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Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s Power Broker connects many dots in Marvel history

Power Broker? I hardly know ’er

Karli Morgenthau as Flag Smasher in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Image: Marvel Studios
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier keeps playing around with its characters as its plot thickens, introducing new villains and new heroes, making some more sympathetic and others look like real jerks.

But the show’s most mysterious villain is a real Marvel Comics deep cut. Here’s what we know so far about the Power Broker, the mysterious bankroller who’s after the members of the Flag-Smasher organization, and has a history in the comics.

[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier through episode 3, “Power Broker.”]

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

We first hear about the Power Broker in episode 2, “The Star Spangled-Man,” when the Flag-Smashers 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.

Why? Because the hidden figure bankrolled the first successful reproduction of the super-soldier serum that gave Steve Rogers his abilities, then the Flag-Smashers stole and used it. They managed to get away in episode 2, but not without sacrificing one of their own, who uses his strength to slow down the caravan of black vehicles. (Which we all know is the only that bad guys travel.)

Then, in episode 3, Bucky, Sam, and the newly freed Zemo — on their own quest to make sure that there won’t be an explosion of amoral super-soldiers — tracked down the scientist who made the serum for the Power Broker in the first place: Wilfred Nagel.

Nagel is your typical mousy evil scientist, and he explained that after working for Hydra, he was hired by the CIA to recreate the super-soldier serum using “blood samples from an American test subject” — Isaiah Bradley. He nearly succeeded, before he disappeared in the Blip. When he got back, nobody was interested in his research anymore, except the Power Broker.

Zemo murdered Nagel, indirectly doing the Flag-Smashers a big favor. Without the ability to make more serum, the Power Broker is going to have to chase them to get the last few doses.

Who is the Power Broker in comics?

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 employs a mad scientist to give people superpowers, but also to secretly inject 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.

While the Power Broker is obscure, the character does have ties to other aspects of the story The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is telling. For example, in comics, Power Broker is how John Walker got his superpowers, enabling him to become the Super-Patriot, and later Captain America, and then U.S. Agent.

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.

And speaking of Bradley, in comics, the Power Broker’s pet scientist is a guy named Karl Malus (get it? like malice?), but Falcon and Winter Soldier’s guy is named after a different mad scientist trying to recreate the super-soldier formula. And while there’s absolutely no shortage of those in the Marvel Comics setting, Dr. Wilfred Nagel was the head scientist of the murderous, exploitative government program that gave Isaiah Bradley his strength.

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.

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