Spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×02 below
When Jason O’Mara was cast as the new Director on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the only information revealed during the announcement was that his character was “playing a character whose Marvel roots go back to the 1940s”. Many fans speculated that this hinted at a connection to the cancelled Agent Carter, which also aired on ABC. While this seemed like an obvious conclusion to make, nobody (aside from one of our regular commenters on our site!) expected Marvel to make their new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. none other former Nazi ass-kicker, Jeffrey Mace aka Patriot.
For those unaware, Jeffrey Mace is a character straight out of the Golden Age of Comics. He first debuted in The Human Torch #4 and was so inspired by Captain America that he took the name Patriot and fought in WWII as one of several other superheroes to take on the Nazis.
While he has no real superpowers to speak of, he was a phenomenal athlete and an exceptional fighter. After the war, he continued his crimefighting and even had a hand in thwarting an assassination attempt on John F. Kennedy. It’s after this heroic act that he takes the mantle of Captain America – the 3rd Captain America to be specific. If you’re lucky enough to have any of those Golden Age Captain America Comics issues from late 1946 to early 1950, that’s Jeff Mace under the Cap cowl during that period.
While the show-runners seem to be dramatically shifting away from Mace’s comic book counterpart – most notably by making him an Inhuman – there are some interesting parallels at work here. For one, with Captain America currently on the run and having seemingly gave up the name in Captain America: Civil War, bringing in Jeffrey Mace as a good looking, charismatic All-American boy with seemingly the same power set as Steve Rogers is an interesting nod to his time with the title in the comics.
Also worth noting is another connection on the comics side that could link to a reintroduced character in the MCU. Former General, and current US Secretary of State, Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, who presented the Avengers with the Sokovia Accords in Civil War, is Jeff Mace’s nephew (in the comics). When Mace told Coulson in last night’s episode, “We both know why I’m here,” we’re to assume later, when he reveals himself as an Inhuman, that that is the reason, but what if it’s because he’s the Inhuman relative of a cabinet member? Politically it makes good sense, and Ross is now a politician, and Mace seems to have his bureaucratic bona fides in order.
Clearly, Mace is not likely going to be suiting up with the Avengers in any foreseeable future, but the placement of his character there is interesting. It, quite literally, could have been anyone, even someone created for the show, if all that was needed was a clean cut Inhuman character. That the character’s name is Jeff Mace; that he was the third Cap in the comics when Steve Rogers went missing; that MCU Cap has gone to ground and his whereabouts are currently unknown; that he’s very interested in the “optics” of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. roll out, and, finally, that he’s related to a character ultimately in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. who has been missing from the MCU for 8 years, it does seem that they’re building to something, if not big, then at least interesting to those of us who enjoy the comics as well as the MCU (but don’t you hope its what is alluded to there?).
Moving the character ahead in time to use him in the MCU is no real issue (Dr. Faustus was moved back in time on Agent Carter, it’s the benefit of having 75 years of characters to pick and choose from), but it did seem that after moving this Golden Age hero to the current time, they mentioned Peggy Carter a lot in his introduction. If we’re to take “It’s All Connected” seriously, it is hard to believe that’s accidental.
It is nice to see the tv side of the MCU digging a little deeper into the history of the Marvel Universe and it does appear that Jeff Mace will be around for a while. O’Mara is too good an actor to waste on dead end plot so this should be good.