“Echo” Hawkeye Spinoff Coming To Disney+!

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is probably the least interesting part of the upcoming Hawkeye Disney+ series…which I imagine really sucks for Renner’s hardcore fans, but is great for those of us who are only going to be watching Hawkeye for the amazing women involved: Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop, Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, Vera Farmiga as Eleanor Bishop, and Alaqua Cox as the antiheroine Echo.

Echo
Echo | marvel.com

And despite being a complete newcomer to the acting scene, it’s Alaqua Cox’s Echo who’s apparently first in line for her very own Disney+ spinoff coming out of Hawkeye, a series that hasn’t even finished filming yet. Variety reports that, while the spinoff is still in the early stages of pre-production, Etan and Emily Cohen have come onboard to write the series scripts. This news, if true, would make Echo the first Marvel character introduced on Disney+ to get her own solo spinoff, further enriching this vast corner of the MCU, and hopefully proving once and for all that the Disney+ series’ aren’t just supposed to act as extended prologues and epilogues to other movies – they are their own thing, and should be viewed as such.

It’s been hard to convince some fans of that latter point, particularly when dealing with a universe where the occasionally eyeroll-inducing need for “interconnectedness” drove viewers away from Marvel’s previous TV collaborations with ABC (which hosted the long-running and criminally underrated Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Netflix (which only just recently relinquished the rights to Marvel’s Defenders content, including beloved heroes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones), after those TV series’ struck out on their own and forged new ground…in the process becoming less essential viewing for the MCU overall. That’s a pattern we saw repeated after WandaVision‘s finale, which proved to be controversial in part because fans felt cheated when the series didn’t halt in its tracks to introduce the Multiverse, or reveal villains like Mephisto and Nightmare, or reinstate Fox versions of the X-Men (though, to be fair, Evan Peters should have been playing Peter Maximoff), despite laying the groundwork for at least two other Marvel films and another Disney+ series.

Echo
Hawkeye | businessinsider.com

The news that Echo specifically is getting a spinoff is exciting for several reasons. The character – whose codename comes from her ability to expertly replicate or “echo” any opponent’s fighting style and techniques – is a deaf Native American antiheroine named Maya Lopez, who rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld to become a widely-feared and respected warrior. While operating in Japan and fighting a faction of HYDRA, she adopted the alias of “Ronin”, the same name we saw Hawkeye himself randomly pick up in Avengers: Endgame, during his five years as a vigilante/serial killer. The Hawkeye series will hopefully explain away all the mysteries surrounding the Ronin identity, including whom it belonged to first in the MCU canon, but Echo’s story doesn’t have to end there.

In the comics, Maya Lopez goes on to help and hinder the Avengers at various points, even playing a critical role in the Secret Invasion storyline which will be adapted for Disney+ in the near future. She’s had complex relationships with many of Marvel’s grittier street-level characters, including Daredevil, Moon Knight, and the Kingpin – who mentored her throughout her childhood, after first murdering her father. Maya later turned on Kingpin and left him temporarily blinded, but he’s honestly the least of the villains she’s battled while wielding her signature nunchuks, from Madame Hydra to the Skrull Queen Veranke – the former of whom at least deserves to be brought back into the MCU, with Mallory Jansen reprising the role she so brilliantly originated on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. In one storyline, Echo even hosted the cosmic power of the Phoenix Force within her during an underwater battle with Namor.

Echo
Phoenix Force Echo | comicbook.com

Echo’s role in Hawkeye is still unknown, though I remain confident in my theory that she’ll be revealed to be one of the last remaining Red Room cadets trained by Taskmaster, positioning her at an intersection between the storylines of Hawkeye and Black Widow and making her the literal “echo” of one of Widow’s greatest failures, still reverberating through current MCU history. Having her own spinoff series, though, vastly expands the number of stories that could be told with the character – from undercover work as a ninja in Japan, to fighting alongside Daredevil on the streets of New York City, all while helping to increase onscreen visibility for the Indigenous and disabled communities.

