With her live-action debut coming in next month’s Hawkeye, Maya Lopez gets a spotlight of her own in this week’s Phoenix Song: Echo #1.
As recently seen in “Enter the Phoenix,” Maya —AKA Echo— has gained a major power-up: the Phoenix force itself. As the entity’s new host, she’s more powerful (and confident) than ever, but an incident that spirals out of her control soon has her seeking answers about what she’s been given — and in the crosshairs of those who are very aware of what the Phoenix is capable of.
While the decision to make Echo succeed Jean Grey as the Phoenix Force’s new host has proven contentious among fans, it’s at least an interesting one, and I appreciate that they’re taking this opportunity to explore the idea further. The fact that Phoenix Song: Echo #1 is her first-ever headline series, putting her in a very different mode than what she’s become known for, is another fascinating wrinkle as well. (I do wonder how confusing it might be for potential new fans of the character looking to read an Echo comic after Hawkeye because of the Phoenix, but that’s another discussion.)
To writer Rebecca Roanhorse’s credit, a lot of this issue is devoted more to Maya’s past and the circumstances that led her to where she is now rather than the Phoenix itself, which helps ground the story in more human stakes than the fire bird’s cosmic trappings. It also explores her heritage as an indigenous American woman (which Roanhorse herself is), and I don’t believe that’s ever been extensively looked at before, at least not on this scale. There’s also a new character introduced here who seems to be important for her journey with very prescient powers, and I’m interested to see how that plays out.
Luca Maresca’s art here is very clean and appealing. Obviously working with an element like the Phoenix —fire, flames, red— gives them a lot to work with in the visual aspect, but the added human element of Maya being vulnerable requires deft character work. Her varied emotions throughout the issue are believable, which is a big aid to Roanhorse’s script.