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Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Leinil Yu (artist), Dave McCaig (color art), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne (letterer), Brad Johansen (production), Molly Lazer & Aubrey Sitterson (assistant editors), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
Sometime in the recent past, Maya wrote an e-mail to Matt Murdock. She figured that, if he read it, it probably meant that she was dead. Matt received the e-mail and acted upon it. Originally, Maya was sent to Japan to infiltrate their underworld and provide the Avengers with information. The civil war that pitched hero against hero meant that Maya was forgotten about. In Japan, she operated under the guise of Ronin, gleaning information from the gangsters by pretending to be a normal woman in the clubs and bars, and attacking them afterwards in her masculine disguise. When she learned about the civil war, she decided to go it alone, using her intelligence and skills to bring the gangsters down by herself. The e-mail to Matt was just in case she ran into trouble she couldn’t get out of. That happened one evening when she was attacked by ninjas working for the Hand, now headed by Elektra. Maya managed to defeat many ninjas, but her skills weren’t enough against Elektra, who stabbed her through the chest. Maya was then thrown into a hole where, for three days, the Hand’s mystics used their spells to turn Maya to the Hand’s cause. After three days, Elektra was ready to bring Maya out but, instead, she and the Hand were attacked by the Avengers whom Matt Murdock had sent after her. The Avengers defeated their opponents and rescued Maya, with Dr. Strange teleporting the team out of danger. However, Elektra wanted them found, vowing that they wouldn’t leave Japan.
(in flashback)Echo has sent Matt Murdock, also known as Daredevil, an e-mail, the subject of which is Ronin. Unfortunately, Maya has written it so that if Matt gets to read the e-mail, it probably means that she is dead. This is her story.
Maya wished to tell Matt what had been going on in her life, and why. She was sure he must have heard the rumors, and knew that he’d understand the why more than anyone. However, the what was also important. A month ago, Matt sent Captain America to recruit Maya in order to help infiltrate the Japanese underworld, so that the Avengers could piece together what was going on over there. They wanted to know how it would affect the world. She thought about that every day. By sending Cap, Matt clearly thought more of her than she’d considered. She then thought about how to go about what was being asked of her. She thought about Matt’s double life as Daredevil. She thought about how no one, until recently, even suspected that a blind lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen could be Daredevil. The disguise caught her attention, and she liked how the uniform helped to create a legend. That’s how Ronin was born.
Tokyo’s nightlife was filled with two things: gangsters blowing off steam on drug and alcohol fuelled binges, and rich, vacant heiresses who prided themselves on serving absolutely no purpose in the world. Maya realized that the best disguise she could think of would be vacant anonymous party girl by night, and Ronin by late night. No one looked at the girls. They were just objects.
Maya visited the clubs and sat there like a piece of meat, eavesdropping and uploading every piece of information she could get from weak-willed, spineless Yakuza wannabes. When it was time, she would use that information - not as Echo or Maya Lopez, but as a man. She would become a figure of the shadows like Daredevil. She would fight them as Ronin.
She heard people talking about Ronin as the character’s legend spread. They wondered if it might be someone new, or maybe one of the Avengers running away from the civil war. Maybe he was Daredevil, or Iron Fist or Nick Fury? Maya loved it. However, the whole point of being Ronin was to gather information for the Avengers. Unfortunately, that all went to hell when the civil war took over their lives. The world watched in amazement as American heroes ripped themselves to shreds. Maya watched in horror. Who were her friends now? Who would she go to when she was ready? Captain America recruited her, but Iron Man offered to stake her. Whose side was she on? Eventually, Maya found herself stuck, left in Japan while the heroes lost themselves fighting one another.
Maya continued with her immersion into Japan’s underworld, taking out gangsters, picking up snippets of information and using her disguise of Ronin to strike fear into their hearts. From watching the news, she came to hate Iron Man, seemingly blaming him for tearing the Avengers apart. Eventually, Maya decided that she didn’t have to report back to anyone anymore. She could do this herself. So, she went about her day-to-day business.
Maya’s e-mail reiterated the fact that if Matt was reading it, she was probably dead. She figured that if this was the case, then she probably got into something she couldn’t fight her way out of.
One evening as Maya does her rounds as Ronin, she is cornered by Elektra, backed up by dozens of ninjas working for the Hand. As Ronin, Maya fought well, taking out opponent after opponent, slicing and dicing her way through ninjas whilst Elektra looked on, biding her time. Maya knew with a certain arrogance that the only thing in Japan that could probably take her down was Elektra, the new leader of the Hand. Maya killed as many ninja as she could, but they don’t take this lightly. They started to hunt their prey and, when they came after her, they came after her as an army - an army of assassins.