But what do you think? Are you excited to see Alaqua Cox as Echo? Do you have any theories about her spinoff? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Abomination To Return In “She-Hulk” Series!

Even apart from official confirmation that Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany will indeed be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) in the upcoming Disney+ She-Hulk series – despite her insistent, and very convincing, claims to the contrary over the past few months –  there were several other reveals about the series that have me even more excited to see Maslany transform into the lovable, seven-foot tall, bright green bodybuilder: and prove once and for all that she is not simply a gender-swapped version of the Hulk, as some like to claim, but a unique and fascinating character in her own right, with an abundance of new stories to tell.

She-Hulk
She-Hulk | comicbookinvest.com

For one thing, the series will not gloss over Walters’ day job as a lawyer and activist for both societal reform on a widespread level, and individual superheroes. Marvel president Kevin Feige strongly implied that a couple of familiar MCU characters – both heroes and villains – might wind up in court before Walters, and that she might be placed in increasingly more tricky (and potentially dangerous) predicaments depending on who she’s either representing or trying to place behind bars. Heroes who might show up include Falcon, Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, and Kate Bishop, most of whom are already fugitives from the law. But they likely won’t end up in prison, or if they do, it won’t be for long. Villains, on the other hand…that’s where this gets interesting.

The MCU has long had a habit of discarding potentially interesting villains after a single film appearance, without ever actually killing them off – which was just lazy storytelling during Phases 1 through 3, but turns out to be a blessing-in-disguise heading into Phase 4: because now, with the Infinity Saga finally completed, we have time to go back and address all the unresolved storylines of these various antagonists. And there’s long been speculation that, as in the comics, a multitude of these long-forgotten villains will assemble their own version of the Avengers called the Thunderbolts, under the leadership of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, an anti-superhero watchdog (who, ironically, is secretly able to transform into the Red Hulk). With no specific Thunderbolts series or movie announced during the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday, I believe She-Hulk will act as the Phase 4 set-up to an eventual Thunderbolts series or movie during Phase 5.

Think about it for a moment. Currently, the MCU has dozens of villains whose fates are still unknown, and a few who have yet to show up but probably won’t be killed in the near future: and all of these villains have committed more than enough heinous crimes to deserve high-profile court trials. Let’s go over a few. Justin Hammer, Tony Stark’s wannabe copycat in Iron Man 2, quietly dropped off the grid after unleashing a small army of heavily-armed robots on New York City; Ghost, the quantum-phasing antagonist of Ant-Man And The Wasp, never received the healing particles she was supposed to get from Scott Lang, and has likely regressed back into self-loathing and hyper-aggression; Yelena Belova, who is set to appear in both Hawkeye and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, probably won’t stop being a violent super-assassin anytime soon; Baron Zemo, the big bad of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, is far too ingenious to stay locked up for long (he’s already escaped one high-security prison); and Madame Masque, whom Vera Farmiga will likely play in the Hawkeye series, is just a really cool character. There are a bunch of others who could fill out the team roster, but the one that we need to focus on is Abomination.

She-Hulk
Abomination | cinemablend.com

First introduced in The Incredible Hulk in 2008, Emil Blonsky (better known as the horribly mutated, grotesque titan Abomination) has only been referenced in-universe once or twice since his debut: back in 2013, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed that he was being held in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, in a cryo-cell in Alaska. Since then, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA and been almost entirely disassembled from the inside, but there’s been no mention of Abomination since. Until now. She-Hulk will officially feature the return of the old villain, with Tim Roth reprising the role after over a decade – and hopefully getting a new and improved, comics-accurate, design. The fact that Roth’s involvement has already been announced suggests that Abomination plays a key role in She-Hulk…and what do you know, he also has connections to Thaddeus Ross, and thus to the Thunderbolts team.

