Marvel’s ECHO Review: A Strong Starting Point For Marvel Spotlight

The Illuminerdi's Darren Lester takes a look at Marvel's Echo and the story of Maya Lopez.
Marvel Studios - Echo

Author’s Note: This is a non-spoiler review of Marvel’s Echo.

Since its announcement on Disney+ Day 2021, Echo has been eagerly anticipated by fans. Finally, just over two years later, the show has dropped on Hulu and Disney+ and we’re able to catch up with Maya Lopez and see what happened to her after the events of Hawkeye.

RELATED: ECHO – Alaqua Cox Divulges Her Profound Connection to the Role of Maya Lopez

To let you fully enjoy the show’s twists and turns for yourself, this will be a spoiler-free review. However, we’ve picked out some of the show’s most important talking points to share our excitement for the next addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Echo Story So Far

Echo spotlights Maya Lopez (with Alaqua Cox reprising her role from Hawkeye) as she is pursued by Wilson Fisk’s criminal empire. When the journey brings her home, she must confront her own family and legacy.

Echo is a gritty, grounded, five-episode series acting as a self-contained story that follows Maya’s pursuit of power and revenge. But at the heart of the action-packed series is a burgeoning antihero with roots in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Native American Representation

Echo is notable for being one of the few Native American characters in mainstream comic books, and the show grounds Maya’s characterization in her heritage, making her native status an important part not just of her character, but of the whole show.

Matrilineal kinship is a significant aspect of the traditional Choctaw social structure. In a matrilineal society, lineage and inheritance are traced through the mother’s line, meaning that individuals belong to their mother’s clan and family.

For Maya, this means being part of her grandmother’s clan, and the fractured relationship between the two acts as the hinge for a lot of the emotional drama of the episodes. Tantoo Cardinal (Dances with Wolves, Killers of the Flower Moon) plays Chula with stoic reverence, embedding her as the leader of her family and a core part of her town while also being distanced from Maya. The juxtaposition of the importance of family with estrangement should lead to the pathos that creates the emotional heart of the show.

But Chula isn’t the only way that the Choctaw matrilineal clan structure is embraced. Flashbacks show a range of women from Maya’s family line, right from the first Choctaw woman, and we see how Maya’s skills relate directly to the women from her line. This grounds the character and creates a mythology around her that can easily set up the show for its entire run.

“One of the big differences in the character that jumped out at me was that she’s not a generic Native American character,” says director Sydney Freeland, “But someone with specificity in her heritage who must embrace the language and traditions of her culture.”

Director Catriona McKenzie was thrilled to be part of the storytelling. “I’m an Indigenous filmmaker and when I heard about this project, I knew I had to be a part of it in some way,” says McKenzie. “It was very inspiring that Marvel Studios was taking on this story. Having native filmmakers and producers created an infrastructure around me that allowed me to just do one job and feel confident that the story was going be told in a culturally correct way.”


With Maya being a deaf character, her dialogue is told consistently in American Sign Language (ASL) with subtitles for non-ASL users. While it would have been easy for producers to shy away from this and come up with excuses for hearing characters to be in every scene, or to have Maya be a lip-reader, they don’t, and Maya is surrounded by other adults who use ASL. Her cousin Bonnie (played by Devery Jacobs, who voiced Kahhori in What If…? Season 2) is a child of deaf adults (CODA) and so uses ASL fluently and frequently, while Maya’s hearing family members use ASL whenever she is in a scene, as a way of keeping her part of the conversation.

Maya is the second deaf hero in the MCU (after Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari in Eternals) and ASL master Doug Ridloff (who worked on both Eternals and Hawkeye) came back to work with the production team even before the cameras started rolling.

“I would look at each line in the script for each character and then translate that into ASL,” he says. “Then I’d sit down with the actors and provide them with translations to mimic back, which gave me a barometer of their linguistic ability. Actors can use different variations of ASL as some variations are more in ASL grammatical order and some are in more English word order. After a few sessions of working with each actor, I would shape my translations to adhere to the variation that best suited the actor.”

Use of Sound

This also allows the sound editors some room to do some interesting things with sound in scenes. When we switch to Maya’s point-of-view, we have extended periods of silence, which is quite jarring from a hearing-audience point of view (because even silent movies were accompanied by a piano player, so we don’t associate movies with silence) but helps us to understand exactly what Maya is experiencing, in the way that music is used in a soundtrack to exemplify or enhance a character’s emotions.

For me, the most interesting use of silence was during fight scenes. As a hearing person, I’m used to fight scenes being over-stimulating as they are full of shouting, impact noises, and a soundtrack on top. Switching to total silence during a fight really gives a sense of Maya’s focus which belies her fighting style.


In the comic books, Maya’s defining power is her ability to copy the fighting styles of the people around her (allowing her to be a physical ‘echo’ of her enemies). The show eschews this, instead making Maya a highly proficient fighter in her own right. This means the show is peppered with exciting physical fight scenes, which ground the show in a dash of gritty realism and set it apart from some of the more fantastical entries in the MCU.

RELATED: ECHO – Director and Cast Members Explain the Importance of Native American Representation in the Series

In creating the fight scenes, stunt coordinator Mark Scizak was impressed with Alaqua Cox’s determination. He stated the following:

“Alaqua was extremely dedicated in pre-production and came in every day to train and work with us on building the various fights. She’s so tough—I had to pump the brakes sometimes because she never held back. In designing the fights, we incorporated the fact that she can do bigger blocks with her prosthetic leg since she wouldn’t feel pain there. She also used it as leverage, holding her leg back to get as much power out of her kicks as possible. Her style of fighting is a very grounded mix of MMA and a bunch of martial arts.”

