Marvel Is Trying to Make Its TV Shows Less Confusing

The upcoming Disney+ series Echo will represent a new direction for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as its viewers won’t need to have any knowledge of the brand’s other epic characters and storylines to follow the action.

Starring Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez/Echo—the adopted daughter of supervillain the Kingpin—the show will follow the martial artist as she returns home to Oklahoma from New York City and reconnects with her Native American roots. In her return home, Lopez will be seen embracing the meaning of family and community.

As the first show under Marvel’s Spotlight banner, Echo is intended to buck the cinematic universe’s long tradition of intertwining plots involving other superheroes by allowing Lopez’s story to stand alone, making it palatable for newcomers and casual viewers.

Introduced in comics back in 1971, Spotlight was an anthology series that spawned origin stories for such characters as Spider-Woman and Ghost Rider.

As any MCU fan knows, following the exploits of the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and many other characters requires a commitment to several projects not directly focused on a particular character, or viewers run the risk of missing vital plot details.

Discussing the decision to launch Spotlight with Echo, Brad Winderbaum, the studio’s head of streaming, television and animation, said at a preview screening, per Marvel.com: “Marvel Spotlight gives us a platform to bring more grounded, character-driven stories to the screen, and in the case of Echo, focusing on street-level stakes over larger MCU continuity.

“Just like comics fans didn’t need to read Avengers or Fantastic Four to enjoy a Ghost Rider Spotlight comic, our audience doesn’t need to have seen other Marvel series to understand what’s happening in Maya’s story.”

Interestingly, while Winderbaum’s statement announces a more freestanding storyline for Lopez, her journey on Echo is a direct spinoff of Hawkeye. The 2021 miniseries, starring Jeremy Renner in the titular role, saw Cox debut Lopez/Echo as the deaf commander of the Tracksuit Mafia.

It hasn’t been stated whether the move to more independent projects will be a new direction showcased in more of Marvel’s upcoming plans. Newsweek has contacted representatives of Marvel via email for comment.

During a recent preview screening of Echo in Oklahoma, director Sydney Freeland discussed what could be expected from the series as Lopez is faced with the consequences of decisions that she and other family members have made over the years.

“We’re going to delve further into the drama of this family and how they’ve all dealt with [situations] over the past 20 years,” Freeland said. “We have this sort of two-pronged approach, there’s this family drama sort of driving everything.

“But then there’s this undercurrent of this fantastical side, which is that we are going to be visiting Maya’s matrilineal ancestors, going quite a bit backward in time. Those two things, this family drama and these ancestral stories that we’re going to see, are going to come head-to-head.”

Noting the focus on Lopez’s roots, Freeland also stated that the team was “most excited about… being able to portray the Choctaw culture hopefully in an authentic and exciting way.”

Teasing a gritty viewing experience, Freeland added: “People on our show—they bleed. They die. They get killed, and there are real-world consequences.”

Echo will debut on Disney+ and Hulu on January 10, 2024.

Uncommon Knowledge

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Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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