Ronin, the enigmatic secret identity once used by Clint Barton in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, seems to have a new owner in the official trailer for Disney Plus' MCU Hawkeye streaming show - at least inadvertently, if not officially.
The trailer shows Kate Bishop, Barton's young protege, being mistaken for Ronin as she patrols the streets with her own bow and arrow, opening herself up to those who apparently wish to seek vengeance against Clint for his actions as Ronin, shown during Avengers: Endgame.
But interestingly enough, even if Kate Bishop doesn't officially take up the mantle of Ronin in the show, there is another character coming to Hawkeye with ties to the Ronin name - Maya Lopez/Echo.
In fact, Maya is the one who originated the Ronin costume and codename way back in 2005's New Avengers #11.
So where did the identity of Ronin come from? How and why did Maya Lopez take up the mysterious codename, and how did it and its ninja-inspired weapons get passed on to Clint Barton? And what could all of this mean for the MCU, as Hawkeye - both Kate and Clint - get the spotlight on Disney Plus?
We'll break it all down 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.
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, the original Hawkeye was resurrected by Wanda in the subsequent reality-warping story House of M.
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.
All that changed following the story Civil War 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 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 is the first hero in the MCU to take up the mantle.
It seems Clint's legacy as Ronin is one of the driving factors of the Hawkeye streaming show, with Clint confessing to his family that his past is catching up with him - likely meaning the gangsters he fought are coming after him, along with Yelena Belova, the new Black Widow, who is misled to believes Clint is responsible for the death of Natasha Romanoff.
The Ronin identity also appears to be the impetus for Clint to cross paths with Kate Bishop, his protege as Hawkeye, who appears to come under attack in the trailer while being mistaken for Clint due to her Ronin-esque outfit.
And of course, Hawkeye also features the introduction of Maya Lopez/Echo played by actor Alaqua Cox, who is reportedly headed for her own spin-off show following Hawkeye. Whether or how she will take on the mantle of Ronin remains to be seen, but given she's the one who first wore the costume, it's likely to come into play in her MCU story arc as well.
This also implies the possibility that the Hand, seen in Netflix's Daredevil TV show (which is questionable MCU canon at best), could come to the MCU proper either as part of Hawkeye or in the subsequent stories that are told.
Finally, it's worth noting that Ronin's other mainstream secret identities, Alexi Shostakov and Blade, are both either already in the MCU or scheduled to debut at some point in the future, and alt-reality Ronin wearers T'Challa and Marc Spector are somewhat in the same boat. It seems like a longshot that the identity of Ronin could come into the stories being told with those characters, but with Marvel Studios, anything is possible.
Hawkeye has played a major role in some of the best Avengers stories of all time.