When many of the ninja were defeated, Elektra took on Ronin herself. As much as Maya had prayed for a warrior’s death, she’d hoped it wouldn’t be Elektra who took her down. She hoped that she had honored her family, and honored Matt Murdock. Maya fought Elektra as an equal, stopping every attack, whilst producing counter-attacks of her own. The two combatants fought fiercely, but in the end, Elektra’s superior skills and experience came through. She managed to stab Ronin through the chest with her sai, lifting Maya clean off the ground. P>
Elektra then lowered Maya to the ground and slowly removed her mask. She offered no hint of surprise as far as Maya could see, before Maya blacked out. With Ronin down, Elektra told the remaining ninja that they should bring her back. They needed her.
Maya was taken to a room where Hand mystics worked their black magic on her. A hand was placed over Maya’s stomach, and Maya awoke with a start. Elektra was standing before her. She knew that Maya was deaf and couldn’t hear her, but figured she could lip read. She told Maya that it was an honor to fight her, and that it would be an honor to fight alongside her… once she was ready. Maya was picked up by two ninja and thrown into a cell deep underground. Elektra told Maya that, as she knew, the ways of the Hand dated back hundreds of years. They had a code of honor and warrior ways that had survived through all of this world’s struggles. Maya was a great warrior with no focus or purpose. Their ways would define her and her next phase of her life. She would be part of something truly profound.
In her e-mail, Maya told Matt that she didn’t want them to take her. She didn’t want them to use their mysticism and mindgames on her. She didn’t want to be brainwashed. She couldn’t fight that. She didn’t have that kind of training. Even through she might know that it was a trick or drugs or brainwashing, it wouldn’t help her. It would only make it worse. By the end of the e-mail, Maya practically begged Matt not to let Ronin disappear; not to let them turn her into something she despised. She wanted him to send someone who could break down their walls and fight through them. She concluded her e-mail, “And if they have killed me… avenge me.”
Maya suffered alone as the Hand’s magic played with her mind, creating hallucinations designed to turn her to their cause. For three days, as the scrolls dictated, she remained in that state until Elektra was ready. After three days, however, Maya was avenged.
(present)Dr. Strange teleports a new team of Avengers into the Hand’s base. They are Luke Cage, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Iron Fist and someone dressed in Ronin’s costume. The team immediately goes to work on the remaining ninjas, with Spider-Man providing the usual repertoire of witticisms designed to distract his opponents. They plough through the ninjas quickly, whilst Dr. Strange uses his magic to create a series of transient spells, which makes the ninja sleep and cry for their mothers.
Elektra manages to get close to Luke Cage, and she strikes him with her sai, right in the middle of his chest. Luke grabs her arm and informs her that he has unbreakable skin. He has a message for her from Matt Murdock. “He told me, if I see you, to give you this…” With that, he kicks Elektra hard between the legs, and she drops to the floor, trying to catch her breath. “That had to hurt!” exclaims Spider-Man. Wolverine warns everyone not to screw around. They’ve got to keep moving.
As the Avengers fight the ninjas, Spider-Man leaps into the hole that Maya was thrown into and lands beside her. “Hi,” he says. “My name is Luke Skywalker and I’m here to rescue you.” He’s always wanted to say that. He tells Maya that he knows that she can read his lips. He informs her that Matt Murdock sent them. “The Avengersss broke up,” she replies, weakly. She thinks it’s a trick. Spidey grabs her around the waist and heads for the hole’s exit, telling the rest that he has her. Dr. Strange opens his arms wide and casts a teleportation spell. “Come to me, Avengers,” he bellows as the team leave many ninjas dead and Elektra bound in webbing.
Maya sees the new Ronin and asks them if it’s Matt. “Not exactly,” comes the reply. With a parting shot courtesy of Iron Fist’s powerful shockwave, the Avengers vanish, with Elektra telling her ninja that they know what they have to do. The Avengers do not leave Japan.
Luke Cage, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Ronin, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Wolverine (all Avengers)
ElektraThe Hand ninjas and mystics
(in flashback)EchoJapanese gangsters and partygoersSteve Rogers
Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man (all Avengers)
Mr. Fantastic, Thing (all Fantastic Four)
This is the first appearance of the new team following the conclusion of the civil war. Another team, the Mighty Avengers, featuring Iron Man, Ms. Marvel and Wonder Man amongst others, now appear in their own monthly title.
Luke Skywalker is a character in the Star Wars series, and the line of which Spider-Man quips was used in Episode IV: A New Hope.
Spider-Man is wearing his black costume in this issue.