So what’s my theory? I believe, based on everything we know so far, that Jennifer Walters’ work as a prosecutor will place her directly in Thaddeus Ross’ line of fire, as he tries to secretly unite various villains and keep them out of prison, even while Walters fights to incarcerate them. In the MCU, it may be agents working for Ross who give Walters the gunshot wounds that almost kill her, leading to Bruce Banner having to save her life with an emergency blood transfusion – which in turn leads to her becoming the She-Hulk, and gaining the extra brawn she’ll need to take the fight straight to Ross. And when she comes face to face with him (probably in the season finale, after figuring out how deeply the corruption goes), that’s when Ross will reveal his own alter ego, the Red Hulk, and engage her in an epic duel. Sounds pretty good to me.

She-Hulk
Red She-Hulk | wallpapersafari.com

As an additional bonus, Tim Roth’s MCU return means we could see other characters from The Incredible Hulk pop up in She-Hulk: including Liv Tyler as Betty Ross (herself a Hulk variant in the comics, the fearsome antiheroine Red She-Hulk). Tyler’s return is something that’s been rumored, and that fans have especially been hoping to see – and of course, I’m always up for a Lord Of The Rings star coming into the MCU, even though, in Tyler’s case, she’s been there for a while; just not getting the recognition and screentime she deserves.

So what do you think? What are you looking forward to from She-Hulk, and how do you want Tim Roth’s Abomination to feature in the series? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Hawkeye” Casts Florence Pugh, Vera Farmiga, Several More!

With the Marvel Hawkeye Disney+ series having just started filming in New York City, official casting announcements were inevitable. The Hollywood trades proved to be a bit slow when it came to confirming that Hailee Steinfeld was, in fact, the series’ co-star (something that was reported by The Illuminerdi several months ago, and proven yesterday in behind-the-scenes footage from the Hawkeye set), and they weren’t even the first to break the news that Black Widow actress Florence Pugh will be reprising her role as Yelena Belova (can we say reprising if she hasn’t even had the chance to appear in Black Widow yet?) in Hawkeye, but they – specifically Variety – have now announced some exclusives of their own: including casting for Kate Bishop’s mother, the villains Swordsman and Clown, the antiheroine Echo, and her father.

Hawkeye
Yelena Belova (right) | indiewire.com

The biggest news is, of course, the Florence Pugh casting. Pugh, hot off an Oscar nomination and a string of other successes, will eventually debut in Marvel’s Black Widow as Yelena Belova, a suspicious assassin who reconnects with Natasha Romanoff, her “sister” and former Red Room classmate, in order to take down the shadowy Russian government organization that created her. Belova’s fate after Black Widow is still unknown, with many wondering if she’ll betray Romanoff at some point during the movie and have to go into hiding, reappearing after the Widow’s death in Avengers: Endgame; or perhaps she’ll become the founding member of the Thunderbolts team, a group of semi-reformed villains working undercover for a variety of different reasons…but whatever the case, we can be pretty assured she survives Black Widow, something that was previously in question. With COVID-19 continuing to delay the release of the Widow’s solo movie, more and more unintentional spoilers for the film are inevitable.

As for what Belova will be doing in the Hawkeye series, that’s a bit more mysterious – although it’s been rumored she’ll don the Ronin mantle that Hawkeye himself briefly wore during the events of Avengers: Endgame, while he was going on a murder spree throughout Asia. If Belova is coming back out of the shadows after Endgame, it would make sense for her to wear a disguise at first: though whatever crimes she commits while wearing said disguise would inevitably have consequences for the person who wore it before her. We’ve all been wondering how Hawkeye gets re-involved with the superhero business after retiring and settling down with his family – an ongoing fight between him and Belova to finally rid himself of the guilt and shame of the Ronin disguise and the damage it’s done to him…that would be just the thing, in my opinion, and it would be a great thematic throughline for the series.

