent suit from the comics).
He butted heads with Sam Wilson over the honor of becoming the next Captain America. Just because Steve Rogers gave Sam his shield didn’t mean the government would honor that gentleman’s agreement, and while Sam didn’t really even want to wield the shield at first, in time he came to realize that he could make positive change in the role. Walker, meanwhile, was hand-picked to become the new Cap as a sort of patriotic morale booster for a nation still struggling to come to terms with the fallout of the Blip. But after his partner Battlestar was killed by the Flag-Smashers, he went berserk and killed one of that group. The government stripped him of the shield and the title of Cap.
When we last saw him in the show, he had seemed to redeem himself somewhat in that he helped Sam (who had now taken on the mantle of Captain America) and Bucky against the Flag-Smashers. But after that battle, we also saw that he was now working for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ mysterious Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, a.k.a. Val. And he now has a new costume — a black version of his Cap suit that is the U.S. Agent look from the comics. Time will tell where this is all going, but we clearly haven’t seen the last of John Walker.
April 23, 2021: This story has been updated with the latest information about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
[widget path=”ign/modules/recirc” parameters=”title=Explained!&type=articles%2Cvideos&tags=explained-recirc&count=6&columnCount=6&theme=article”]