By now, you’ve most definitely heard the news about Brian Michael Bendis leaving Marvel. Weeks ago, the former long-time architect of Marvel signed on to write for DC Comics. Even more recently, Bendis had a dramatic brush with death. All of us here at ComicsVerse wish him the best and hope he has a speedy recovery.

The new of Bendis’ departure comes on the heels of other big changes at Marvel. Axel Alonso recently stepped down as Editor-in-Chief with author and editor CB Cebulski taking his place. One of the big questions still on everyone’s mind is this: what does this mean for Marvel? They’ve been in a bit of a slump for a while now. Will Bendis’ departure come as a crushing blow for them in their losing battle against DC Comics?

Frankly, Brian Michael Bendis leaving Marvel is great. Marvel has been trying to use him as a crutch lately, but that hasn’t really been working out. With Bendis gone and Marvel’s Legacy lineup still going strong, Marvel has the opportunity to really shake up their line of comic books. Whether or not they seize that opportunity remains to be seen.

Why Bendis Will Be Missed

This isn’t to say I’m entirely thrilled about Brian Michael Bendis leaving Marvel. It’s more bittersweet. He’s been the source of some truly fantastic work in the last 18 years. So, before I examine why it’s so great that Bendis is leaving Marvel, it’s important for me to first chart out his rise and decline as one of their top writers.

Bendis is probably most notable for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. This series effectively kick-started the entire Ultimate Marvel Universe. In recent years, the series introduced readers to Miles Morales. Bendis’ other most popular creations include Jessica Jones, who debuted in ALIAS, and, more recently, Riri Williams in his run on INVINCIBLE IRON MAN. For more on these characters, check out our recent article about how to fill the void after Bendis’ departure.

Of course, Bendis has worked on much more than those three. Shortly after he started at Marvel, he took over the writing duties for DAREDEVIL. Bendis’ gritty portrayal was very much on par with the work of Frank Miller. Paired with artist Alex Maleev, the dark and mature story rarely missed a beat. Bendis and Maleev also tackled series like SPIDER-WOMAN and MOON KNIGHT.

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Bendis Wrote Some Awesome Avengers Books

The Avengers comics of the 2000s owe a lot to Bendis. He broke up the team and subsequently reformed it several times. His mini-series AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED came as a massive surprise to readers. The story pushed the boundaries of what an Avengers story could be. Following this came THE NEW AVENGERS. Though not without its ups and downs, this series was always fun to read, with a sort of connectedness to the roster that other Avengers teams can’t claim to have.

Brian Michael Bendis Leaving Marvel
From NEW AVENGERS #1. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Bendis wrote two parallel Avengers titles alongside NEW AVENGERS after the events of CIVIL WAR. First came THE MIGHTY AVENGERS, a team of government-sanctioned heroes, including Iron Man and Ms. Marvel. After the SECRET INVASION event, MIGHTY AVENGERS ended, with some characters from that series folding into NEW AVENGERS. In its place came DARK AVENGERS, one of the most unique and creative Avengers series to date.

Bendis’ three Avengers series particularly worked well because they both responded to and set up the numerous event stories that occurred through the 2000s. Many of these event stories were written by Bendis himself.

Bendis Also Wrote Some Insane Crossover Events

Bendis’s event books were all essentially part of a massive story he was building, culminating in SIEGE in 2009. AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED was the first step. Bendis followed up on that with SECRET WAR in 2004. This event sent some of Marvel’s most colorful characters into turf they’d not quite seen before. It also took Nick Fury off the table for a while and put Maria Hill in his place (because we all just love Maria Hill).

Bendis teamed up with artist Olivier Coipel for HOUSE OF M the following year. This story broke the reality of the Marvel Universe — literally. Bendis wrote an incredibly emotional story, with the Scarlet Witch changing the world so that mutants were the dominant species, and humans were a minority. The fallout was huge, leaving many characters in odd places. Bendis’ own NEW AVENGERS dealt with some of the repercussions of the event. It also put Carol Danvers on her path to try and become one of the world’s greatest heroes.

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More Crossovers!

