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Who Is Echo In The Marvel Universe? We Explain

The most recent phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been full of exciting character debuts. The Disney+ "Hawkeye" series is no exception — it promises to not only finally bring in the second Hawkeye, aka Kate Bishop, but also a character more casual fans may be less familiar with: Echo. First introduced in 1999's "Daredevil" #9 by David Mack, Joe Quesada, and Jimmy Palmiotti, Echo, whose real name is Maya Lopez, has become a fairly major player in Marvel Comics, despite not having too many appearances to her name. 

She's a unique character in many ways, a deaf woman of Cheyenne heritage with a skill set that has quickly made her one of the best fighters in the Marvel Universe. While her time in the MCU is just beginning, she's already been an Avenger more than once in the comics, and has gone from being an extremely talented but normal human to the host of one of the most powerful creatures in the cosmos. Who is she, and what is that special talent that sets her apart? And which famous superhero identity did she originate, one that was later used in the comics and the MCU by a certain famous archer? We're here to explain all of the above — and much more.

Anything Echo sees, she can do

Because Echo mainly relates to the world by sight and equates people's physical actions as a form of language, she's developed the ability to mimic any movement she sees with the utmost precision. Unlike the Taskmaster, who obtains this technique at birth in the comics and through technology in the MCU, Maya gains this technique over time the more she watches people move. Echo's used her photographic reflexes to become a multitalented performer and artist, as well as a fighter. She learns to dance, for instance, by watching classic Gene Kelly musicals and ballet performances, while she learns to fight by watching video recordings of boxing matches and martial arts movies. She takes particular interest in learning Daredevil's and Bullseye's fighting styles in her early appearances, absorbing the knowledge she needs by watching tapes of their infamous television studio fight from "Daredevil" #146 by Jim Shooter, Gil Kane, and Jim Mooney.

Echo is also fluent in Plains Indian Sign Language, and can read people's lips with the utmost accuracy, provided they're not covered by, say, thick fabric or armored faceplates. Though Spider-Man once posits in "Avengers/Invaders" #5 that Echo can decipher lip movements through some superhero masks (provided the fabric is thin, bright and/or tight enough, presumably), it's never outright confirmed.

She doesn't have a secret identity

Maya Lopez's superhero name stems from the tragic murder of her father, who before dying places his blood-soaked hand on his then-nine-year-old daughter's face, leaving his handprint on her — or, as Maya interprets it, his "echo." When she becomes an adult, Maya uses the name "Echo" for one of her performances, in which she covers her hand in white paint and then touches her face; she later fights Daredevil without removing the hand mark, and is recognized on a public playground by one of her fans, who later relates the battle to members of the press. Because her fight with Daredevil is mistaken for performance art, she's never charged with a crime.

Echo also has a fascination with superheroes in general, having read comic books from a young age. She also relates to them on a broader cultural level, finding the way they use costumes to express themselves similar to the way her ancestors would wear symbolic costumes for varied occasions.

Echo starts out as Daredevil's enemy

Like Elektra Natchios before her, Echo has been Daredevil's enemy and Matt Murdock's lover; the difference is that Echo began as both simultaneously, whereas Elektra dated Matt in college and didn't fight him as Daredevil until years later. The person responsible for Echo's desire to kill Daredevil is her legal guardian Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin of New York City, who tricks Maya into thinking Daredevil killed her father, William Lincoln. Because Echo is initially unaware that Matt and Daredevil are one and the same person, her courtship with Murdock begins on the same day she first faces Daredevil in battle. The Man Without Fear quickly realizes that Echo is more than a match for him, as Maya uses several of his moves — and Bullseye's — with deadly accuracy. Worse still, Echo's memory allows her to learn even more of Daredevil's techniques as the two fight.

After a few more battles, Echo finally realizes that Matt is Daredevil. He uses Maya's surprise as an opportunity to finally explain that he couldn't have killed Maya's father, as he was still a child in elementary school when the murder occurred. Realizing the real killer is Fisk, Maya confronts him in a boxing ring and shoots him several times with the same gun used to kill her father, temporarily leaving the Kingpin blind.

