The news is now old yet still reverberating: Brian Michael Bendis is joining DC Comics.

That sentence holds more weight, however. Brian Michael Bendis is not only joining DC Comics, but he’s leaving Marvel Comics. This is huge news. This man has been with Marvel for nearly two decades, and the work he’s contributed to the company has had enormous repercussions.

Though the impact it may have on you, as a fan depends on your reading history. With Brian Michael Bendis leaving Marvel and joining DC, a question remains: who will fill the various spaces now available at Marvel?

Marvel’s Climb During the 2000s

If you’ve been a fan of Brian Michael Bendis since his debut at Marvel with ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, then you know how much the direction Marvel has taken over the past decade has been a result of his decisions. You also know how Bendis helped Marvel climb out of its 90s slump.

Think “Avengers Disassembled,” “House of M,” “Secret Invasion,” and “Avengers vs. X-Men.” These were blockbuster events with huge impacts, and Bendis had a large say in all of them. While he started with his edgy noir crime fiction and moved onto the beloved ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and DAREDEVIL runs, he hit his creative stride (for better and for worse) when he was given such power in dictating crossover events.

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Or maybe you’re not a Brian Michael Bendis fan but, instead, a casual Marvel reader. You keep up with events but strictly follow books based off of creators (a smart decision). If that’s the case, and if you’re also somewhat new to the comic world, the name of Brian Michael Bendis might carry a bit more stigma than fans would admit to.

A (Mostly) Positive Career

As fans of Brian Michael Bendis, we can acknowledge his impact wasn’t perfect. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY ran out of character, ALL-NEW X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN started strong but faltered quickly, and SPIDER-MAN has been fun and forward thinking but a bit stagnant as of late. But it’s not fair to say he’s lost his touch. INFAMOUS IRON MAN and JESSICA JONES have been groundbreaking in their depiction of key characters, and his run on MOON KNIGHT a few years back was full of street-level grit.

Of course, this is all opinion. This is also what can happen when you take on too many titles at one time. And this is why his move to DC is brilliant. It will put him back on a bit of a leash and force him to focus on one or two titles instead of dictating the larger universe at hand. Of course, that’s all for another article.

The Big Three Brian Michael Bendis Creations

For now, we should look at some of his greatest creations and spaces, areas that will now have a void due to Bendis’ absence. That’s not to say that void cannot be filled: it simply has to be filled. There are his (currently high key) Marvel creations, which include Jessica Jones, Miles Morales, and Riri Williams.

Who will take these characters over? Some fans are relieved that Miles will have new blood, while others may worry Jessica will slip into the background of a Luke Cage storyline. Riri has a lot of potential, and the demographic she represents is desperately needed in this industry.

Jessica Jones

Brian Michael Bendis
From ALIAS #2. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

A beloved fan favorite, Jessica Jones made her debut in ALIAS in the early 2000’s. This gritty story gave us a new perspective on the Marvel Universe. It had sex, drugs, alcohol, abuse, good and bad relationships — every real detail you’ve wanted in a Spider-Man series, you got in ALIAS. Bendis wrote this simultaneously alongside ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, flexing his creative talents. Not many writers can do that.

But only one of these was super mainstream; ALIAS was critically acclaimed, but it didn’t catch everyone’s eye. As a result, the series ended (though was semi-revived with THE PULSE), and Jessica Jones became a background character in NEW AVENGERS. She was moderately used. However, the focus wasn’t on her until recently, when Netflix decided to create a show about her comic. This had Marvel give Bendis and Michael Gaydos the reigns to the franchise once again. 

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We Need to Avoid Mansplaining

Netflix still has plans to use Jessica, so who will build upon her now that Bendis is gone? Well, the list can be endless, but we’d love to at least see a woman take over this character. Bendis is wonderful for creating this deep character, but he’s still a white male writing about a woman’s experience. Imagine Kelly Sue DeConnick or Hope Larson taking over an ALIAS-like comic. Imagine Jessica Jones in a BITCH PLANET type of book. Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t that be raw?

The comic medium is in much need of proper representation, but that representation doesn’t stop at the characters. It must extend to writers, it must extend to artists, and it must extend to editors. Bendis has created the opportunity for this representation to blossom. If Jessica Jones is not put in the hands of a creator that properly and authentically understands what it means to be a woman in this day and age, it will be a failure on Marvel’s part.