Next up on Bendis’ list came one of the most groundbreaking stories ever written in Marvel’s history. SECRET INVASION shook the core of the Marvel Universe unlike any other story had before. Working with artist Leinil Francis Yu, Bendis unleashed a nonstop thrill-ride about the covert Skrull invasion of Earth. The story dealt with a lot of character trust issues, was filled with fun plot twists, and made readers question almost everything they thought they knew about the Marvel Universe.

Brian Michael Bendis Leaving Marvel
From SECRET INVASION #6. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

At the end of SECRET INVASION, Bendis put Norman Osborn in charge of things. Thus, the “Dark Reign” era began, which culminated in SIEGE. The event focused on Osborn’s attempt to conquer Asgard. The event ran four action-packed issues, and that’s all it needed. SIEGE was the well-deserved ending to the story Bendis had been writing since AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED. It brought an end to the Superhero Registration Act and ushered in the Heroic Age.

Where Bendis Started Losing Steam

After writing such an explosive lineup of titles, it would have been all-too-appropriate for Bendis to relax and write some smaller books for a while. But that’s not what happened. Bendis’ work following SIEGE was essentially the beginning of his decline at Marvel.

What could most likely be blamed for Bendis’ content deterioration was that he started taking on more and more work. In Bendis’ long history with Marvel, his clunkier moments began after 2009. He continued writing about three or more titles at a time, which is fine. It’s nice to see a writer being able to handle so much all at once. However, at this point, it seems like Marvel realized Bendis’ potential as a writer and maybe started expecting more from him. That kind of pressure usually tends to cause a dip in quality.

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Bendis started new volumes of AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS as part of the Heroic Age at Marvel. While these series were enjoyable and filled with great writing and artwork, they seemed to lack some of the inspiration of the original NEW AVENGERS. On top of these two AVENGERS books, Bendis was still writing ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. This was also when he briefly picked up MOON KNIGHT. At the same time as Bendis’ numerous series were going on, he also took on a few more event books.

Ultron

AGE OF ULTRON was one such event. This story was a huge miss. It had a fantastic premise and huge potential. With the world having been taken over by Ultron, the remaining heroes were reluctant and scared to take meaningful action against him. Once they finally did, things went completely sideways. From there, the story quickly lost its sense of identity. It lost focus of what was going on and needlessly bounced around in its latter half. Again, part of this loss of focus likely came from Bendis trying to do too much at once.

Brian Michael Bendis Leaving Marvel
From AVENGERS 12.1. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

By the end, the story couldn’t regain that focus. It ultimately retcons itself, with the only meaningful consequences being the introduction of Angela into the Marvel Universe, and Galactus being tossed into the Ultimate Universe. The more and more I think about AGE OF ULTRON, it feels more and more like Bendis’ grand setup for CATACLYSM. This whole process certainly worked, but it also somehow felt a bit cheap. It also didn’t excuse this event from failing to live up to all its potential.

Bendis’ More Recent Hiccups

Once “Marvel NOW!” began, Bendis started writing ALL-NEW X-MEN, UNCANNY X-MEN, and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Though fans were initially excited to see where the X-MEN titles went, the books didn’t last very long. Fans thought the stories fell flat too quickly, and they lost interest. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was received similarly. Though the “Marvel NOW!” content was received well, the post-SECRET WARS content was not. Fans thought the characters fell out of focus in the “All-New, All-Different Marvel” era.

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Recently, his work on his primary characters has been strong, but they’re starting to feel repetitive. Especially in the case of Miles Morales. Bendis has now been writing Spider-Man (whether it be Peter or Miles) for almost 18 years. It’s no surprise that it’s faltering. After writing a character for so long, it can become difficult to consistently shake things up issue after issue.

CIVIL WAR II was another Bendis event story that got a lot of hype and showed incredible potential. Compared to AGE OF ULTRON, CIVIL WAR II told a much better story. By the end, though, it felt so underwhelming. The stakes had no relevance, the ending was extremely cheap, and there were little to no immediate repercussions.

