“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!

“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!

Avengers: Endgame Trailer 3!

The end of the MCU as we know it is almost upon us, and we have our first full length trailer for the movie that will bring it all crashing down into ruin and despair. Blood will be shed, heroes will die, Natasha Romanoff’s hair will change color again. Very few of our questions about this movie have been answered by this tantalizing teaser, which is the way I like it: honestly, I think at this point we don’t even need another trailer for Avengers: Endgame – the less we know, the more we are excited to find out.

So here it is! The trailer is so atmospheric, so dark – the opening scenes are black and white flashbacks to previous MCU movies: Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor. Voice-over is provided by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). The first new shot in this trailer is at 0:38, and here we see Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) training a girl with a bow and arrow. Fans were quick to jump to the conclusion that this girl was none other than superheroine Kate Bishop, an archer from the comics who ends up taking the name Hawkeye herself. However, it seems more likely she is Hawkeye’s daughter, Lila Barton. Whoever she is, though, I have no doubt that she and the rest of Hawkeye’s family (who can be seen in the background) will be dusted in this scene, and this is where we’ll see the lovable archer’s transformation into the grim, sword-wielding, mohawk-wearing assassin that he is in the very next shot, at 0:43, where we see him meeting Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Here, he is Ronin, one of his darker aliases from the comics. Something to note about this scene is that he and Black Widow hold hands – could we see them get back together? Clearly, there are still some romantic feelings between the two. (And I’m here for it – those two were made for each other, and no one can tell me otherwise).

At 1:12, after a heartbreaking montage of characters from Avengers: Infinity War being turned to dust, we see Black Widow’s new look – her hair has grown out quite a bit, and looks quite good, part red, part blond. The fact that it’s grown so long, though, is reason for us to believe that some time has passed between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Some have speculated there could be a five-year gap between the two movies.

Blink and you’ll miss Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) at 1:14. This poor guy, who was sidelined in Avengers: Infinity War, definitely needs more screentime to make up for that – but so far, we’ve seen very little of him, and no hint of whether he can transform into the Hulk yet.

Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) shows up for the first time in the trailer at 1:18, staring in bewilderment at posters that read MISSING. Last we saw Ant-Man, in Ant-Man And The Wasp, he was trapped inside the Quantum Realm: I believe this is just after he’s escaped, and he’s come back to find half of the world’s population missing – possibly including his own daughter, Cassie Lang: though others speculate that Cassie will be in Endgame, played by Emma Fuhrmann, and will be a superhero in her own right.

At 1:21, we see the Avengers’ Quinjet flying over New York City: interestingly, in the previous teaser we saw NYC looking very dark and lifeless, but here there are city lights shining.

Black Widow and Hawkeye still look pretty close in the next shot: seriously, can these two just GET BACK TOGETHER ALREADY?

Unfortunately, Hawkeye seems to be in danger: we see him running down a tunnel filled with fluorescent red light, running through water – and then suddenly the tunnel is filled with an explosion of fire. I don’t know how he’s going to make it out of that situation, or why he’s even in that situation to begin with, but I’m terrified for him.

1:29 shows us two old friends: Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). They seem to be gearing up for war. Rocket’s interactions with the other Avengers is something I’m looking forward to – I can only imagine how serious characters like Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Black Widow will deal with him.

Speaking of Steve, he looks pretty surprised to see Hawkeye in the next shot: granted, I would be too, if I saw someone with that haircut. I’m not sure exactly why losing his family would inspire Hawkeye to cut his hair into the ridiculous style, but, I mean, you do you, Clint.

In quick succession, we see Ant-Man at Avengers HQ (looking less than cheery), Thor powering up Stormbreaker, and Nebula (Karen Gillan) charging into a fight with a battle-cry: could she be taking vengeance on her father, Thanos, for what he did to Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in Avengers: Infinity War? I can’t imagine how she’ll take him on, since he’s armed with the Infinity Gauntlet, and she’s got…batons. But she is pretty formidable – though I’m not sure if she could top her incredible entrance in the third act of Infinity War, where she literally drove a spaceship straight into Thanos (which, by the way, didn’t even slow him down: Nebula, you gonna die).

