In 2003, following the commercial success of Wolverine : Origin, Marvel Comics puts together an acclaimed creative team to "delve" into the history of one of comic-dom's most revered superheroes, Captain America.
The year is 1942, the Japanese have just attacked Pearl Harbour and three American men from three very different backgrounds join the war.
Isaiah Bradley: Loving husband and soon-to-be father. Eager and willing, he signs up to defend his country from any and all opposition.
Maurice Canfield: When this strong-headed political activist is arrested for protesting the entry of the US into World War II, he chooses to enlist rather than sully his family name.
Lucas Evans: A former Captain, he was demoted to Sergeant after physically threatening a superior officer. Wasting away in a pool hall in Cleveland, with only an empty booze bottle and his memories for company, he suddenly feels renewed by the prospect of war.
Three men who would never have met, except for two things: They were black and they were going to be an integral part of one of the greatest government cover-ups.
Just as they were adjusting to a series of racial incidents in their camp, Sgt. Evans' men are selected to become part of a top-secret military experiment, the Super Soldier Project. At the hands of Military Intelligence's Col. Walker Price and project director Dr. Josef Reinstein, the soldiers go through a series of horrific tests, many of them fatal.
Finally, several men endure the Serum and become Super Soldiers. The survivors then travel to the heart of the Third Reich, where they attempt to halt their German counterparts. The mission is successful, but only three men, Evans, Canfield and Bradley, survive.
The trio then head to Portugal, where they are supposed to rendevous with Steve Rogers, the man who will become Captain America. However, an unfortunate incident where it is discovered that Maurice Canfield's parents are both dead due to a murder-suicide, leads to a brawl and the subsequent deaths of Canfield and Lucas Evans. Isaiah Bradley is now the last remaining survivor of the initial Super Soldier Project.
Bradley is then sent to the heart of the Reich's eugenics project, Schwarzebitte (a fictional Nazi camp), where he is tasked to do as much damage as he can. However, Bradley pilfers the Red, White and Blue costume meant for Rogers and enters the camp, carrying a shield marked with a Double V for Victory symbol. He succeeded in blowing up the armory as well as the chamber where genetic tests were being performed, and kill the Nazi doctor in charge. However, Bradley was captured as he tried to escape and sent to the Fuhrer himself, Adolf Hitler.
Hitler attempts to cosy up to Bradley by pulling the "fellow artist" schtick. When that doesn't work, Hitler condemns his prisoner to Auschwitz. However, Bradley is saved by the German Resistance and returns to the US of A through the efforts of the Red Ball Express, a group of black G.I.s who ran the Army's supply route.
Despite his heroism, Isaiah Bradley was court-martialed and received a life-imprisonment sentence for stealing the costume. For seventeen years he did solitary confinement at Leavenworth, before being pardoned by President Eisenhower. However, the incomplete Serum, coupled with his life in jail, left Bradley a hulking giant, but sterile and with the mind of a young child. Despite his condition, Bradley is an urban legend among his community, and the wall of his apartment in the Bronx is decorated with photos of him and celebrities such as Nelson Mandela, Michael Jackson, Muhammed Ali and Sonny Bono.
After finding out about Bradley's existence, Steve Rogers seeks him out and sets into motion events that will lead to the suicide of former Colonel Walker Price, the man who was in charge of the whole operation. At the end of the six-part series, the two men known as Captain America meet amicably and the book is closed on the first Captain America.
Well, not exactly. Black Panther veteran scribe Christopher Priest adds a new dimension to the saga of The Truth when he introduces a new character, Josiah X in his series The Crew. The product of a further Army experiment: the sperm harvested from an enhanced Isaiah Bradley with the egg cells of his wife Faith, implanted in a girl designated as the surrogate mother. As a baby, Josiah is sent away by his mother for his own protection. Growing up, he discovers his superhuman strength, speed and stamina, and fights in Vietnam. At the same time, he also becomes influenced by the teachings of Malcom X, which leads him to become a Muslim minister.
As a man in his twenties, his past is revealed to him by his mother and it isn't long before he dons the costume of his father. However, when events bring him into the middle of a money-laundering scheme, he has to make a decision. Is he to become the American face of Islam, or is he the legacy of a mission begun not so long ago, in 1942.
This is not the first time the initial stages of the Super Soldier Project have been discussed in comic book storylines. In 2001, Dan Jurgens created Protocide, supposedly the first man to be given the Serum. However, unlike the wham, bam, thank you ma'am! action of that story arc, scribe Robert Morales brings the reader on an indepth look at racism within the military during the 40's. The story is also rife with historical references, most notably the similarities with the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. One can almost believe that these really happened and in many ways, Isaiah Bradley is a more believable character than Steve Rogers.
Acclaimed artist Kyle Baker gives a unique rendition of the story through his artwork. While not your usual comic book fare, the Eisner award winner's almost comical cartoons are a stark constrast to the heavy-handed storytelling and seriousness of the plot.
However, Truth suffers from carrying too many messages and many of Morales' subplots never gets a chance to be further explained, such as the existence of Captain America Comics even as the Super Soldier Project was in progress. These multiple subplots, while intresting, only served to give Truth a feeling of rushed storytelling, and no one likes dangling plot holes.
With Priest's work confirming that the events in Truth are indeed canon, one can only hope that somewhere down the line, writers will be encouraged to fill in the subplots and not retcon the story altogether.