Echo made her debut in Disney Plus' Hawkeye streaming series, turning Alaqua Cox into a lead actor almost from the word go. Now, she's taking her breakout popularity into her own series, the first trailer for which shows a much darker, more violent atmosphere than most MCU productions.
A comparatively new character that the mainstream public probably wasn't very familiar with before her Disney Plus debut, Maya/Echo's Marvel Comics backstory includes being the first character to adopt the Ronin identity that MCU followers know from 2019's Avengers: Endgame and then Hawkeye.
In the comics, Maya/Echo wore the costume first before passing it to Clint Barton. The Ronin costume and the identity have resurfaced in the Marvel Universe periodically, including by the vampire hunter Blade, who is also coming to the MCU soon. But Maya/Echo is much more than the originator of the now well-worn ninja guise.
She's currently establishing a unique Marvel Comics legacy that in many ways is just getting started. Maya already has existing ties to the Avengers (she's been a member for a few years now), Wolverine, Daredevil, the Kingpin, and the criminal organization the Hand. More recently, she's become the new host of the cosmic embodiment of life, death, and rebirth, known as the Phoenix Force, which has traditionally been associated with Marvel's X-Men franchise.
Echo's MCU story is hewing closer to her comic book past than initially seemed likely, and her self-titled Disney Plus spin-off just beginning principal production. Now's a good time to break down everything you need to know about Maya Lopez, how she fits into the Marvel Universe, and what it could mean for her MCU future.
This includes what the comics tell us about that Hawkeye cliffhanger involving Maya and her "Uncle Wilson"...
Who is Echo?
Echo starts out as an antagonist for Daredevil. After her father (an enforcer for the Kingpin) is murdered by his own boss, Maya Lopez (the future Echo) is taken in by Kingpin himself, who promises to raise her as his own child. Though she is initially thought to have a learning disability, Maya attends a special school where she learns that not only is she deaf, she's actually a prodigy in both the creative and martial arts.
Under Kingpin's manipulation, Maya grows up blaming Daredevil for her father's death, eventually vowing revenge on the vigilante. Taking the name 'Echo' thanks to her natural talent for mimicking the movements of others (similar to another new MCU character, Taskmaster), Maya adorns her face with a handprint that resembles the bloody handprint left on her face by her dying father, and sets out to kill Daredevil.
First meeting Matt Murdock (through the machinations of the Kingpin), Echo begins a relationship with Matt while simultaneously hunting Daredevil. But when she discovers Daredevil's secret - his blindness - she sets a trap designed to remove the advantage of his radar sense, and fights him nearly to the death.
Echo stops short of killing Daredevil when she realizes he and Matt Murdock are one and the same, instead turning on Kingpin and shooting him, leaving him for dead (more on that in a bit).
After fleeing the country, Maya eventually returns to discover Matt Murdock has moved on with his life and is with another woman, while Kingpin, who survived his injuries, is incarcerated.
Kingpin forgives Maya for trying to kill him, and she leaves again on another soul-searching journey, eventually meeting up with Wolverine and learning of the evil ninja group, the Hand.
Maya finds a new purpose in her life by fighting the Hand, taking on the identity of Ronin, and eventually joining the Avengers - a team she still associates with.
Echo in the Marvel Universe
As we stated, Maya Lopez was the original secret identity of the character Ronin, a masked ninja who debuted as a mystery member of the New Avengers, with readers knowing a recognizable character was in the suit, but not who.
Though plans originally called for Daredevil to be revealed as the secret hero operating as Ronin, the plot was switched around and Echo was put in the role (though, in another odd controversy, the secret was accidentally spoiled ahead of the story's release).
Maya, as Ronin, initially came into contact with the Avengers while fighting the Hand in Japan. After taking on the Hand's leadership, including Silver Samurai and Viper, alongside the Avengers, Echo remains in Japan as Ronin to monitor the Hand's activities.
But she's taken captive, leading the Avengers to set out to rescue Echo from the Hand before she can be subverted into becoming one of their brainwashed assassins.
When Maya encounters Elektra, herself a brainwashed Hand assassin, things take a dark turn when Echo actually stabs her and reveals that the Elektra in question was not the actual Elektra Natchios, but a Skrull who was impersonating her.
