Echo

Everything You Need to Know About Echo Before Marvel’s ‘Hawkeye’ Series

Disney Plus’s Hawkeye is currently filming and even though fans have not always been thrilled about Clint Barton as a character in the movies, the series is looking incredibly promising. Footage of the set has shown not only Jeremy Renner returning as Barton, but Hailee Steinfeld bringing the fantastic Kate Bishop to life, as well as Lucky the Pizza Dog. All of these things make it clear that the show will be heavily inspired by Matt Fraction and David Aja’s fantastic Hawkeye solo book. There are, already, a lot of reasons to be excited. But, for me, the biggest of them was the announcement of Alaqua Cox as Echo. This is a personal favorite character, but also one that I recognize is not by any means a household name. Given that she is a deaf, Indigenous character, it is fantastic that Marvel hired a deaf, Indigenous actor to portray her. I cannot wait to see her brought to life on screen next year, but in the meantime, let me try to explain why you should be excited to see her too, with a rundown of who she is and why she’s great.

Maya Lopez (AKA Echo) made her first appearance in 1999’s Daredevil #9, created by David Mack and Joe Quesada. When she was very young, her father was killed by Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. His dying wish was that Kingpin look after the girl, make sure she was taken care of and provided for, and it’s a wish that the Kingpin actually honored. He raised young Maya as his own, more or less. Really, he shipped her off to school at the first opportunity. Believing her to be developmentally disabled, Fisk sent Maya to a school for children with disabilities, only for them to realize that she was exceptionally gifted. That was where she first began to show off her abilities which are, on paper, very similar to Taskmaster. Maya can perfectly copy any movement she sees. But it’s not just limited to combat. Her skills can range from mimicking the best martial artists across the globe to world-class concert pianists, you name it. 

Naturally, Kingpin eventually found out how to use Echo’s skills for his own gain. Even more naturally, he decided to use her to kill Daredevil, telling her that Daredevil was the one who killed her father, not Fisk himself. Despite taking care of her, it’s made pretty clear that Fisk’s feelings for her didn’t exactly run deep, and that he was more than likely holding onto her until he could use her. Maya fell in love with Matt Murdock outside of either of their alter-egos, then subsequently began hunting Daredevil at the same time. Then it wasn’t long before their two lives intersected with disastrous results, which is the way that these things always tend to go. On paper, it sounds almost identical to Matt’s relationship with Elektra, but the differences are vast. If anything, for Matt, his partnership with Echo was an opportunity to reflect on how disastrously things had gone with Elektra, in order to ensure that none of that would happen a second time around.

For Echo, it was decidedly more complicated. Despite Elektra and Matt’s history, her initial targeting of Daredevil was strictly business. She wanted to prove herself as Kingpin’s top assassin in a strictly professional capacity. But for Echo, Kingpin was more of a father figure than a boss, and so she was fighting to prove herself on a more personal level. And prove herself she did. At the same time, she was motivated by revenge more than anything else, believing Daredevil to be the man who took her real father from her. She watched videos of Daredevil’s fights to perfectly copy his movements and, in doing so, managed to pick up on the fact that he was actually blind, simply by noticing how easily he maneuvered in total darkness. When Echo eventually turned on the Kingpin, she arguably proved to be the first character to ever truly defeat him. The problem with a guy like Wilson Fisk is that there’s nothing you can really take from him, because even if he gets caught, he’ll just flee the country and return when the heat dies down. And that’s only if he actually gets found guilty. Usually he’ll have an army of sleazy lawyers to ensure that doesn’t happen. You can’t defeat that much money. Yet Echo forced Kingpin to live in Matt’s world by taking away his sight. This even lasted for a surprisingly long time in the comics before Kingpin underwent some experimental corrective surgery to restore the status quo.