But there could be another catch. The character of Echo, who will be played by newcomer Alaqua Cox (and when I say newcomer, I mean “does-not-even-have-an-IMDb-profile-yet” newcomer), is one of Marvel’s most interesting villains, with her own claim to the title of Ronin, and a possible connection to the Red Room – or at least people associated with the Red Room. Echo, a deaf Native-American woman born with the name Maya Lopez, takes the Ronin moniker in the comics while working undercover in Japan. She quickly becomes a prestigious crime-lord, but her moral code is complicated, and she sometimes offers her help to the Avengers as well. But one potentially crucial detail about her is that her superpowers are identical to those of the villain Taskmaster: the main antagonist of Black Widow. Both characters possess photographic reflexes, which allow them to flawlessly mimic the movements and fighting style of any opponent. From the Black Widow trailers, it’s become clear that photographic reflexes are also taught to all the Red Room cadets, including Natasha Romanoff herself, and Yelena Belova. In the MCU, it would make sense for Echo to be one of the last batch of Black Widows raised in the Red Room, or an apprentice of either Taskmaster or Belova, gone rogue after the events of Black Widow (which presumably ends with Natasha destroying the Red Room completely). Not only would it streamline the series, but it’s a choice that would make Echo even more significant: as the living legacy (or, one could say, an “echo”) of both Hawkeye and Natasha’s worst mistakes, but with her own unique identity and agenda. It also allows for Natasha to still be a part of the story after her death.

Hawkeye
Echo | fullcirclecinema.com

Echo’s father has also been cast, with Zahn McClarnon (most notable for roles in Westworld, Fargo, and Doctor Sleep) taking on the role. His character – named Willie “Crazy Horse” Lincoln in the comics, William Lopez in the show – is most notable for being murdered by agents of his former employer, Kingpin, and leaving the marking of a bloody handprint on his daughter’s face before he died: a marking she would adopt as her symbol. Hopefully he has more to do in the show, but no other details have been given on his role.

Two other villains are now confirmed, although there have long been rumors that they would show up. Fra Fee will portray Clown, a serial killer from the pages of the Hawkeye comics who comes from a circus and doesn’t really have any overarching agenda besides senselessly murdering people. I suspect that his tragic circus backstory will be retconned to tie in with Hawkeye’s own tragic circus backstory (it would be pretty bizarre to have two in one show, otherwise), but I don’t expect him to stick around long, or pose much of a threat. He’s minor antagonist material at best.

Swordsman, on the other hand, might have more to do. Set to be played by Better Call Saul‘s Tony Dalton, the character is getting a small name change – from Jacques Duquesne to Jack Duquesne – but his backstory should remain much the same. In the comics, Duquesne mentors the young Clint Barton at the circus where Barton grows up: before one day betraying him while attempting to flee with stolen money, and almost killing him in the process. Barton becomes Hawkeye and the two don’t really interact much beyond that. In the MCU, it’s possible that Barton will purposefully seek out the Swordsman for his help, or the two will be enemies. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see this part of Hawkeye’s history, which has heretofore never been referenced in the movies.

Hawkeye
Kate Bishop | gameinformer.com

And finally, we have Vera Farmiga – who will be playing Eleanor Bishop, the mother of Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. Farmiga, the Oscar-nominated star of the Conjuring horror franchise, is a high-profile actress for such a small role…except that Eleanor Bishop isn’t your average movie-mom character, and she may be one of the series’ major antagonists. In the comics, Mrs. Bishop fakes her own death shortly after the birth of her daughter, and then proceeds to live a life of crime, as the mastermind behind the villainous Madame Masque (who, as you might remember, is rumored to appear in Hawkeye). The comics distinguish Bishop and Masque as two separate characters – but I think the Hawkeye series will make them one and the same for increased dramatic effect when the masque finally comes off. Eleanor Bishop might not have a very strong connection to Clint Barton, but it’s worth pointing out that Kate Bishop is supposed to be the co-lead of this show – and as such, she should have her own circle of supporting characters and villains.

