WARNING: This article contains spoilers for The Defenders #9 by Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez, in stores now.
Ever since November, the collective Marvel fandom has been getting ready to bid writer longtime scribe Brian Michael Bendis farewell. After writing for Marvel for nearly 18 years, providing a guiding hand for every Marvel character, from Daredevil and Jessica Jones to the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers, the writer is headed for the DC Universe. After helping to launch the Ultimate line with his and artist Mark Bagley's now-classic Ultimate Spider-Man run, and spearheading the Avengers titles for a long time, taking them from one big event to the next, Bendis is moving on to a new universe.
But before heading to DC, Bendis has been putting the finishing touches on his current Marvel series. But rather than leave quietly, Bendis has a few tricks up his sleeve before he departs Marvel completely. In The Defenders #9, his penultimate chapter on his, artist David Marquez and colorist Justin Ponsor's series, Bendis bids farewell to Marvel with an Easter egg that is most fitting.
During a scene set inside a New York City police station, Bendis himself makes a cameo appearance, as he gets escorted by two police officers who appear to be David Marquez and Justin Ponsor. The entire creative gang is all here, but it's Bendis' dialogue that seals the genius of this Easter egg: "A 17-year running gag is not easy to pull off!"
This is a reference to the writer's now famous predilection for writing scenes set in police stations involving at least one "crazy" character screaming something meta, a running gag that fans of Bendis' Marvel work have been privy to for nearly two decades. Starting with his run on Ultimate Spider-Man, Bendis would pepper any scene set in a police station with a lunatic being escorted by officers. More often than not, said lunatic would be wearing a costume, and spouting off about crazy nonsense -- but it wasn't nonsense at all. These ramblings would actually always refer to a Marvel event, one that was coming very soon, or currently unfolding.
Throughout the years, we've seen a man in a Nova uniform reference The Thanos Imperative, a woman dressed as Echo who hinted at Secret Invasion, a woman in a Scarlet Witch costume who called to House of M, and someone dressed as Ms. Marvel who screamed about the incursions of Secret Wars. Others have referenced Civil War, or even DC events such as The Flash Rebirth and the DC Rebirth relaunch itself.
Over time, these little appearances became a signature running gag for Bendis, and the writer saved his best joke for last. This time, the lunatic in handcuffs is himself, spouting off about one of his greatest tricks and meta-signatures. Bendis, signing off from Marvel, has dropped the mic on his way out.
But Bendis also couldn't help himself from leaving his fans with one final hint. Following the panel of himself being dragged off by his collaborators, the writer found room to include one more police station prediction. This time, with energy emanating from her eyes, a woman screams about the death of the Elders of the Cosmos, claiming there is "no such thing as a dead universe." Is this one more hint that the Ultimate Universe is returning?
Bendis didn't want to just sign off by acknowledging his running gag -- he left us with one more tease, one final question. Now, as Bendis gets ready to depart the publisher, we're left looking to the stars, wondering what's coming next for the Marvel Universe.