As you can see, Echo has, for the most part, largely been a Daredevil character. With that in mind, the notion of her making her live-action debut in Hawkeye could be a little jarring, but it shouldn’t be. The characters actually share one pretty huge connection. In Avengers: Endgame, after losing his family, Clint Barton abandons his Hawkeye persona to take on the much harder-edged mantle of Ronin. This was something that happened in the comics as well, albeit for extremely different reasons. But in the comics, Barton was not the first person to wear the Ronin mask.

Echo was.

She made her debut as Ronin in the pages of New Avengers, where Ronin’s identity was treated as a major mystery. It was a new hero no one had ever seen before, who never took their mask off, and there was a very clear intentional drive by writer Brian Michael Bendis to drive fans crazy trying to figure out who it must be. Most fans began to speculate that the guy under the Ronin outfit had to be Daredevil. Even the characters in the book itself would speculate as to who Ronin was, because outside of Captain America, none of them knew. When the reveal came, it neatly tied into the Daredevil speculation with a flashback revealing that Matt was actually the person that Steve Rogers attempted to recruit for this particular mission. But he turned them down, acknowledging that the stuff going on in his own life—an extremely public nightmare in which he was outed as Daredevil—would be an absolute PR nightmare for the Avengers and that he did not want to drag anyone else into his mess. 

Reading the issues leading up to Echo’s reveal are a lot of fun, in hindsight, just to pick up on all of the clues. When they’re all talking in the quinjet, Ronin never acknowledges Spider-Man when he talks to her, which both the reader and Spidey himself simply take as annoyance. But she doesn’t ignore Spider-Man because he gets on her nerves, she does it because she can’t read his lips through his mask. 

The Hawkeye series will likely flip the comic book dynamic, by having Echo take up the mantle of Ronin after Hawkeye has abandoned it, as a way to force Barton to confront the things he had done, showing that the person he became in the five years without his family is not someone that you can simply walk away from. Even just evidenced in the film itself, it’s clear that Barton killed a whole lot of people and therefore made a whole lot of enemies. Even the notion of him using old SHIELD files to track those people is shady in and of itself, considering that we now know post-Winter Soldier that most SHIELD files were actually Hydra files. 

The introduction of Echo to the MCU through the Disney Plus shows has also now made me nervous for one of the series I have been most looking forward to: Moon Knight. In a 2011 series, again written by Bendis, Marc Spector AKA Moon Knight relocated to Los Angeles to make a television series based on his absolutely wild life. He also uncovered an arms race to sell an Ultron head, which he investigated on his own, believing himself to be on a secret mission from the Avengers—but he wasn’t. The Avengers he had started speaking to were delusions that had manifested themselves as personalities in his mind. During this brief series, Moon Knight partnered up with—and hooked up with—Echo. That is, at least until she was killed off for shock value by, of all people, Count Nefaria. 

Even as a huge Moon Knight fan, it’s tough not to take it a little personally that barely a decade after her first appearance, Echo was killed for no real reason, in the midst of a short-lived and largely unread series, by a C-if-we’re-being-generous-list villain. While, like most characters in the Marvel Universe, she did eventually make her return, her death undeniably wasted years of potential character development, only a few years after she had finally started to rise to prominence post-Ronin. Here’s hoping against hope that her on-screen counterpart does not meet the same fate.

At the end of the day, I am absolutely thrilled to see this great character brought to life and hopefully introduced to a whole new audience. That’s the number one most exciting thing about any of these shows or movies. Thanks to Hawkeye, Echo, Kate Bishop and Lucky the Pizza Dog are going to be a part of mainstream culture. And while I don’t expect Echo to take the world by storm in quite the same way Baby Yoda (sorry, Grogu) did, the amount of people who are going to know her name in a year vs. who actually know it now will be astronomically different. That’s the most exciting thing. This is a great character who earned this kind of treatment years ago and only received a hole in the chest from a literal monocle-wearing villain for all her trouble. And I, for one, cannot wait for her to finally, finally see the star status she has always deserved.

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