Marvel finally takes the note fans have been giving them (not all the movies and shows need to connect)

Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios' Echo, releasing on Hulu and Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios' Echo, releasing on Hulu and Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2023. All Rights Reserved. /

Marvel’s upcoming Disney+ Echo series looks to be a good new entry in their regular Marvel series. But even bigger is that it sounds like Marvel is finally getting the hint that not all their shows and movies have to be connected, and the new Marvel Spotlight shows will be a better way to show their characters off.

A growing complaint among MCU fans is that nowadays, Marvel movies and shows require way too much homework. What started as the best part of the MCU, the way everything connected has now become an albatross around its neck.

For evidence, there’s The Marvels, the upcoming big-screen adventure with Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers teaming up with WandaVision’s Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Harris) and Ms. Marvel’s Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani). Right off, that means casual moviegoers have to have watched those two Disney+ shows to fully understand who Monica and Kamala are and their connections to Carol.

It shows the problems of continuity, which is a bit ironic given at one point, it seemed the MCU movies and TV shows were separate entities.

The weaker connections of Marvel movies and TV shows

While Agents of SHIELD was supposed to be linked to the MCU, it didn’t always connect well, even when Samuel L. Jackson appeared as Nick Fury. They did try to set up an Inhumans film, only for Marvel to turn that into a (flop) TV show.

The various Netflix shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones wouldn’t even mention the Avengers by name, although they did build up to The Defenders series. However, it now appears all those shows are considered “non-canon” to borrow a comic book term.

Since then, the Disney+ shows have been far more connected to the MCU movies, but that’s not as fun as it was. Sure, comic book fans can love the mentions and how it comes together, but it also means that the already daunting MCU filmography is now added on by having to watch a show like Loki to know the big deal about Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. 

Thus, the great irony is that while folks loved watching how well the MCU projects connected, it’s now become a mess of entanglements that means everything has to be studied as part of a broader picture rather than enjoyed as just a fun movie or show.

Thankfully, it sounds like Marvel is finally getting the hint and Echo is the start of a new direction.

What is Marvel Spotlight?

The Echo series has Alaqua Cox reprising her role from Hawkeye as Maya Lopez, a deaf martial artist raised by Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onfrio). Maya discovered Fisk killed her mobster father and broke away from him.

The new five-episode series has Maya relocating to her Oklahoma hometown, only for Fisk to follow and set up a bigger clash. Obviously, there are connections to both the Netflix Daredevil series and the planned Daredevil: Born Again show. However, this is also going to be the start of the new Marvel Spotlight series.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Brad Winderbaum, head of Marvel’s streaming division, explained how this new Spotlight series allows casual fans to enjoy Marvel shows without feeling the need to be as in-depth for the MCU.

"“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.”"

This is good news for both fans and the MCU itself. It can allow the Disney+ shows to try more “experimental” series like Moon Knight without having them be lead-ins to a new movie. It also means casual viewers won’t be as intimidated by the MCU mythology to enjoy a fun show.

A good comparison can be Disney+’s Andor series, which is a Star Wars prequel, but the connections are not as overt, so it can be enjoyed as a sci-fi political thriller in its own right. Marvel Spotlight is just the thing to give the MCU a much-needed jolt of fresh energy, freeing creators from saddling the shows with too many tie-ins and putting the storytelling first, which is what Marvel was about in the beginning.

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Echo premieres Wednesday, January 10, 2024 on Disney+