This discovery kicks off the Secret Invasion storyline (itself soon to be adapted as a Disney Plus MCU show) in which Skrulls are revealed to have infiltrated Earth society in the guise of known heroes and other people from the Marvel Universe, which in turn leads to the 'Dark Reign' era which put Norman Osborn in charge of a new SHIELD-like group called HAMMER.
In the 'Dark Reign' era, Echo passed the Ronin mantle on to Clint Barton. From there, Echo continued her pattern of infiltrating criminal groups undercover, teaming up with Moon Knight to take on the villainous Count Nefaria, before returning to New York and teaming up with Daredevil once again.
Most recently, Echo has once again been serving as a member of the Avengers, a membership that has taken her into a totally new role in the Marvel Universe as the current host of the cosmic Phoenix Force, having won the Phoenix's favor in the tournament shown in the story 'Avengers: Enter the Phoenix.'
And she recently starred in her own limited series, Phoenix Song: Echo, which explored the way Echo uses her newfound Phoenix Force powers.
Echo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Echo's debut in the MCU is now complete. Played in Disney Plus's Hawkeye by Native American actor Alaqua Cox, of the Menominee and Mohican nations making her the first Native American MCU hero, Maya/Echo is also the MCU's second deaf hero, following the debut of actor Lauren Ridloff as Makkari in Eternals. Both Cox and Ridloff are deaf themselves, and as such, the use of American Sign Language played a significant role in Hawkeye.
Additionally, Cox has a below-the-knee prosthesis that plays a visible factor in her fighting style as Echo. This is a departure from comic books, as Maya Lopez does not have a limb difference on the page.
Another key difference between the comic book Echo and live-action Echo is that the live-action version hasn't displayed any clear-cut superhuman ability - although she didn't gain any of that until recently when she became the Phoenix's new host. Her photographic reflexes have been explained in comics to be innate talent but not a superpower per se.
Flashback scenes to her childhood seem to imply that the MCU Maya is a skilled fighter simply by observing and processing the tendencies of her opponents.
But like we said earlier, other aspects of Maya's comic book story actually beat her to the screen, forming one of the main bases of Hawkeye's plot.
Namely, it's Echo's legacy as Ronin that connected her most directly to Clint Barton, in comic book terms at least. In the MCU, Ronin is the identity taken on by Hawkeye during the time of the five-year gap between when Thanos eliminated half of all life in the universe with the Snap, and when the Avengers built their own Infinity Gauntlet to undo Thanos' decimation.
In the now-concluded streaming series, Clint's past as Ronin came looking for him, specifically in the form of Echo. She blamed Ronin for the death of her father, who was a lieutenant in Wilson Fisk's criminal organization. The story reflects her comic book arc seeking vengeance against Daredevil.
Thanks to Echo's comic book history as an enemy and lover of Daredevil, and a one-time enforcer for the Kingpin, Vincent D'Onofrio's return as Wilson Fisk and debut in the official MCU was anticipated by fans and Marvel Studios delivered.
As for Charlie Cox and Daredevil, that's a different conversation.
But we know now for sure Maya has known Fisk since she was a young child, looked up to him as a beloved uncle, and worked for him as her father did, becoming a weapon for the Kingpin (as Clint put it), due in part to her need for vengeance against Ronin/Clint, who killed her criminal father.
Full of doubt and now believing Kingpin wanted him dead and set him up to be killed by Ronin, just like in the comic books, she breaks away from him in the Hawkeye finale, which will likely set her on her hero's journey in her own Disney Plus series in 2022 or 2023.
But not before the Kingpin senses she's come to believe he killed her father, and orders her killed...
... which leads to one last confrontation and a Maya-Kingpin Hawkeye cliffhanger familiar to comic book readers.
Echo's apparent shooting (off-camera) of Kingpin seems to be a direct reference to the story Daredevil: Parts of a Hole, in which Echo actually does shoot Kingpin in the head, attempting to kill him, though he survives. This may indicate that he'll similarly survive into Echo's spin-off show, perhaps having been blinded as he was in comics.
Whatever way it plays out, what we do know for sure is Echo's MCU story is to be continued. All six episodes of Echo are set to hit Disney Plus and Hulu on January 10, with the episodes remaining on Hulu until April 9. For more, check out our list of all the upcoming Marvel movies and shows you need to know about.
Echo started out as an enforcer for Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, one of the best Daredevil villains ever (OK, THE best).