Riri Williams

Brian Michael Bendis
From INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #12. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics.

Naturally, this applies to Riri Williams as well. Here’s a character that has so much potential, especially when you consider the staleness that has become Tony Stark. If Miles can live alongside Peter, there’s no reason Riri cannot live alongside Tony. And by that, we mean they can be completely utilized. 

Tony is returning, and Bendis is leaving; this almost seems like Riri’s departure as well. But that shouldn’t be so — it should be a perfect reason to advance her character, to put her into the hands of a creative team that will push her further than Bendis possibly could.

Finding a Home for Riri

Like Jessica, Riri needs to be handled with proper care. She cannot be given a throwaway series for a quick cash grab. A creative team needs to be properly considered and put together, and she needs to be woven into the Marvel Universe, solidifying her purpose and importance. Putting her on a team like Champions is a decent idea, but she deserves more. We want to see Riri working alongside Captain Marvel and America Chavez. She’s intelligent enough to be up in space, dealing with cosmic anomalies.

But who could comprise this creative team? Marvel doesn’t have the most diverse cast of writers, so this is a perfect opportunity to expand the works of those they do have. Or, of course, it’s a time to invite new diverse creators to the team. We’d be interested to see what Roxane Gay could do with Riri, as her run with BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA has been deep.

Then there’s Al Ewing, writer of ULTIMATES, who has been quoted saying more diverse characters are in need of representation to reflect the world at large. But really, this is a good opportunity for Marvel to give a young (maybe non-white male) creator the chance to prove themselves.

But, of course, this also applies to Bendis’ most popular creation: Miles Morales.

Miles Morales

Brian Michael Bendis
From ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics.

Being Brian Michael Bendis’ brainchild and one the last fragments of the Ultimate universe, Miles Morales’ fate is on everyone’s minds. The new Spider-Man has been vital in past events such as SECRET EMPIRE and SECRET WARS. He’s been making an impact as a young black and Latino hero. Each story and role turns him into a fan favorite, so much that he’s now present in video games and his own upcoming animated movie.

Bendis has been at the helm for all of Miles’ sole stories, from when he was an upstart in the Ultimate universe, to the full-on hero he is today. Each issue expands on the weight of responsibility and power for Miles and his close friends and family. This shows there is more to being a hero than just the power. The question, however, is: where will the story of Miles go with Bendis gone? The groundwork and drama have been laid out; now all that is left is to use the pieces.

Miles’ Life Needs to Get More Personal

The SPIDER-MAN series has dealt with the consequences and responsibility that comes with being a hero for Miles, albeit with less action than some titles. It has been stagnant at times, due to various company-wide events that would put Miles at the center of the action. While this put a spotlight on the young hero, it would take away from the impact of his own title. But with a new writer inevitably coming on board, this may be the time to introduce new, original villains. 

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Miles has been taking on Black Cat, Hammerhead, and other Spider-Man villains. But only a small few have fought him on a more personal level since his days in the Ultimate Universe. Now would be optimal to give him a new rogues gallery, all while taking on lesser-known villains from the past. A balance of mature growth and off the walls action would do a world of good for Miles, and thanks to Bendis laying the blueprint, we can see him taken to new heights.

As for who can take the reigns from Brian Michael Bendis, some fans are looking at David Walker, current writer for LUKE CAGE. With no offense to Bendis, it would be refreshing to have a POC writer take over and write Miles. This would add more emotion and connection to his tales.

Walker’s works, ranging from POWER MAN AND IRON FIST to OCCUPY AVENGERS, combine rich story and character development with in-depth action sequences. The writer could give Miles new enemies to face. He could also add new, daring environments and situations to get himself in. Walker would be an amazing choice to take over for SPIDER-MAN, but time will tell if this is where Marvel goes.

Looking Towards the Future

Brian Michael Bendis has done so much for Marvel. It’s incredibly sad to see him leave the company, but it’s humbling to know it was on good terms. Change is good. This goes for what Bendis will do at DC and what Marvel will do in his absence.

There is now a lot of room for creators at Marvel to step up and flex their stuff. But really, the ball is in Marvel’s court: the non-traditional talent is there and ripe. Will Marvel take the chance we, as fans, want it to take? We should find out in 2018.

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