It looks like Ronin's time in the MCU has come to an end.
Or has it?
Ronin was/is the murderous, vigilante ninja-esque identity Clint Barton adopted in Avengers: Endgame (opens in new tab) following his entire family of four being removed from existence by Thanos' Snap. In the now-completed (but still streaming!) Hawkeye streaming series on Disney Plus, Clint's vigilante past as Ronin caught up to him and dragged his protégé, Kate Bishop, in with it.
Although Kate only briefly donned the Ronin suit in the show's inaugural episode, interestingly enough, there is another character in Hawkeye closely associated with the Ronin name and costume - Maya Lopez/Echo.
Though the idea doesn't play a factor in the MCU Hawkeye series (in fact, Maya wanted Ronin dead for killing her father), Maya in fact originated the Ronin costume and codename in Marvel comic books way back in 2005's New Avengers #11 (opens in new tab).
Where did the identity of Ronin come from? Why did Maya Lopez take up the mysterious persona, and how did costume, codename, and ninja-inspired weapons get passed on to Clint Barton?
And despite what seems like the end of the line for Ronin in Hawkeye, what could all of this mean for the MCU? Two characters that both made their MCU debut in 2021 - Blade and Red Guardian, have also disguised themselves as Ronin in Marvel comic books.
Newsarama breaks it all down for you right now.
Ronin: Maya Lopez
Maya Lopez, the current Avenger known as Echo, originated the identity of Ronin while hunting down the Hand in Japan. A master of hand-to-hand combat and former enforcer for the Kingpin who was manipulated into fighting Daredevil after her father's assassination, Echo quickly became an ally to Daredevil, taking up her own rivalry with the demonic ninjas of the Hand.(opens in new tab)
Taking up the name Ronin, from the Japanese term for a masterless samurai, Maya brought the fight to the Hand using their own ninja weapons, from katanas, to shuriken, to nunchaku, and beyond, seeking out the Hydra leadership.
Ronin first appeared in New Avengers #11, though her true identity wasn't revealed for a little while, leading readers to speculate over who may be under the Ronin mask. Many readers suspected it would be Daredevil - and rightly so, as writer Brian Michael Bendis later revealed this was the original plan for Ronin's secret identity.
After being unmasked as Ronin, Echo wound up joining the New Avengers for a while, building an association with Earth's Mightiest Heroes that lasts to this day, where she's a current Avenger - and has recently become the bearer of the Phoenix Force.
Ronin: Clint Barton
Clint Barton became Ronin not long after Echo gave up the identity, choosing to take on the Ronin guise to reflect his trauma and disillusionment as an Avenger.
After his death at the hands of Wanda Maximoff during her psychological breakdown in Avengers: Disassembled (opens in new tab), the original Hawkeye was resurrected by Wanda in the subsequent reality-warping story House of M (opens in new tab).
Though it seemed Hawkeye was only briefly resurrected, dying again when reality returned to normal, he actually went into hiding, retiring as a hero and trying to live a somewhat normal life.(opens in new tab)
All that changed following the story Civil War (opens in new tab) in which Marvel's heroes split into factions over the Super-Human Registration Act, culminating in the death of Clint's mentor, Captain America. Following Cap's death, Clint came out of retirement, even being offered Captain America's shield by Tony Stark, Steve Rogers' primary opponent in Civil War.
Despite his proficiency with the shield, Clint turned down the chance to be Captain America, instead choosing to take up Steve Rogers' resistance against the SHRA, trading in his bow for martial arts skills and ninja weapons under the guise of the second Ronin.
Clint left the name and bow of Hawkeye to Kate Bishop, who became the only Hawkeye in the Marvel Universe for a time. But the events of the Skrull invasion in the story Secret Invasion (opens in new tab) and its subsequent fallout led Clint to return to his identity as Hawkeye, which he's maintained since.
Interestingly enough, in the years since, a couple of other heroes have taken up the identity of Ronin, including Alexi Shostakov the Red Guardian (the character played by David Harbour in Black Widow), and Blade the vampire hunter. Alternate realities from the Multiverse have also introduced versions of Marc Spector/Moon Knight and T'Challa/Black Panther who each took up the Ronin identity.
Ronin in the MCU
Ronin's introduction into the MCU echoed (get it?) the way the identity came to comic books, showing Clint Barton taking on Japanese gangsters in a brutal, violent fight scene set in the rainy, neon-soaked streets of Tokyo - a direct homage to Echo's comic book introduction as Ronin.
As in comic books, Clint's grief and trauma led him to leave behind his Hawkeye identity to become Ronin, though in the MCU this is due to the loss of his family as a result of Thanos' Snap. Unlike in comics, where Maya Lopez originated the identity of Ronin, Clint Barton was the first hero in the MCU to take up the mantle (at least as far as we know.)
Clint's legacy as Ronin was one of the driving factors of the Hawkeye series, with the Kingpin's and his henchmen the Tracksuit Mafia coming after him and Kate for revenge for being targeted by Ronin during the five years between the Snap and the Blip.
Ending in a victorious and heartwarming manner for Hawkeye and Kate befitting the holiday-themed series, the Ronin costume is last seen being burned by the now friends-partners on a grill at Clint's farm on Christmas day.(opens in new tab)
But is that the last of the Ronin identity in the MCU?
Maybe … maybe not.
Although the MCU Maya Lopez/Echo (played by actor Alaqua Cox) never donned the identity herself in Hawkeye, her status as the comic book originator of the persona leaves questions as to whether she could put the ninja suit back on when the character returns in her own Disney Plus spin-off series Echo.
Maya has now set herself up as an enemy of Kingpin (no, we don't think he's dead), and given their personal history, he's almost certain to play a significant role in her series. Maya taking up the Ronin identity would be something of a thumb in the eye of her former "uncle," mentor, and boss, so we can't take it completely off the table.
Finally, it's also worth noting that Ronin's other mainstream secret identities in Marvel comic books, Alexi Shostakov and Blade, both made their MCU in 2021 (albeit just heard in Blade's case), and T'Challa (you know him as the Black Panther) and Marc Spector (you'll know him in 2022 as Oscar Isaac's Moon Knight) have taken on the Ronin identity in comic book alternative reality stories.
So whether it's the Echo streaming series, the Blade film, or even a future episode of What If…? you can't fully count out a Ronin appearing in the MCU again.
Hawkeye has played a major role in some of the best Avengers stories of all time.