Brian Michael Bendis is a critically acclaimed, fan-favorite comic book writer who has won five Eisner Awards, four Wizard awards and three Comics Buyer’s Guide Awards. Bendis has made a name for himself as one of the best comic book writers of the last 20 years, most notably working for Marvel Comics. He has written for some of Marvel’s most iconic characters and he’s created a number of his own critically-acclaimed characters.
In addition to his work in the comic book industry, Brian Michael Bendis has written for video games, television, film and in 2014, published the book “Words for Pictures” on his work in the comic book industry. Here are the 15 best comic books written by Brian Michael Bendis!
15. INVINCIBLE IRON MAN
In 2016, Marvel launched “Invincible Iron Man” vol. 2 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez to take replace “Superior Iron Man” by Tom Taylor and Yildiray Cinar. This series introduced Riri Williams who would go on to take over for Tony Stark as Ironheart, and feature Mary Jane Watson as Tony’s new assistant. This book was the first time Brian Michael Bendis had taken an Iron Man solo title.
Bendis is well-known for his ability to write realistic dialogue. His take on Tony Stark mirrors Robert Downey Jr’s quick wit and snarky humor from the MCU brilliantly, but more importantly, Tony is portrayed with the brilliance, arrogance and occasional self-loathing that makes the MCU Iron Man such a beloved character. The series manages to feature blockbuster action, emotional depth and often hilarious humor. In the first issue, we even get to see Tony Start and Doctor Strange high-five over being “Awesome Facial Hair Bros!” What more could you ask for?
14. ALL NEW X-MEN
“All-New X-Men” written by Bendis and drawn by Stuart Immonen and later Brandon Peterson, took over as Marvel’s flagship X-Men series from “Uncanny X-Men” vol. 2 in November 2012. It featured the original X-Men team of Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Jean Grey, who are pulled into the present day from the past to confront their future counterparts. The series features three factions of X-Men with the original team, Wolverine’s team and Cyclops’ team all interacting with each other.
The various X-Men storylines had become a bit convoluted before this title, so it served as a good jumping on point for readers new to X-Men comics. With so many of the X-Men characters going different ways, turning evil or dying, “All-New X-Men” was used as a way to simplify things and bring characters like Cyclops and Jean Grey back to their roots, and allow them to continue as heroes in the Marvel universe.
13. UNITED STATES OF MURDER INC.
“United States of Murder Inc.” takes Brian Michael Bendis back to his roots as a writer of crime fiction with an alternate world that is set in an America where the five organized crime families control the nation, having never lost their hold on the country. “United States of Murder Inc” was a six-issue miniseries beginning in 2014, drawn by Michael Avon Oeming. It follows Valentine Gallo on the day he becomes a “made man” and learns that his mother literally birthed him just to infiltrate the FBI for the mob.
Brian Michael Bendis is probably more well-known to casual comic book readers for his superhero work in Marvel, but “United States of Murder Inc” is one of his creator-owned works in the crime noir genre that he excels at. Bendis also has a tendency to take great care in pairing the right artists with the right projects and Michael Avon Oeming proves his worth with a beautiful unique style that keeps you turning the page just for the art.
Brian Michael Bendis’ “Hellspawn” with art by Ashley Wood is the continuation of Todd MacFarlane’s “Spawn,” but it takes a much darker, more disturbing approach. Spawn is an antihero who was originally called Al Simmons before he was murdered and sent to Hell. He makes a deal with an evil being and is allowed to return to Earth, now with unearthly powers. “Spawn” has never been a comic book for kids, but this volume takes that to a whole new level.
“Hellspawn” blends a unique minimalistic art style with a deep and remorseful story to try to create an atmosphere of pain. It’s an experimental work for sure, that aims to make the reader relate to the confusion, pain and remorse that Spawn himself feels throughout his journey in the book, and it’s a goal that’s quickly met and exceeded. Without giving too much away, you want Spawn to take certain paths in the story, because you know he deserves it, and when he turns another way, you completely understand his reasoning and the regret it brings him.
11. HOUSE OF M
“House of M” was the story that nearly wiped out all the mutants on Earth. Brian Michael Bendis wrote this eight-issue limited series with art by Olivier Coipel as the core story of a major Marvel Comics event as a follow-up to the “Planet X” and “Avengers Disassembled” event storylines. It takes place in an alternate Marvel universe, separate from Marvel-616, created by Scarlet Witch, where Magneto was made leader of the world’s mutants on the sovereign island of Genosha, and the status quo of society is reversed, in that mutants are the dominant species and non-powered humans (or Sapiens) are seen as inferior and despised.