Incorporating her prosthetic leg into Maya’s fighting style was something that Cox felt proud of. “For me, the stunt work was so much fun and my favorite thing to do on the show,” she says. “Our stunt team had such great bubbly personalities and were so enjoyable to work with. In pre-production, I would do stunt training five days a week because I had so many stunts to do on this show. I had to learn so many different jabs, punches, and kicks. It’s been a fun journey.”

It would have been very easy to hide Alaqua Cox’s prosthetic under a pair of jeans and not make it part of the character. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, make it the driving force of her characterization. But the show does neither. Instead, it deftly acknowledges the prosthetic and the importance it has in Maya’s life, making it an interesting moment of bonding between characters) but doesn’t overplay its significance in the story being told.

RELATED: Echo: Daredevil and Kingpin Confirmed in New Synopsis for MCU Disney+ Show

Cox herself is very much aware of what this will mean to others in the amputee community. “I wanted to show people that amputees and people with disabilities can do anything,” says Cox. “Although I am deaf and an amputee, I was able to do a lot of my fighting and stunts and it was important to me to show my prosthetic leg and not try to hide it under clothes. Maya Lopez is a badass, and I wanted people with disabilities to have someone that they could look up to and see within themselves.”

Marvel Spotlight

Echo is the first series under the Marvel Spotlight banner, which brings more grounded, character-driven stories to the screen. Under the new banner, Echo can focus on street-level stakes over larger MCU continuity and it can act as a jumping-on point into the vast MCU. Viewers don’t have to watch any other Marvel series to understand the plot, and the show works even if you haven’t seen the corresponding episodes of Hawkeye.

With the MCU becoming as sprawling as it is, it can be hard for new fans to jump on board, and to paraphrase Stan Lee, “Every MCU show will be someone’s first MCU show.” So if you have a friend or family member who is looking to get into the MCU but is intimidated about where to start, Echo may be the place for that.

RELATED: ECHO: Vincent D’Onofrio Discusses the Father-Daughter Relationship with Alaqua Cox In Marvel’s First 2024 Series

Be aware, however, that its nature is slightly different from that of other MCU shows. This isn’t Wandavision or Loki with their comic-book-style sets and irreverent humor. Instead, we have a show that is very much grounded in the real world (albeit with occasional fantasy elements) and is more aligned in tone to the Netflix Marvel shows (Daredevil, Iron Fist, etc.) than anything we’ve seen in the MCU so far.

With its TV-MA rating, it’s not a show for children, and the themes, fight scenes, and occasional strong language mean the rating is well deserved. It’s a show that doesn’t shy away from what the reality of a world of superheroes, supervillains, and Kingpins (played fantastically by Vincent D’Onofrio) would be like.

Overall, Echo is a strong starting point for the Marvel Spotlight series and a solid entry into the MCU. With fans feeling oversaturated with Marvel content, it’s important for standalone stories to exist so we don’t feel pressured to keep up with all the media as soon as they drop. As a standalone story, Echo balances references to the wider MCU with a focus on Maya really well, and as someone who generally doesn’t like ‘gritty realism’ in his superhero media (give me colourful, shiny fights any day!) I was captivated throughout the three episodes and eager to hit the “next episode” button (completely blowing my plan to space them over the weekend out the water!)

Of the three episodes of Echo we previewed, the opening episode was the strongest with its balance of story, pathos and action. It was an 8/10 episode. The second and third episodes kept up the pace well, but started to drag as they established Maya’s beligerence as an anti-hero, so they would only score a 6/10 each, but they are important characterisation episodes. This gives Echo an overall enjoyment score of 7/10 and I can’t wait to see if the final two episodes bring that score back up.

About Echo

ECHO, releasing on Disney+ & Hulu. © 2023 MARVEL.

Release date: January 9, 2024 (USA)
Director: Sydney Freeland, Catriona McKenzie
Screenplay: Marion Dayre, Josh Feldman, Jason Gavin, Steven Judd, Ken Kristensen, Ellen Morton, Amy Rardin, Rebecca Roanhorse, Shoshannah Stern, Chantelle Wells, Bobby Wilson.
Producers: Kevin Feige, Richie Palmer, Amy Rardin, Brad Winderbaum, Etan Cohen.
Cinematography: Kira Kelly, Magdalena Gorka
Edited by: Joel Pashby, Amelia Allwarden
Music by: Mato Standing Soldier
Production: Marvel Studios
Distributed by: Disney+, Hulu
Cast: Alaqua Cox, Chaske Spencer, Tantoo Cardinal, Devery Jacobs, Zahn McClarnon, Cody Lightning, Graham Greene, Vincent D’Onofrio, Charlie Cox

Synopsis: Marvel Studios presents “Echo,” spotlighting Maya Lopez as she is pursued by Wilson Fisk’s criminal empire. When the journey brings her home, she must confront her own family and legacy. “Echo” stars Alaqua Cox (“Hawkeye”) as Maya Lopez, as well as Chaske Spencer (“Wild Indian,” “The English”), Tantoo Cardinal (“Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Stumptown”), Devery Jacobs (FX’s “Reservation Dogs,” “American Gods”), Zahn McClarnon (“Dark Winds,” FX’s “Reservation Dogs”) and Cody Lightning (“Hey, Viktor!” “Four Sheets to the Wind”), with Graham Greene (“1883,” “Goliath”) and Vincent D’Onofrio (“Hawkeye,” “Daredevil,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”), who returns to the villainous role of Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin.

Are you planning to binge-watch Marvel’s Echo yet? What did you think? Give us all of your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media.

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Picture of Darren Lester

Darren Lester

Darren is a writer, linguist, classicist and teacher from the south west of England. When he's not producing textbooks and teaching materials for foreign languages and classics, he's boasting to his students about how he can watch anime without subtitles.