Echo, the new breakout character of Disney Plus' Hawkeye streaming series gets a spotlight in the just-released third episode with a focus on her origins that hints at some potential big surprises carrying over to the MCU from her comic book story.
A relatively new character that the general public probably hadn't even heard of until she was announced as part of Disney Plus' Hawkeye, Echo's comic book history has already served a role that MCU followers are familiar with thanks to the inclusion of the Ronin identity in 2019's Avengers: Endgame.
That was the costume Clint Barton wore while playing deadly vigilante against crime lords around the world due to being grief-stricken over the loss of his entire family in Thanos' Snap.
But it was actually Echo that originated the Ronin identity before passing it to the comic book Clint Barton and then later other heroes including the half-vampire-vampire hunter Blade. But Echo's much more than the originator of the now well-traveled ninja guise.
As a long-time Avenger with ties to Daredevil, Wolverine, Kingpin, the criminal organization the Hand, and of course the cosmic embodiment of life, death, and rebirth the Phoenix, Echo has a Marvel Comics legacy all her own, which, in many ways, is still just getting started.
With Echo's MCU history seemingly starting to hew closer to her comic book past than initially seemed likely, and with her own spin-off show now in the works, we're here to break down everything you need to know about who Maya Lopez is and how she fits into the Marvel Universe.
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 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 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.
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 in the middle of her own starring limited series, Phoenix Song: Echo, which explores the way Echo uses her newfound Phoenix Force powers.
Echo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Echo has debuted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Disney Plus' Hawkeye streaming series, played by Native American actor Alaqua Cox, of the Menominee and Mohican nations - making her the first Native American MCU hero. 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 plays a major role in Hawkeye.
Additionally, Cox has a below-the-knee prosthesis that plays a visible factor in her fighting style as Echo, though this is a departure from comic books, as Maya Lopez does not have a limb difference on the comic book page.
Another key difference between the comic book Echo and live-action Echo is that so far, the live-action Echo 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 Echo'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 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, Clint's past as Ronin will come looking for him, specifically in the form of Echo, who blames Ronin for the death of her father, in a story that reflects her comic book story 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, rumors and speculation 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, rumors and speculation D'Onofrio has seemingly flamed.
Though that has remained in the realm of rumor and hearsay for some time, Hawkeye Episode 3 strongly hints that D'Onofrio may actually make the jump from Netflix's Marvel shows to the MCU proper, with a scene that may, in fact, show Kingpin's own hand.
In the scene, a young Echo competes in a martial arts class against a larger student, besting him with her skill and speed. Her father (played by Zahn McClarnan) congratulates her before her "uncle" - her father's boss - also offers his hand in praise, and she looks up at him with clear affection.
We don't see her uncle's face, though his hand is massive, and he wears a stylish black suit, and we only hear his voice in a chuckle. Later, Kazi, one of Echo's enforcers in the Tracksuit Mafia, refers to Echo's "uncle" as a much bigger crime boss directing their operations.
Clint later fills in some blanks for Kate, explaining the Tracksuit Mafia started small but grew, and the guy at the top above Maya (the uncle) "will do anything to grow the operation."
He also tells Kate the unidentified boss has bad blood with Ronin and is "someone you don’t want to mess with."
In comic books, the Kingpin isn't the head of the Tracksuit Mafia, though he is part of a ring of criminal bosses that includes the Tracksuit Mafia's unnamed leader.
So will Echo's comic book history with the Kingpin make it to the screen? Fans would certainly go bonkers for such an appearance, and it would certainly set up the upcoming Echo spin-off as a particularly important show to watch for fans of Netflix's now canceled Daredevil show.
Echo started out as an enforcer for Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, one of the best Daredevil villains ever (OK, THE best).