Disney Plus' upcoming Hawkeye streaming show brings the mysterious hero Echo into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by Alaqua Cox. And though many viewers may not necessarily know Echo yet, her comic book history has already played a role in the MCU thanks to the inclusion of the Ronin identity in Avengers: Endgame.
Echo originated the Ronin identity in comic books before passing it to Clint Barton. But she's much more than the original secret identity for the now well-traveled ninja guise.
As a long-time Avenger with ties to Wolverine, Daredevil, the Hand, and of course the cosmic being of life, death, and rebirth the Phoenix, Echo has a Marvel Comics legacy all her own, which is, in many ways, just getting started.
With Echo coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and news that she'll get her own post-Hawkeye spin-off show, we'll break down everything you need to know right now.
Who is Echo?
Echo started out not as a hero per se, but as an antagonist for Daredevil. After her father (an enforcer for the Kingpin) was murdered by his own boss, Maya Lopez (the future Echo) was 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 arts - and in 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.
Fleeing the country, Maya eventually returns to discover that 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 ninjas 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.
Encountering 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.'
She's got her own starring limited series, Phoenix Song: Echo, kicking off on October 20, which will explore the way Echo uses her newfound Phoenix Force powers.
Echo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Echo will debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Disney Plus' upcoming Hawkeye streaming show, played by Native American actor Alaqua Cox, of the Menominee and Mohican nations - making her the first Native American MCU hero. Echo will also be the MCU's second deaf hero, following the debut of actor Lauren Ridloff as Makkari in Eternals. Both Cox and Ridloff are deaf themselves.
Like we said earlier, though Echo isn't in the MCU yet, aspects of her comic book story are already present - and seem to play a key role in Hawkeye.
Namely, it's Echo's legacy as Ronin that connects her most directly to Hawkeye, in comic book terms at least. In the MCU, Ronin is the identity taken on by Clint Barton 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 Hawkeye show, it appears that Clint's past as Ronin will come looking for him, leading him to cross paths with his comic book protege Kate Bishop, who will follow her comic footsteps and become Clint's student in the show. That's also presumably the connection that will bring Echo into the story - though Marvel Studios hasn't revealed how she'll connect to the story just yet.
It's hardly shocking that the mysteries around Echo's inclusion in Hawkeye, and the potential stories that could be adapted for her own reported spin-off show which may follow, have led to rampant speculation from fans - especially about Echo's comic book connections to Daredevil.
Thanks to Echo's comic book history as an enemy and lover of Daredevil, and a one-time enforcer for the Kingpin, rumors have swirled basically since Echo's inclusion in Hawkeye was announced that the show may also feature Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk themselves - perhaps even played by Netflix Daredevil actors Charlie Cox and Vincent D'Onofrio, respectively.
At this point, however, that all remains strictly in the realm of rumor, hearsay, and possibly wishful thinking - though nothing is impossible. And with Echo's recent connection to the Phoenix Force, which has traditionally been associated with the X-Men (another Marvel Comics property soon to enter the MCU), Echo could wind up being an unlikely hub to bridge the gap between the Avengers characters and several extant Marvel franchises.
Echo started out as an enforcer for Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, one of the best Daredevil villains ever (OK, THE best).