- I lied to you, Alyssa. I lied to everyone. I was never rejected for military service. I was the Young Avenger.
- -- Bill Bryon
Appearing in "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young"
- Crazy S.U.E.S. (First appearance)
- Young Avenger (Bill Bryon) (Main story and flashback)
- Captain America (Steve Rogers) (Only in flashback)
- Bucky (James Barnes) (Only in flashback)
- Sergeant Byrd (First appearance) (Only in flashback)
- Merzah the Mystic (Only in flashback)
- Captain Flame (Frank Cortez) (First appearance) (Only in flashback)
- Sergeant "Slow-Motion" Jones (Only in flashback)
- Blue Diamond (Elton Morrow) (Only in flashback)
- Invisible Man (Leonard Gade) (Only in flashback)
- Flash Foster (Only in flashback)
- Archie the Gruesome (Only in flashback)
- Jim "Taxi" Taylor (Only in flashback)
- Victory Boys (Death) (Only in flashback)
- Piotr (Only appearance; dies) (Only in flashback)
Races and Species:
- Humans (Main story and flashback)
- Earth (Main story and flashback)
- Captain America's Shield (Only in flashback)
Synopsis for "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young"
On December 6th, 1944, the Crazy S.U.E.S., a special military unit comprised of many of the superhumans and costumed crimefighters of the day, were engaged in intensive street-to-street combat against the Nazis in Saarlautern, Germany.
The unit, led by Steven Rogers (Earth-616), were pinned down in an alleyway by a German Panzer tank. Captain Flame, the Young Avenger, Slow-Motion Jones and the Victory Boys were ordered to cross to the far side of the street in order to outflank the incoming German troops. On their way into position, however, they were attacked by a German half-track and the Victory Boys were all mowed down by gunfire, though Piotr did manage to get off an explosive arrow before being shot. At this point, Captain Flame appeared to be in a daze, haphazardly wandering into the path of the Panzer's cannon despite warnings from his comrades. When the tank opened fire, however, Captain Flame used his superhuman ability to absorb the force of the explosion and redirected it back towards his attacker, completely decimating the tank. When the rest of the squad saw what had happened, Captain America took the unit's medic, Archie, and Merzah the Mystic and headed over to help their fallen comrades. Merzah used his empathic abilities to convince a mentally unhinging Captain Flame to fall back with him, while the others attempted to help Piotr. At that very moment, more German soldiers began advancing from the south, forcing the unit to fall back while Captain America drew their fire away. Despite their best efforts, the Young Avenger and Archie could do nothing to stop Piotr's bleeding. Realizing the hopelessness of the situation, the Young Avenger ordered Archie to give Piotr morphine to numb the pain before ordering the medic to fall back with the rest of the unit. Slow-Motion Jones refused to look away as the Young Avenger pulled out a pistol and shot Piotr in the head in order to end his suffering before they too had to fall back in the face of the oncoming German attack.
Carrying a sense of guilt over the young boy's death, the Young Avenger, William Bryon in civilian life, visited Piotr's grave on the anniversary of his death every year after the war, though he never told his family the truth about his relationship to the young man. He invented a story of how Piotr was his cousin and had died a hero, with the family receiving a medal for his service. He went on to say that he himself had been unable to join the military because of a bum leg and that he had been a comic book editor during the war years for Timely Comics, one of Marvel's predecessors. He decides at age 92 to come clean and tell his granddaughter Alyssa, a famous novelist, the true story of his wartime experiences in the hopes that she will write his story exactly as he tells it. Alyssa agrees, but before they begin, her grandfather shows her his collection of wartime comic books and tells her that she must read them all before they begin. True to her word, Alyssa stays up all night reading the old comics, though she admits that they may be the worst thing that she has ever read.
One story she reads is about the Blue Diamond and the Invisible Man being captured by German soldiers. The story then flashes back to Vimoutieres, France, where the real-life Blue Diamond and Invisible Man were being interrogated by a Nazi officer on June 25th 1944. Both men had been tied to chairs, but the Invisible Man attempted to use his abilities to make it appear as if he had escaped. The officer, however, knew of both men's abilities and began striking an invisible Doctor Gade, breaking his nose. He threatened to kill him if the Blue Diamond did not reveal the Crazy S.U.E.'s activities in France. Morrow, however, managed to get the officer to reveal German troop strength in the area and then called in reinforcements. Taxi Taylor and the Young Avenger burst through the wall in Taylor's armoured vehicle, beating the German officer unconscious and rescuing their teammates.
Present day: Alyssa's grandfather reveals to her the next morning that these old comics were used as a method to promote the war effort, boosting recruitment into the military. He then reveals that the characters and stories in these old books were based on real people, real heroes who fought in the war and that the titles went out of print so quickly because oftentimes the character's real-life namesake died and "no one wanted to read the adventures of a dead person. He claims that this was the case of Captain Flame and that he has the only existing copy of the comic as the rest were destroyed due to the death of Captain Flame before being distributed. Bryon then reveals that he had never been rejected for military service and that he, in fact, was the Young Avenger, showing Alyssa his old costume.
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- ↑ First and only known appearance to date besides flashbacks
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