She's raised by the Kingpin of Crime

Echo's biological father, William Lincoln (whose Cheyenne name translates to "Dancing Horse"), is the Kingpin's oldest friend, as well as one of the earliest enforcers of Fisk's criminal empire. Lincoln's reckless, unpredictable nature led Maya's mother to leave him when Maya was very young; that same behavior later led Fisk to kill him with a golden gun. While held at gunpoint, however, Lincoln begs Fisk to take care of Maya, to which the Kingpin surprisingly agrees, due to their past friendship. Fisk then becomes Maya's legal guardian, though not quite a parent, sending Maya away first to a specialized school for children with disabilities, then another school for highly talented students once Maya's ability to emulate movement starts to develop. Despite the distance Fisk keeps between them, Maya begins viewing him as a paternal figure, and Wilson not only financially supports her and her education, but also teaches her to fight, in the hope that she will one day take her father's place as his enforcer. Even when Echo realizes the Kingpin's her father's killer, Fisk still tries to win her back before she shoots him, reminding Maya how instrumental he's been to her upbringing. 

Echo's very similar to the movie version of Elektra

Echo has several similarities to the comic book version of Elektra, Matt Murdock's sometimes enemy and oft-lover. Funnily enough, the movie version of Elektra from 2003's "Daredevil" has a lot in common with Echo. Like Maya, the Elektra from the film meets Matt as an adult, rather than in college, and is both Matt's lover and a Daredevil foe at the same time. Similarly, Elektra fights Matt Murdock (out of costume) on a playground while multiple children watch, while Echo's first fight with Daredevil (who's in costume) concludes on a playground late at night in front of three teenagers. Echo and movie Elektra's motivations are also identical, as Elektra is falsely led to believe that Daredevil killed her father — a change from the comics, where Elektra's always known Daredevil had nothing to do with her father's murder. Even the costume Jennifer Garner's Elektra wears in "Daredevil" looks more like Echo's than most of the costumes comic book Elektra's worn, although that changes in her solo movie.

Intentional or not, it's not surprising that the "Daredevil" film's Elektra and Echo have so much in common, as "Daredevil" writer-director Mark Steven Johnson has stated (via Man Without Fear) he's a fan of Maya's debut storyline, "Parts of a Hole." A major image from that story, namely a fire Maya makes in the shape of Daredevil's famous "DD" symbol, also appears in the film, only Ben Urich and Daredevil create it instead.

She's the first Ronin

In the movies — and in more recent years in the comics — the character most associated with the mysterious Ronin identity has been Clint Barton, who takes up that mantle when he leaves his Hawkeye identity behind. However, he's not the original person to appear as Ronin in the comics. That honor goes to Echo, who's first seen wearing the Ronin costume in Osaka, sent by Captain America (under Daredevil's recommendation) to uncover the activities of the recently escaped criminal Kenuichio Harada, aka the Silver Samurai. As Ronin, Maya uncovers a meeting between the Silver Samurai, the Hand, and Hydra, the last two of whom want to convince Harada to forge an alliance with them. Ronin reports her findings back to the Avengers, who stop the two groups with the help of the Samurai, who has no interest in what the Hand and Hydra have to offer. When the team returns to New York, Ronin reveals she's Echo to the rest of the group, but decides it's best to keep an eye on the Silver Samurai in Japan rather than stay on with the Avengers.

Later, when Echo meets Clint Barton, who's been loaned a spare Ronin costume by Wolverine, she decides to let him keep the suit and hands the Ronin identity over to him, explaining she no longer feels she needs it.

Echo's the first to uncover the Secret Invasion

When Echo next appears as Ronin, she's in the unusual position of not knowing whether she's still an Avenger, as the events of the "Civil War" storyline have split the team in two. Regardless, she continues waging war on the Japanese criminal underworld, eventually running into the Hand's leader at the time, Elektra Natchios. Astonishingly, Echo is killed by Elektra, who then orders Maya be resurrected so the Hand can brainwash her into joining the organization. Luckily, Maya is rescued by Luke Cage's team of Avengers. The supergroup arrives too late to halt the brainwashing process, but it's soon reversed thanks to Doctor Strange's magic. Echo then kills Elektra by stabbing her through the stomach, causing Elektra to morph into her true form: a Skrull.

Thanks to Echo, the Avengers begin to realize that several Skrulls have kidnapped and replaced several superheroes and supervillains, setting the stage for the crossover event "Secret Invasion."

She has a special connection with Wolverine

Given all the comics Wolverine appears in, it's probably no surprise that he's known Echo since before they were Avengers together. The two meet on a vision quest that Echo is sent on by a Native American chief they both know. Logan tells Echo of a story the chief once told him, which Echo immediately recognizes, as her father is the man who related the story to the chief. Echo responds by thanking Wolverine for "telling my father's words to me in a way I understand"; when she tells the chief of her meeting, the chief interprets Logan (who never gives his name) as a "nature spirit" sent by Echo's father, casting doubt over whether it's the actual Wolverine.

