This graphic novel comprises the series of stories by David Mack and Joe Quesada that introduce the character Echo — a young woman who is deaf and Native American, and who possesses extraordinary ability to physically mimic whatever she sees. This allows her to become an excellent musician, dancer, and, yes, a fighter. I first learned about this character from Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection which opens with a short piece about Echo by David Mack, who himself has Cherokee heritage. The pairing of Echo with Daredevil, a character who is blind but whose other senses are supernaturally sharp and allow him to move and fight expertly, had the potential to backfire. Disability, like Native American heritage, tends to be underrepresented and misrepresented in comics and in culture in general. This, however, is an excellent pairing and a gripping story that involves one of my favorite villains, the Kingpin Wilson Fisk.
Maya Lopez aka Echo is the daughter of “Crazyhorse” Lopez, who had been one of Wilson Fisk’s right hand men. Maya was born deaf and her father taught her Native American Sign Language, but the “common wisdom” among educators of the time was that Maya must be intellectually impaired. Nothing could be further from the truth as was eventually discovered, but in the meantime Maya’s father died. Fisk stepped in to care for the girl and give her opportunities to excel. She is devoted to Fisk, but what she does not know is that Fisk killed her father. Maya believes that Daredevil is responsible for his death and she is determined to kill him in revenge.
Meanwhile Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) and his partner Foggy have opened their own law office. One of their first clients is a man with a speech impediment who, as a custodian in Wilson Fisk’s office complex, has found proof of his criminal activity. He goes to Foggy and Matt’s office but Fisk has his own people on the case, trying to permanently silence this witness. Fisk also decides that the best way to undermine Matt/Daredevil is through Maya/Echo. Fisk does not tell Maya about his past with Murdock but encourages her to speak with him as a way to get him to see that Fisk is not the man Murdock thinks he is. Fisk is counting on Matt Murdock falling for Maya, and as usual, he has assessed his enemy accurately.
Now, obviously, since Daredevil and Echo are superheroes, their disabilities are not exactly like the blindness or deafness that an ordinary person might experience. Yet, Mack and Quesada do show how each character’s weakness — Echo to darkness and Daredevil to noise — can be used against them. Other forms of disability are also represented in this series. The custodian/witness has a terrible speech impediment which makes it difficult for him to be understood and leads to him being underestimated by his enemy. Fisk’s hitmen also seem to have some kind of mental illness or impairment that Fisk exploits. He then abandons the hitmen when their usefulness has passed. Fisk’s own emotional and psychological damage is on display as he describes his troubled past and revels in his acquisition of power and dominance over others.
The art for this series is terrific. I especially like the way the artists use childish looking drawings for Maya’s past, and the use of different scripts and colored boxes for dialog among characters so you can keep them straight. Quesada’s art is just excellent and aids the storytelling. I’m looking forward to the Echo series on Disney and hope more Daredevil is on the way, too.