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‘Echo’: What to know about Marvel’s first TV-MA series and its Indigenous and deaf star

In Entertainment
January 10, 2024

Marvel Studios has a much lighter schedule in 2024, with only Deadpool still on track for a theatrical release this year. Fortunately, Disney+ will pick up some of the slack this week with Echo, the first-ever Marvel Studios-produced live-action series to land a TV-MA rating.

In addition to its rating, the show marks several firsts for Marvel. It’s the first-ever superhero series to feature an Indigenous lead character, as well as its first with a deaf lead. Additionally, Disney+ is sharing this release with Hulu for a simultaneous premiere of all five episodes, which are available to stream Tuesday night.

Ahead of Echo’s debut, here’s what to know about the show’s titular heroine, her supporting cast and the series’ connections to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Who is Echo in Marvel’s comic book series?

Echo is the codename of Maya Lopez, an Indigenous heroine from the Blackfeet tribe who was introduced in Marvel’s Daredevil comic book series in 1999. As envisioned by creators David Mack and Joe Quesada, Maya is the adopted daughter of Wilson Fisk (aka The Kingpin) and a savant who can mimic almost any physical action after seeing it once. Maya is also deaf in the comics, and she is closer in age to Daredevil’s Matt Murdock.

As Maya and Murdock pursued a romantic relationship, Fisk led Maya to believe that Daredevil murdered her father. When Maya realized that Fisk was personally responsible for her father’s death, she shot him in the face and fled New York City. Years later, Maya assumed the identity of a masked adventurer called Ronin and joined The New Avengers alongside Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage and Spider-Man.

Maya’s comic book appearances have been sporadic over the past two decades, but she recently had a second run with the Avengers when she was temporarily empowered by the cosmic being known as the Phoenix Force. She is currently back to her ordinary power levels and is no longer the host of the Phoenix.

Where has Echo appeared in the MCU?

Native actress Alaqua Cox, who is Menominee and Mohican, made her live-action debut as Echo in Hawkeye as a slightly retooled version of Maya Lopez, a formidable fighter whom Fisk placed in charge of the Tracksuit Mafia.

In the MCU, Echo doesn’t have the mimic ability that her comic book counterpart has, as newly envisioned by executive producer and director Sydney Freeland (Navajo). Freeland explained at a press event in October that Maya’s tribe has been changed from Blackfeet and a mix of Native imagery to Choctaw in an effort to provide more consistency and authenticity to her role and backstory.

The actress Alaqua Cox in character as Maya Lopez.

Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios’ “Echo,” exclusively on Disney+ and Hulu. (Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios)

During the events of Hawkeye, Maya also correctly guessed that Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) was the man who killed her father, William Lopez (Zahn McClarnon), during his stint as Ronin as depicted in Avengers: Endgame.

Barton briefly resumed his Ronin identity before fighting Maya to a standstill. He also revealed to Maya that her adoptive uncle, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), was ultimately responsible for her father’s death. Maya subsequently confronted and shot Fisk before fleeing New York City. That’s where the Echo series will pick up.

Cox, who like her character is also deaf and an amputee, previously spoke to Yahoo Entertainment about the importance of representation in pop culture.

“Watching things on the screen, it was always a white guy who played the superhero,” she said at Disney’s D23 Expo in 2022. “So we need more people of color to be in the MCU. And it’s just amazing that it’s changing. And I can’t wait for the future to be more inclusive, because I believe the kids deserve to see that inclusivity.”

What is Echo about?

It’s not a spoiler to say that Fisk survived Maya’s attack, but he appears to have been blinded in one eye. Now, Fisk’s criminal underlings are hunting Maya, which forces her to retreat back to her hometown in Oklahoma — an opportunity Freeland used to delve into Maya’s Choctaw heritage. The series also stars other Indigenous actors including Tantoo Cardinal, Devery Jacobs, Cody Lightning and Graham Greene.

While spending time at her former home, Maya will attempt to reconcile with her grandmother, Chula (Cardinal); her cousins, Bonnie (Jacobs) and Biscuits (Lightning); and Skully (Greene), an older man who is like a grandfather to Maya. The series will also explore the pivotal events of Maya’s childhood that led her to Fisk and her own dark path as a criminal prior to her departure from the Tracksuit Mafia. Meanwhile, the show will also catch up with Fisk as he consolidates his power in New York City.

Maya “is a more grounded, grittier, street-level character who had a traumatic past, who had a violent history, who had been taught violence by her mentors,” Marvel Studios’ head of streaming, television and animation Brad Winderbaum told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not an arc about a villain becoming a hero. It’s an arc about a woman wrestling with her past and finally being able to confront it. That was part of Sydney’s vision from the beginning.”

Freeland traveled to Durant, Okla., to present the project in its beginning stages to the Choctaw leaders and to “ask permission from the Choctaw Nation to be portrayed, because I feel like a lot of times what happens with Native and Indigenous stories is that people come in and they say, ‘We’re gonna tell you what story we’re gonna tell.’ And we wanted to take a different approach,” Freeland said in a news conference.

“This is history in the making. This is the first time that we’ve actually had Hollywood come to Durant, but also I love this story that shows the tribe, our resiliency, our strength as a people,” Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton told The Oklahoman.

In a recent press conference, Cox said she’s “just so proud to be able to represent a platform that is uplifting voices for Indigenous people… we’re doing it the right way.”

Echo is streaming on Disney+ and Hulu on Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT

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