If you can feel reverberations throughout the pop culture landscape, it’s because Marvel Studios’?Echo?is here, debuting January 9, on the heels of?some?attention-getting and surprisingly brutal trailers. The first Marvel series of 2024 stars Alaqua Cox as the deaf formidable fighter, in a story exploring both her past and future.
Though she made her live-action debut as a supporting — and antagonistic — character in 2021’s?Hawkeye, Maya Lopez will take center stage here, as she tries to figure out her life away from father figure-turned-betrayer Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk.
With interest in Echo at an all-time high, it’s the perfect time to look back at her nearly 25 year history to see where she came from and also make a few guesses at where she might be heading as the MCU continues to tell her story.
Maya Lopez made her comic book debut in 1999’s?Daredevil #9. She was born deaf, but was able to copy any movements she saw, which allowed her to eventually learn how to speak, though she still needed to read someone’s lips to reply to them. Her mother left early in Maya’s life, which left her in the sole care of her father Willie “Crazy Horse” Lincoln who hailed from the Cheyenne tribe. Occasionally, they would leave New York City to reconnect with their history on an interzone Reservation where she appreciated the wisdom of a man known as the Chief.
Maya loved being with her father who did his best to explain the parts of the world she could not directly experience to her. However, when she was still quite young, her father was killed by his partner in crime, Wilson Fisk. Before Willie died, though, he asked the Kingpin to watch out for his daughter, to which Fisk agreed. He made good on his promise, never telling her the truth about her father’s murder and sending her away to schools. Once her mimic abilities were noted, she was labeled a prodigy and placed in a more advanced school where she was able to study ballet, piano and other arts.
Hawkeye established a slightly different yet still similar dynamic between Maya, her dad and Kingpin. In the live-action version, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio)?was established as an uncle figure for the girl, who studied martial arts from a young age, and eventually used her grief and rage to fuel her joining — and ultimately leading — the criminal group the?Tracksuit Mafia, which her father,?William?(Zahn McClarnon), had been a part of. During Clint Barton’s time as Ronin, it was he who killed William, but the assassin was tipped off to his location by a traitorous Kingpin.
The Devil You Know?
In the comics, Lopez grew up and became an accomplished performer in music and dance, enjoying the applause she could feel from an enthusiastic crowd, but her future would lie in a very different kind of activity. At the time, lawyer Matt Murdock — otherwise known as the masked vigilante Daredevil — was working on a case against Fisk. Wilson asked her to go speak to Murdock on his behalf. In reality, this was part of a long con planned by the Kingpin to destroy his longtime enemy. He calculated that Murdock would fall for her, but also eventually told her that Daredevil was responsible for her father’s death. Fisk’s plan worked perfectly as Maya fell in love with Murdock while trying to kill Daredevil.
Lopez trained herself by watching footage of a fight between Daredevil and Bullseye as well as martial arts movies, adding the moves to her mental arsenal. She came close to killing her adversary, but was stopped by some local kids. Later, he revealed his identity to her, which made her realize not only that he could not have been Willie’s murderer, but also that her supposed father figure had betrayed her. When she caught up with him, she shot Fisk several times, including in the head, blinding him.
In Hawkeye,?Lopez tried dealing with Kingpin much in the same way when she learned he was ultimately responsible for William’s death, including shooting Fisk in the head. But, like his comic book counterpart, he’s clearly alive and mostly well – albeit with some eye damage – in the new Echo series.
It will be interesting to see how Charlie Cox’s Daredevil is worked into Echo, given that many of the details pertaining to him from Maya’s story in the comics were already transposed to Clint Barton/Hawkeye. It seems as though Daredevil is likely to only appear in a flashback, showing Maya during her time working for Kingpin and, at this point, it feels unlikely the Matt and Maya comic book romance will become a factor, though you never know…
In the wake of her exploits with Daredevil, Maya left New York and created a play about her experiences that she performed. She was called Echo by the papers and it stuck. After some time away, she began to regret how she left things with Murdock and returned to NYC only to find out that he was with someone else.
She confronted Fisk at this same time in a moment reflected in the trailer. He claimed to still love her like a daughter even though he manipulated her. She left and decided to return to the rez where the Chief set her on her vision quest. A few days in, she met Wolverine who also knew the Chief. Without knowing it, he told her a story that originated from Maya’s own father many years prior. This helped Maya realize that she needed to let go of her anger. She then returned to NYC where she continued creating art and performing it for audiences.
