(originally posted on tumblr)
As I mentioned in Part 1, after Isaiah Bradley’s dramatic rescue and return to the US in 1943, the US Government had him court martialed for going AWOL. The mission he was on (as well as the Super Soldier Serum in his veins) were both top secret. They put him in prison, in solitary confinement….for 17 years.
While in prison, Isaiah slowly began to lose his mind, which was explained as a side-effect of the serum. I believe that the combination of the serum, which raised a subject’s senses to hypersensitive levels, and complete sensory deprivation due to solitary confinement did it. Otherwise, why didn’t Steve Rogers go crazy?
Personally, I’ve always felt that someone who has enhanced senses and extreme reflexes must be allowed to flex those enhanced “muscles” so to speak, otherwise the very thing that makes them strong could cripple them.
While in prison, the government experimented on Isaiah again and tried to make a new “super soldier” by using his semen to impregnate surrogates. Adding insult to injury, they harvested Faith’s eggs without her permission while she was having surgery for an appendectomy. A single surrogate was impregnated, and that child carried the full effects of the super soldier serum. The surrogate named the baby Josiah.
Josiah’s story again reflects real-life stories of soldiers who were victims of the Tuskegee experiment, as well as reaching back to the stories of slaves who were used as “studs” to create stronger, more efficient slaves to many an unwilling partner.
Josiah X (a.k.a. Josiah El Hajj)
Where Isaiah’s character development mirrored the Tuskegee experiment and the African-American vets of WWII, Josiah’s story paralleled the Vietnam War, the Black Panthers, and even Moses.
Like his father, Josiah inherited superhuman strength, slowed aging, immunity to most diseases and a steel (not vibranium) shield. Isaiah was eventually pardoned by Eisenhower, but sworn to secrecy. When the surrogate became privy to whose child she was actually caring for, she tried to return him to Faith and Isaiah.
Knowing they were being carefully monitored and that the baby would be experimented on or killed, Faith hatched a plan to save him. Baby Josiah was put in a basket and placed on a train, putting him as far away from his actual family as possible. (There’s that Moses reference.) Josiah was raised in a Catholic orphanage, where he stayed until his powers manifested and he accidentally harmed a nun. Again, like Moses’ story, he fled. He then lied about his age in order to join the military.
While serving in Vietnam, Josiah is exposed to the same double-edged sword as his father. He’s fighting for a country who doesn’t consider him fully human. After being court martialed, and jailed for fighting a racist officer, doctors find the serum in his system and discover that in Josiah’s case…he really isn’t. He has inherited all of his father’s strength’s from the series, but none of the weaknesses. His surrogate mom helps him escape after she is brought in for genetic testing, revealing to him his full lineage. .
Josiah eventually joins the Black Panthers and uses their resources to track down his biological parents. In an emotional reunion, his mother faints when she sees him, claiming that he looks just like Isaiah when she met him. Again fearing for his safety, she tells him to leave but not before he sees what his father has become.
Disillusioned, Josiah becomes a mercenary killing for profit (a la Clint Barton pre-S.H.I.E.L.D.) and his travels take him to Africa, where he is introduced to the Muslim religion, travels the Mecca, and changes his surname to “X”, or “El Hajj” in Muslim circles. He returns home to Boston to make amends for past crimes, when he meets the very nun that he thought he had killed back when he was in Catholic School. She ends up becoming his maid/mentor (similar to the relationship between Alfred and Bruce Wayne)
“Who is Justice, and what does he have to do with THE TRUTH?“
From that point on Josiah becomes a Muslim Minister in Brooklyn and befriends James Rhodes (War Machine). Josiah even dates Rhodey’s sister for a time. He then goes on to join Rhodey’s crime fighting crew (aptly called “The Crew”) and takes the name “Justice” while using his father’s old shield. In 2002, someone anonymously send him an authentic Captain America Uniform (Steve Rogers, maybe?) Most of Josiah’s story is told in Issue #5 of the Crew. Josiah’s legacy lives on in his nephew, Elijah Bradley, whom I will explore in the next part of this series.
1. Cover of the last issue of “The Crew”
2.-5 Images from Issue #5 of The Crew series “Big Trouble in Little Mogadishu”
6. The Crew (minus War Machine) White Tiger (Kevin Cole) and Junta (Danny Vicent)