Episode 2 of Falcon and Winter Soldier teases a secret but familiar villain

The second episode of Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney Plus thickens the plot of the six-episode series, introducing new villains and new heroes, making some more sympathetic and others look like real jerks.

And one of those new villains is a real Marvel Comics deep cut, one you might even have missed in the episode. After all, he’s only mentioned in one line, as members of the Flag-Smasher organization flee from their pursuers.

[Ed. note: This piece contains minor spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 2, “The Star-Spangled Man.”]

Flag Smashers troops in their black masks with red handprints, in Falcon and the Winter Soldier Image: Marvel Studios

In one of the episode’s final scenes, the Flag-Smashers, who we now know are led by a woman named Karli Morgenthau, are loading up a plane with medical supplies. One of them receives a tip on his phone and they redouble their efforts to get out of there: The Power Broker’s men are coming for them.

They manage to get away, but not without sacrificing one of their own, who uses his immense strength — which Sam and Bucky assume has been conferred by a variant of the super-soldier serum that gave Steve Rogers his abilities — to slow down the caravan of black vehicles. (Which we all know is the only that bad guys travel.)

Who is the Power Broker?

Curtiss Jackson, AKA the Power Broker, a white guy in a suit, cowers from a smashed window in U.S. Agent #3, Marvel Comics (2001). Image: Jerry Ordway, Karl Kesel/Marvel Comics

This is an easy one: He’s a Marvel Comics character who makes a(n evil) business out of selling a dangerous superpower treatment to desperate people. Curtiss Jackson gives people super-strength (well, he employs a mad scientist to do so) but also secretly injects them with hardcore addictive substances. When they go into withdrawal, he tells them it’s a side effect of their superpowers, and that they have to keep coming back to him and paying for “treatments.”

Nobody’s saying that superhero comics are subtle.

But if you read between the lines, there are some connections between the Power Broker’s comics incarnation and some other characters involved with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. For example, the PB is how John Walker got his superpowers, enabling him to become the Super-Patriot, and later Captain America, and then U.S. Agent. And the Power Broker’s dishonesty with his clients — subjecting them to medical procedures they didn’t sign up for — is reminiscent of many real unethical medical experiments and campaigns. Those real historical events inspired the creation of Isaiah Bradley, the first Black Captain America, who also appeared in episode 2.

Unethical science and super-soldiers — from Bucky to Isaiah to the Power Broker — is a running theme for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

How did the Power Broker’s victims usually pay him back?

Oh, you know. By competing in a super-strength-only professional wrestling federation. Do we think that will show up in Falcon and Winter Soldier? No, but we live in hope.