Echo is adapting one of the most beautiful runs in Marvel Comics ever. In the Daredevil comics, Echo’s introduction is illustrated in brilliant colored pencils and her own childhood drawings. A young Maya Lopez tells her own story of how a “bad man” assassinated her dad and now she pours her energy into creation, remixing everything she stumbles upon be that music or boxing.
But as beautiful as her story is, her character as a superhero is lacking a certain something. Maya Lopez may be fully fleshed out, but Echo feels a bit... derivative.
When Echo made the jump to live-action, director Sydney Freeland wanted to amend this issue by switching up her powers, and the result is something that such a rich and deep character fully deserves.
Spoilers for Echo follow.
In the comics, Maya’s power was simple: she’s a highly trained fighter, able to replicate other fighter’s movements perfectly. She doesn’t have any cosmic superpowers, she’s just a hard worker who has trained relentlessly. It’s a pretty standard power set — in fact, Black Widow’s Taskmaster has almost the exact same skill.
In the Disney+ series, Maya’s (Alaqua Cox) powers are a lot different. These powers are truly cosmic, tracing back through her Choctaw heritage all the way to the creation myth the series opens with. As we learn through the course of the show’s five episodes, Maya’s powers have actually been around her her entire life. Maya is the latest in a long line of Chictaw women to inherit cosmic powers, and each episode of Echo is named after everyone we see in this superpowered line: Chafa, Lowak, Tuklo, Taloa, and finally, Maya.
“Generations are echoing, reaching out to us at a time when we need them most,” Maya’s grandmother (Chula Tantoo Cardinal), tells her. Instead of copycat powers that Echo has in the comics, “Echo” now refers to this long matrilineal heritage from which Maya draws her power. The powers themselves are varied but just as community-based as Maya’s Choctaw upbringing. When she activates them, all her ancestors appear around her, and she’s able to give super strength to Chula and Bonnie to allow them to escape.
Finally, she uses the healing power we see her mom use previously in a flashback. But this doesn’t heal Kingpin physically, instead it heals him emotionally, sending him back in time to when he laid waste to his abusive father. It looks like Echo’s powers are both offensive and defensive, as well as deeply entrenched in her story, not just her skills.
Echo director Sydney Freeland teased this change before, telling Variety, “Her power in the comic books is that she can copy anything, any movement, any whatever. It’s kind of lame.” Her new powers are more than just a way she’s adapted to her world, it’s a birthright tying her to a past — a past that she was trying to deny before.
It may be a change from the comics, but the joys of MCU adaptation is that the source material can be improved upon decades later. This new version of Echo is an amputee, a member of the Choctaw nation, and far more powerful than her comic counterpart could ever have imagined.