Hawkeye’s back in the tunnel at 1:39, now wielding his bow again – somehow, I can’t imagine he’s facing off against Thanos in this scene (the tunnel doesn’t seem large enough to fit the gigantic purple Titan, first of all), but if not, then who is he up against? There have been rumors circulating for months that Thanos won’t be the main villain in Avengers: Endgame, or that he might even team up with the Avengers against another threat. Could Hawkeye be coming face to face with some greater villain? (And if so, will he make it out alive? Armed with a bow? Yeah, no.)

There’s a scene from the previous teaser of Black Widow target-shooting: though again, when does this scene take place? Here, she has long, fully blond hair.

At 1: 44, we have Steve Rogers, fully geared-up in the Captain America suit, looking very angry about something. Please, let it not be that Tony Stark has just died. I can’t take that kind of pain. I know that somebody has to die, but just…let it be, like, I don’t know, Drax. Oh wait, he’s already dead. Well, just, don’t take Tony Stark or Steve Rogers, please!

This shot of Steve is followed by a clip of a very tiny Ant-Man leaping through a bizarre landscape that seems to be composed of…a pencil, water, and a power-cord? I have no idea where he is, but if I had to bet, I’d guess either of two things: one, most likely to me, is that this is at the beginning of the film, and we’re seeing Ant-Man escaping from the Quantum Realm. Two, less likely I think, but more terrifying, is that this some weird fight sequence where Thanos is wielding the Reality Stone – which, if you remember from Infinity War, had the power to transform bullets into bubbles, among other things. Either way, things don’t look good for Ant-Man.

Finally, the money-shot of the Avengers walking (destination: unknown) in their new Quantum-Realm suits. The suits are fantastic, and look great. Steve is leading them, and behind him are Tony Stark, Black Widow, Nebula, Ant-Man, War Machine, and Hawkeye – I think Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is behind Black Widow too, though it’s kind of hard to tell. They look absolutely great, and this seems to confirm the theory that the Avengers would be going into the Quantum Realm – or back in time – to try and reverse the Snap that wiped out half the population of the universe. Some think they’ll be going back even further than that, to the Battle of New York from the first Avengers, for instance, and this would seem to be backed up by the fact that Steve Rogers is wearing his old Captain America suit in the shot at 1:44.

The title – Avengers: Endgame lights up in brilliant purple, and the screen goes black. Is the trailer over? No, wait, I don’t think so…

Thor is walking towards a woman who has her back turned. She turns to face us – CAROL DANVERS! Yes, Carol Danvers, a.k.a Captain Marvel, (Brie Larson) is here, in Avengers HQ, and, boy, does she look fantastic or what? She stares back at Thor steadily as he extends his hand past her shoulder, testing her reflexes: his axe, Stormbreaker, flies into his hand.

Carol just barely flinches, and glances down at Stormbreaker with some curiosity.

Thor grins. “I like this one”, he says, and the screen goes black.

Just from that one scene, I already know Thor and Carol’s dynamic will be one of the best parts of this movie: Carol’s new wardrobe, also, looks to be pretty snazzy – she looks quite glamorous. I wonder if they’ll be friends, or perhaps…more than friends?

Okay, so April 26th needs to just arrive now, so that I can see this movie. I’ve got a lot of questions, like, why isn’t Thanos shown or even mentioned in the trailer – he also was absent from the second teaser, and only his armor was seen in the first teaser. What is the plan that the Avengers have for bringing back half the population? Will they time travel – where to, or when to? How do Tony and Nebula go from “lost in space” to “wearing fancy new outfits, walking alongside the other Avengers on earth”? What is going on?

And do Hawkeye and Black Widow end up together?

Trailer Rating: 10/10