After a battle between a rogue group of heroes and Magneto’s royal family, Scarlet Witch learns the truth about this new reality and whispers, “No more mutants,” which reverts reality back to normal except that the mutant population has dropped from millions to only a few hundred. The effects of “House of M” played into several other Marvel events including “Secret Invasion” and “Secret Wars” and the effects of Scarlet Witch’s declaration are still being felt in the comics to this day.
“Scarlet” is another example of one of Brian Michael Bendis’ creator-owned works, although this one is published by Marvel Comics’ Icon imprint. The series had an irregular publishing schedule with 10 issues being spread out between 2010 and 2016, but it developed enough of a following to get a finale and currently has a tv series in development at Cinemax. The story follows a young woman named Scarlet Rue who starts a modern American Revolution when her boyfriend is shot by a corrupt police officer and she sets out to expose the corruption of people in power abusing their authority.
“Scarlet” is a hyper-realistic mirror of American society today, when things are pushed so far by the authoritarians in power that the people refuse to take it anymore and rise up against them. Though Bendis is mostly known for being a great storyteller with his work in superhero comics, it’s books like this one that show he really has something more to say about the world.
Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman, has been around since 1977, but she’s spent most of her career as background support to other more popular characters, even though fans always seem to enjoy her appearances. Jessica Drew initially left behind the “Spider-Woman” name to Julia Carpenter in 1984, but Brian Michael Bendis brought her back to high-profile status in “New Avengers” with art by David Finch in 2006, and then in 2009, he wrote a seven-issue limited series “Spider-Woman” with art by Alex Maleev.
In the series, Jessica is recruited by S.W.O.R.D., an organization created to protect the world from alien threats. She faces off against multiple Skrulls posing as Earth heroes, HYDRA and the new Thunderbolts, before being given more opportunities with S.W.O.R.D. The series helped to flesh out Jessica more as an independent character after being returned to prominence in “New Avengers,” which is something Bendis continually excels at with solo titles.
8. NEW AVENGERS
“New Avengers” debuted in 2005 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and penciler David Finch. The team initially consisted of Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, a Skrull posing as Spider-Woman and Luke Cage as the team’s leader, but in the second volume, Victoria Hand, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Mockingbird, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers), Spider-Man, The Thing and Wolverine comprised the team with Luke Cage still acting as leader. Different heroes rotated in and out, giving Bendis the chance to have lots of different characters interact and work together.
The team does not actually refer to themselves as the “New Avengers” but rather consider themselves the real Avengers. They formed the splinter group that chose not to comply with the federal superhuman registration act. Bendis has stated in interviews that they are the real Avengers, because Captain America said they were. The series was fun and action-packed, bringing together characters that wouldn’t normally interact, and that you wouldn’t see in a regular “Avengers” book.
7. MOON KNIGHT
Bendis did something unusual with his run on “Moon Knight,” which is really saying something when you’re talking about Marc Spector, the schizophrenic, hallucinating, vengeful fist of an Egyptian god. In this volume, Moon Knight is working closely with Captain America, Spider-Man and Wolverine, with one notable issue: they’re all figments of his imagination. The characters occasionally appear to him as physical beings, disembodied voices that guide him in battle and even fellow fighters when Moon Knight dons homemade claws and a shield to fight in the persona of Wolverine or Captain America.
Bendis’ “Moon Knight” serves as a good jumping-on point for fans who aren’t familiar with the conflicted hero, as it doesn’t carry the baggage of the previous series with it and sends Marc Spector to the new setting of Los Angeles. Even if a reader opened the book not knowing Marc Spector is insane, they would figure it out within the first issue. It’s violent, fun and a little unhinged: everything a good “Moon Knight” book should be.
6. SAM AND TWITCH
“Sam and Twitch” with art by Ashley Wood and Alex Maleev, was a spinoff series of Todd McFarlane’s “Spawn,” a character Bendis had previously written for in “Hellspawn.” Sam Burke and Maximilian “Twitch” Williams are N.Y.P.D. homicide detectives first at odds with Spawn, but eventually formed a mutual respect and would occasionally work together. Sam is a large, gruff, take-action type often seen as the brawn of the duo, while Twitch is the brains. Twitch tends to be the one to solve complex problems or put together clues to track down criminals, and he’s a master marksman with his signature twin pistols.
Brian Michael Bendis has a passion for crime noir and character dramas, both of which are on full display in his work on “Sam and Twitch.” The series is often gruesome, like any good “Spawn” book, but features a lot of Brian Michael Bendis’ signature humor, especially between the two main characters. Even for readers who have never picked up a “Spawn” book, “Sam and Twitch” is compulsory reading.