So what do you think of the casting, and of my speculation? Which character are you most excited to see? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Hailee Steinfeld Confirmed As Kate Bishop In “Hawkeye” In Set Videos!

Marvel Studios has a reputation for strict secrecy, and they’ve always been good at keeping things hidden from the public and press, even if it means lying and spreading misinformation to cover their tracks. The casting of Kate Bishop, however, has been one of the studio’s worst-kept secrets in recent months, as literally every clue has pointed towards singer and Oscar-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld being the top choice for the coveted role – but nothing official from the major Hollywood trades has leaked to confirm or deny these rumors since September of last year, when Steinfeld was said to be “in early talks” to play the vigilante archer. This summer, The Illuminerdi was able to confirm that Steinfeld had officially landed the role, and they have now been proven correct. Hailee Steinfeld was spotted today in full Kate Bishop costume, filming the Hawkeye Disney+ series in New York City.

Kate Bishop
Hawkeye and Kate Bishop | freegametips.com

The question of whether Steinfeld could even play Bishop was always a tricky one, because of her pre-existing commitment to film another season of Dickinson on Apple TV. But it appears that her schedule has now cleared up thanks to the constant shuffling of production start dates, or something else has happened behind the scenes. Either way, video footage distributed online by multiple scoopers today (including Charles Murphy at Murphy’s Multiverse, whom I believe to have been the first to do so) clearly shows Steinfeld alongside Hawkeye star Jeremy Renner, racing through a subway station – accompanied by none other than Lucky the Pizza Dog, Hawkeye’s canine companion from the popular Matt Fraction Hawkeye comics, here making his first MCU appearance.

In the comics, as some of you will already know, Kate Bishop is a young adult crime-fighter who takes after Hawkeye and ends up becoming his apprentice and accomplice, taking on villains like Madame Masque, who has also been rumored to show up in the Hawkeye series. Later, she becomes a founding member and leader of the Young Avengers, a team that is currently being assembled across the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in both movies and TV. While the MCU’s version of Hawkeye is still very different from his portrayal in the comics (and you could make a convincing argument for why Renner has been miscast all along), MCU Kate Bishop already looks nearly perfect, and she’s equipped with her trusty bow. The overcoat she’s wearing appears to just be part of her outfit: unlike the heavy tarps often worn by MCU actors to hide their costumes. She’s definitely wearing something purple underneath the coat, although another behind-the-scenes photo seems to show that it’s an oversized sweater rather than a version of her actual superhero suit.

Kate Bishop
Kate Bishop | forbes.com

But no matter what, Steinfeld is clearly a great choice to portray this important character. She’s been in the running for so long, and the conversation around her casting has become so intense, with people picking apart her social media posts looking for hints, that it would have been absolutely bizarre if someone else had come in at the last minute and claimed the role instead of her. That’s not to say there aren’t other actresses who could have done so, but Steinfeld is – no questions asked – extremely talented in multiple different fields, with a strong film and TV resume, and a successful music career. No word yet on whether she’ll do any singing for Hawkeye, but I wouldn’t be opposed. Every good series needs a theme song, right?

Kate Bishop
Hailee Steinfeld in “Dickinson” | elle.com

Of course, the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fan in me can’t help but wonder if Kate Bishop’s other mentor and role model from the comics, Mockingbird, will make an appearance in the Hawkeye series. Mockingbird was portrayed by Adrianne Palicki all-too-briefly on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. before parting ways with the other agents and going rogue, and Palicki has expressed interest in reprising the role in Hawkeye (or even replacing Hawkeye completely, which sounds…okay by me, honestly?). Fingers crossed she gets to return!

So how do you feel about this casting? Is Hailee Steinfeld the Kate Bishop you had in mind, or were you hoping for someone else? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!