Lopez will be visiting her reservation in the show and it seems likely that some version of the comic storyline will happen with her encountering the wounded Kingpin, while getting back to her roots and deciding what to do with her skills moving forward – though the order might be altered. These events also just might lead to her finally getting the name Echo in the MCU.
Way Of The Ronin?
Down the line, when Captain America asked Daredevil for help tracking down a villain with the Avengers, he declined, but recommended the Sentinel of Liberty talk to Echo. She agreed and traveled to Japan to begin investigating, utilizing the Ronin identity which completely masked her identity. Even after fighting alongside the team, she remained behind to keep working on the case.
About a year later, the Avengers swooped in to help save her from Elektra and the ninja death cult called the Hand. This ultimately lead to the revelation that Elektra was actually a Skrull, a tip-off that the shape-shifting aliens had been slowly infiltrating Earth. From there, Maya joined the team on a more full-time basis.
Before the full scope of the Skrull problem came to light, the Avengers found themselves dealing with a gang of supervillains lead by the Hood, though by then Clint Barton had taken over the Ronin identity in the comics, a plot point seen in live-action in Avengers: Endgame. The Hood will be featured heavily as the villain in the upcoming?Ironheart series on Disney+, played by Anthony Ramos. If that series follows the comics, or sets the stage for the Hood to do more in the future, don’t be surprised if two huge armies of villains and heroes face off with one another and you see plenty of familiar faces like Echo.
Viewers have seen how the Skrull invasion has been handled in the MCU in?Secret Invasion, but that story clearly has not fully come to an end. Perhaps Echo will be involved in some major battle scenes down the line, as she was in the comics.
Echo left the Avengers, but still worked in concert with them. She traveled to Los Angeles, where she had a chance encounter with Moon Knight that lead to a team-up between them. She appeared to lose her life in a fight with a villain known as Count Nefaria, but got better.
From there she returned to New York where she has been seen helping Daredevil on more than a few occasions, even fighting alongside the comic book?Defenders team that was specificlly inspired by the Netflix Defenders series. Beyond that, she worked with Captain Marvel and other heroes to keep displaced women safe in a dystopia they all found themselves transported to. It was also revealed that she is part of a secret group called the Daughters of Liberty that helped clear Captain America’s name when he was accused of murder.
All of this goes to show that, in the comics, Echo has established herself as a reliable hero that others can turn to when they need help. Though right now, her MCU counterpart still needs to atone for her villainous ways, it seems likely that she can reach that same level down the line, though it would be surprising if the next move was recreated anytime soon in the live-action universe.
Rising From The Ashes?
When the Phoenix Force — an incredibly powerful entity from space — sought a new human host, it chose a number of different super beings from Earth and had them fight one another. Though Echo lost to Namor in an early round of this tournament, the Force ultimately chose her because it appreciated all Maya could do with its vast power.
She was then once more swept up in Avengers business, helping to restore reality after it had been rewritten and fighting against Russia’s Winter Guard, a mind-controlled She-Hulk, the Multiversal Masters of Evil and a council of Mephistos. During that last fight, though, she burned out all of her Phoenix Force to help save existence.
How likely is it that Echo becomes a Phoenix host in the MCU? It’s probably a stretch. The concept is usually closely associated with the X-Men, who have not yet been introduced, though the powers that be have been known to bring in concepts from throughout the company’s long history in many different ways. But, considering the Phoenix idea was used onscreen in both 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand and 2019’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix, we wouldn’t expect to see it again for a while.
Into The Great Wide Open
Though Lopez only recently returned to her completely human form, it seems as though she’s gotten back to life as usual. Or as usual as an accomplished super hero’s life ever gets. The hero returned home to New York and has worked alongside Daredevil once more.
One of the compelling things about a character like Echo is that, given her unique skill set and background, she can work in just about any set-up. Per Variety,?Echo director and co-executive producer Sydney Freeland?recently?said they won’t be using the powers established in the source material, but seemed to hint there could be something beyond normal physical abilities at work still, cryptically adding, “I will say, that is not her power. I’ll just kind of leave it at that.”
For now, it seems like the MCU creatives are leaning into the street-level feel of the character, but there are clearly more avenues for them to explore if they wish to do so..
All five episodes of Echo debut January 9 at 9:00 pm ET / 6:00 pm PT on Disney+ and Hulu.
This is an updated version of an article first published November 6, 2023.?