5. MILES MORALES: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
Miles Morales was, if nothing else, an extremely risky character. After killing off the most beloved character in comic book history (not in the main universe obviously), 13-year-old Miles Morales took up the mantle of Spider-Man after gaining powers in a very similar way. It was such a risky move, in fact, that when citizens of New York start encountering the All-New Spider-Man after Peter Parker’s death, most of them scold him with something like, “Dude, that’s in bad taste.”
Luckily, thanks to the fantastic character writing of Brian Michael Bendis and art by Sara Pichelli, that risk paid off in droves with Miles Morales becoming such a popular character that he was even brought over to the main Marvel-616 universe following 2015’s “Secret Wars.” The original volume “Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man” is a coming-of-age tale just like Peter Parker’s story, but with the added weight of having to live up to the name of one of the world’s greatest heroes and at such a young age, which makes the tale that much more compelling.
Brian Michael Bendis’ run on “Daredevil” (with art by Alex Maleev) from 2001 to 2006 was one of the most influential runs for the character since Frank Miller’s turn in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Even Netflix’s award-winning “Daredevil” show resembles the Bendis era, from the use of Claire Temple as Night Nurse to the heroes to the brutal, bare-knuckle brawling style of the show’s hero. It took Daredevil’s status as Marvel’s “street level” character and really dove into the gritty realism of street crime in a way that only Bendis can.
The run was full of twists and turns that would change “Daredevil” comics and the Marvel universe at large forever, but none bigger than the outing of Matt Murdock’s secret identity as Daredevil to the world in issue #32. It complicates Matt’s life in hundreds of ways, not the least of which is the fallout with his friend, Foggy Nelson, when he finds out along with the rest of the world. Bendis and Maleev’s run is full of brilliant character work, gritty realism, brutal action and a massive amount of red-suited fun.
“Powers” is writer Brian Michael Bendis’ and artist Michael Avon Oeming’s series about two homicide detectives, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, who are assigned to investigate cases involving people with superhuman abilities who are referred to as “powers.” It was Brian Michael Bendis’ first “superhero comic,” and according to some fans of the long-running book, still one of his best. He had an intense love for the superhero genre, but had spent his career up that point writing crime fiction. “Powers” would be the blending of those two genres in an experimental style.
The series has won three Eisner Awards and influenced dozens of series after it. Though the first issue only broke even in the sales requirements for color comics and subsequent issues dwindled in sales from there, the Image comics publisher and head of marketing both enjoyed the book so much that they refused to cancel it, saying, “If we can’t make a book like ‘Powers’ sell, we really should stop making comics.”
Before Jessica Jones was the hard-drinking, rough-demeanor private investigator on Netflix’s “Jessica Jones,” she was a hard-drinking, rough-demeanor private investigator in “Alias” by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos. In “Alias,” Jessica Jones used to be the superhero Jewel, but left that life behind to become a private investigator. It was one of the first “R-rated” Marvel comics published under their “MAX” imprint, and was reported to be one of the reasons the more mature imprint was created.
Much of the 28-issue run is used in the first season of Netflix’s “Jessica Jones,” like her past relationship with Kilgrave, the Purple Man, but their encounters happen a little differently. Being in the comic universe, Jessica Jones interacts much more often with other heroes that licensing issues or budgetary restrictions prevent from appearing in the Netflix show. Jessica Jones went on to join the regular Marvel universe in “The Pulse,” and would eventually marry Luke Cage, fight with the Avengers, and quit drinking and swearing. That’s not likely to happen in the show anytime soon though.
1. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
As of this writing, Brian Michael Bendis’ crowning achievement is actually a retelling of a story that already existed, only this one is even better than the original. In 2000, Marvel enlisted Brian Michael Bendis to take on the origin story of its most popular character in “Ultimate Spider-Man.” It surpasses the original for several reasons. First, the writing is infinitely better than the wooden dialogue writing in the ’60s, but more importantly, Bendis already knows decades of “future” villains in Spidey’s rogues’ gallery, so he deploys them as needed wherever he feels necessary, rather than waiting 20 years to introduce, say, Venom.
He also gets to retell the origins of those characters and how Peter Parker meets them however he likes. Green Goblin, for example, is no longer a man in a suit with a high-tech glider, he’s a massive beastly mutated goblin that’s nearly un-killable. The series follows Peter Parker from just before the origin of his powers to his eventual hero’s death in a tear-jerking scene that’s likely one of the best things ever written in the comic book medium.
Be sure to let us know in the comments which Bendis book is your favorite!
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