Marvel’s Echo Debuted on Disney+ and Hulu Jan. 9, 2024 | Graphic Provided by Marvel Studio. © 2023 MARVEL.

The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios’ ‘Echo’ takes the audience into a part of the franchise that has yet to be explored in-depth. For the first time since the Marvel Netflix era from 2015 to 2019, ‘Echo’ explored the grittier, street level side of New York and side-stepped the Avengers.

This is something fans of been clamoring for over the past five years, albeit getting nothing in return aside from vague references and cameos of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in ‘Hawkeye’ and Charlie Cox’s Daredevil in ‘Spider-man: No Way Home’. Both cameos were well-received and worked to transition the Netflix era into the Disney+ slate of Marvel TV.

‘Echo’ continued this trend, with D’Onofrio and Cox returning there as well to set the tone in smaller roles over the five episodes of the event series. The series told the story of Kingpin’s ‘niece’ within his criminal empire, as shown in ‘Hawkeye’.

Following the events of that series, the titular hero ‘Echo’ aka Maya Lopez played by Alaqua Cox has gone out on her own to confront her past.

What makes Maya Lopez different, however, is her connection to her Native heritage, which literally empowers and echoes through her, as well as her being a deaf amputee. In many cases, this description would play as checking off diversity boxes, but Cox brings the character justice, and despite these all being front and center, it never feels without purpose or unnecessary.

She holds her own against her enemies and against Daredevil in a flashback sequence. She is a strong, well-written character who doesn’t seem overdone or uninteresting.

The way Lopez’s deafness is portrayed is also a highlight. At times, the show is also silent to focus and recontexualize both the characters and situations. The attention to detail in this scenes is spectacular and ever bit as fascinating to watch as the action and fight scenes.

We also get to experience a cultural and historical narrative through Lopez and her echoes, as we witness the mythical origins of the Choctaw people within the Marvel universe, something that mirrors Echo’s own story at times.

As a whole, the story-telling devices are great. The biggest problem is the pacing. The show is constantly torn between wanting to be both action-driven and character-driven, and never quite figures out its preferences. As a result, we get five episodes with a unique frame and a handful of fun, well-choreographed fights for a story that is never given enough plot to warrant its runtime.

The actual story drags quite a bit at times. It has a basic plot that looks cool but at times fails to keep the audience invested. The first episode is entirely a prologue and a recap of ‘Hawkeye’ that moves beyond slow. The plot of the new show doesn’t actually start until episode two, which is a problem with only five episodes in tow.

The rest of the series is great when focused on Lopez and her adversaries, but the historical flashbacks continue a lot of the pacing issues, slowing down the plot tremendously in comparison because not much actually happens in them. They are a nice narrative ploy, yes, but they could have been a simple conversation with a young Maya Lopez in those flashbacks.

Arguably, the show could have been condensed into a feature-length film or a special presentation akin to ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’ or ‘Werewolf by Night’.

Even with the pacing issues, though, the strong points of the show fight a strong case for watching ‘Echo’. It is still a compelling story, a grand return to the feel of the Marvel Netflix era, and one of the strongest Marvel projects to be released in a while.