Echo is later made an Avenger not long after Wolverine, but the two don't run into each other until they fight the Hand and the Skrull impersonating Elektra in Japan. When they return to the Avengers' headquarters in New York City, it's finally revealed (in "New Avengers" #39 by Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, and Jose Villarrubia) that the Logan Echo sees in her vision quest is indeed the real deal.

Echo is temporarily killed by Count Nefaria

At one point, Echo relocates to Los Angeles, where she starts working undercover to expose the criminal activities of the supervillain Snapdragon. Echo's cover is unintentionally compromised by the caped vigilante Moon Knight, after which the two form an alliance to deal with Snapdragon as well as an enigmatic figure who's recently risen to the top of L.A.'s criminal underworld. With the help of former SHIELD agent Buck Lime, Echo and Moon Dragon learn the city's kingpin is former Maggia crime lord and Avengers villain Count Nefaria, who Echo records on camera attacking Lime during an illegal (and staged) transaction for the head of the robot supervillain Ultron. Moon Knight hands the footage over to the police and begins attacking Nefaria's various criminal fronts with Echo: they then fight Nefaria himself, but things go horribly wrong when the count murders Maya with a blast of energy from his eyes.

Like many comic book characters who get killed off, however, Echo is eventually brought back. Unlike the time Elektra kills her, however, no explanation for Maya's return after her battle with Nefaria has been revealed. 

She has a major edge over Marvel's most powerful Fear Lords

Being deaf has given Echo a unique view of the world, and led her to develop her famed photographic reflexes. It also gives her a certain immunity over many villains who use sound as a weapon, including some pretty powerful ones. When the World War II heroes known as the Invaders are mysteriously transported from 1943 to the present day in "Avengers/Invaders," they work with the Avengers and eventually find the culprit: the Fear Lord known as D'Spayre, who's using the Cosmic Cube and the worldwide sorrow over the death of Captain America to warp history. With his powers to manipulate others by speaking their regrets aloud, D'Spayre begins subduing the heroes who've come after him. Because Echo can't hear D'Spayre's words, however, she's completely protected from their effects, and manages to wrest the Cosmic Cube from him before tossing it to her fellow Avenger Doctor Strange. 

Similarly, Klaw, the self-proclaimed "master of sound," is unable to turn Echo into one of his sound creatures in "Daredevil Annual" #1 by Charles Soule, Vanesa R. Del Rey, and Mat Lopes because Maya cannot hear the song Klaw uses to transform the other people around her. She can still be hurt by hard sound constructs like the ones Klaw and Songbird make, however.

She's host to the Phoenix Force

Originally, Echo never had any powers to speak of: even her ability to mimic physical movement perfectly is something she trained herself to do, rather than a superhuman skill. Things change, however, when the Phoenix Force imbues several of Earth's super-beings with a fraction of its power and forces them to fight in a tournament to determine who will become the Phoenix's next host. Echo is actually one of the first people to lose, defeated and killed while fighting Namor deep underwater. Fittingly for a Phoenix host candidate, however, Echo comes back to life, peacefully taking back the fragments of the Phoenix's powers from the other competitors except Namor, who she thrashes mercilessly before taking the Phoenix fragment he was given. Echo expresses some skepticism with the bonding, however, stating she doesn't believe she's the person the Phoenix was hoping would become its host.

Echo's saved all reality with Starbrand

When reality is altered so the Avengers never form and Earth's main superheroes are the jingoistic Squadron Supreme of America, Echo still retains the Phoenix Force, but has been made an inmate of Ravencroft Asylum. She's approached by Blade, the only person who's always known reality's gone awry, and his first recruit, Captain America (who he personally thaws out from the Arctic) so Echo can help restore the world to the way it should be. After Blade recruits several more allies, including Thor, Black Panther, and Starbrand, the group confronts the Squadron and the culprit behind the changes in reality, Phil Coulson. After defeating Power Princess together, Echo and Starbrand then combine their awesome power to destroy the device Coulson used to change the universe, the Pandemonium Cube. The world returns to normal as a result, but Coulson is taken away by Mephisto, the demon who'd given him the Cube in the first place, before Echo and the others can bring him to justice.