Why Brian Michael Bendis Leaving Marvel Will Be Great for Everyone

It feels like Bendis has been in a creative rut lately. He’s still been producing tons of great content. Bendis always writes strong dialogue in his books and matches that with fitting action sequences, but it’s not as well-balanced as it used to be. The dialogue feels more expositional than it should, and there aren’t enough surprises to keep readers interested. The stories are becoming less about the characters and are trying too hard to be shocking and exhilarating. There’s not much of a reason to care about those shocks and twists without those great character-driven moments.

That’s why Brian Michael Bendis leaving Marvel is going to help everyone. Bendis will be able to start anew. His writing style, if matched with the proper characters, could bring a lot of meaningful change to the DC roster. He also has the opportunity to evolve his style and make it better than before. Bendis has always been great with innovation, both in terms of evolving existing characters and developing brand new ones. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to hear about him introducing some newbies to the DC Universe.

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Shifting Spotlight

On Marvel’s side, they should definitely be pleased with Brian Michael Bendis leaving. They can stop using him as a crutch and let other creators shine. Mark Waid, Jason Aaron, and Gerry Duggan have essentially been the “Big Three” at Marvel recently, which is both good and bad. They’ve all been producing great work lately. Waid’s AVENGERS, CHAMPIONS, and CAPTAIN AMERICA series have all been very enjoyable thus far. Jason Aaron has been writing THOR for a few years now, as well as covering a few STAR WARS books. Gerry Duggan’s DEADPOOL has been hysterical since the first issue back in 2012.

Brian Michael Bendis Leaving Marvel
Cover to CAPTAIN AMERICA #695. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

The problem with Waid, Aaron, and Duggan is that they were already big before the announcement of Brian Michael Bendis leaving Marvel. There’s a large catalog of other creators who deserve the spotlight, even more-so now that Bendis is leaving.

The Authors That Deserve More

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ BLACK PANTHER has received acclaim from critics and fans alike since it began after 2015’s SECRET WARS. Charles Soule’s DAREDEVIL run has definitely been on par with the works of Bendis, Waid, and Ed Brubaker (who really needs a comeback at Marvel). Ed Brisson has also shown a bit of promise recently, picking up both OLD MAN LOGAN and IRON FIST.

Margaret Stohl has been delivering a great character-driven story in CAPTAIN MARVEL. David F. Walker’s POWER MAN AND IRON FIST was a huge hit, and his LUKE CAGE series has been pretty solid thus far. And Gabby Rivera’s AMERICA has been an impactful fan-favorite series for months now. These are just a handful of creators that should be tapped more often now with Brian Michael Bendis leaving Marvel. They could do a lot to elevate the quality of the content Marvel puts out.

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Also, would it kill Marvel to try bringing Jonathan Hickman back? He did some really great work on AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS not too long ago. It was the bee’s knees. Just saying.

Brian Michael Bendis Leaving Marvel: A Marvel Without Bendis?

Of course, there’s still the matter of replacing Bendis, in terms of his current series. Again, this is something our recent article addressed. Bendis has already hinted at an unnamed female creator taking over for JESSICA JONES, which sounds very promising.

In terms of handling event stories, I’d like to see more from Marvel in the ways of what Jonathan Hickman did leading up to SECRET WARS and what Nick Spencer did leading up to SECRET EMPIRE. I love having a regular series, such as AVENGERS or CAPTAIN AMERICA, act as a focus for the build-up to a grand event book. Something like this from Margaret Stohl’s CAPTAIN MARVEL or Dan Slott’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN could work really well.

Regardless of what happens, there’s no doubt it’ll be an intriguing process. It should be fun to see who takes over for Bendis and where those creators will take his characters.

With Brian Michael Bendis leaving Marvel, it’ll be interesting to see him strut his stuff over at DC Comics. Having Bendis at Marvel for the past 18 years has been a delicious treat. He’s delivered some truly exceptional storytelling. But whatever comes next for him, other creators, and comic book characters alike, I’ll be eagerly following the action.

Finally, everyone at ComicsVerse continues to root for Mr. Bendis’ health and speedy recovery! Brian Michael Bendis leaving Marvel makes for huge news, but everyone’s health and happiness comes before how lucky we will be to read his work!

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One Comment

  1. Mario Caraballo

    Mario Caraballo

    January 3, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    seee yaaaa

    Reply

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