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The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: The Truth About Redwing

Contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 1

In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Marvel Studios' second original series on Disney+, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) makes use of Redwing, the drone part of his EXO-7 Falcon harness. But the streaming show isn't Redwing's first dance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans will remember that the plucky little murder drone first popped up in Captain America: Civil War, helping to take down Crossbones (Frank Grillo) through the subtle art of garbage truck CT scans and henchman murder. We even saw Redwing used to lift Spider-Man (Tom Holland) into the air and carry him away during Civil War's airport fight scene – an uncharacteristically non-lethal move for the drone.

The lovable UAV has had some work done in recent years, which is saying something considering that Redwing started out as Stark tech — specifically, a "Stark Drone MK82 922 V 80Z V2 Prototype Unit V6," according to its entry in Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe – Captain America: Civil War. Redwing has guns, rockets, the ability to split into pieces and propel itself through enemies, and a surveillance system that feeds live video into Falcon's goggles. And in the debut episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Redwing showed off its ability to pick up on subtle verbal cues and explode whole helicopters full of people. It's the stuff that RC tie-in dreams are made of.

That said, the MCU's concrete foundation is filled with the bodies of embarrassing old storylines and characters. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) started out as a Robin-the-Boy-Wonder-style sidekick in the pages of Marvel Comics. Arnim Zola (portrayed in the MCU by Toby Jones) was a TV screen in a robot's chest. If a futuristic, backpack-mounted murder robot seems, narratively speaking, a little bit too cool to have sprung up organically as the accompaniment to a character from the '60s, that's because it is. 

The truth is that Redwing wasn't always a machine gun drone with X-ray vision — he used to be a pretty little birdy.

Redwing and the power of owning a pet bird

We take you now to 1969 and the pages of Captain America #117, an issue that heralded "the coming of the Falcon." Here, we meet an unnamed African American adventurer from New York City, brought to some "far-off isle" to live as a prisoner of the Exiles — not the X-Men-adjacent team from the early 2000s, but rather, a bunch of semi-retired Nazis. The young man is Sam Wilson, and he has only one thing going for him: He likes birds a lot. (He used to raise pigeons, so it makes sense.)

Sam's pet falcon Redwing, with whom he shares a special bond, accompanies him on the island. He's able to communicate with the bird effectively enough to give him complex commands, and that's pretty much as super as Sam Wilson got for a while in the comics. He didn't even get to fly until Tony Stark built him a jetpack in a comic from April 1971 — and that was a one-off. Sam's very disco wingsuit wouldn't pop up until a trip to Wakanda in 1974. For years, the Falcon was just a guy who was good at punching people and who always brought his pet bird places, like a hyper-violent farmer's market regular.

Vampires, birds, and vampire birds

Redwing was pretty great in the comics, and Sam's connection to him seemed to grow by leaps and bounds. Soon, he could see through Redwing's eyes and communicate with him telepathically. There were a few explanations for this: Red Skull claimed to have bonded the two of them through the use of the Cosmic Cube, and Falcon's status as a mutant fluctuated as different Marvel Comics writers left their marks on the character over the years.

Throughout the years, Redwing stuck by Sam, refusing to abandon the Avenger no matter how perilously deep his V-neck became. Then came the 2010s in Marvel Comics' timeline, and Sam's taking up the mantle of Captain America. At this point, the Falcon was already rocking an Aquaman-of-the-sky mastery of bird control, but Redwing remained his favorite. Then, vampires happened. 

Specifically, Baron Blood happened, biting Redwing in the pages of All-New Captain America #5. The bird wound up supercharged by the vampiric infection, with occasionally bright red eyes to show for the experience. Also, Redwing joined the Pet Avengers alongside Lockjaw, the teleporting Inhuman dog, and Throg, the frog with the powers of Thor. All of which is burying the lede, because the Marvel Database also states that Redwing is currently single. Serious inquiries only.