For over a decade and a half, Brian Michael Bendis has been one of Marvel Comics’ biggest architects. He’s penned sprawling stories for a number of the publisher’s flagship books, including multiple Avengers titles and a contemporary take on the classic X-Men roster. He left huge stamps on iconic characters such as Spider-Man, Iron-Man and Daredevil. And then there are the events Bendis led the charge on, such as Secret Invasion and Civil War II, each of which reshaped Marvel’s status quo in one way or another.
Bendis also helped Marvel take massive strides in terms of character diversity, making him one of modern comics most progressive writers. Characters such as Miles Morales, Riri Williams and Jessica Jones were introduced to the Marvel Universe, bringing with them greater racial and gender representation. With all this said, it’s easy understand why his impending switch to DC Comics shocked the comic book industry. Love him or hate him, Bendis is a coup for DC, having made a lasting impact on Marvel since debuting on Ultimate Spider-Man in 2000. It only makes sense, then, that we look back at his biggest hits — so far.
Though he’d already made a name for himself on Ultimate Spider-Man, it was 2004’s Secret War, drawn by Gabriele Dell’Otto, that perhaps held the first indication Bendis was ready for the big leagues. The black-ops story saw Nick Fury go into hiding after brainwashing the likes of Captain America, Luke Cage and Wolverine into attacking Latveria. Bendis, backed by Dell’Otto’s moody art, produced one of comics’ most riveting political thrillers, ever. A year later, Bendis would further redefine the Marvel landscape with House of M using artist Olivier Coipel, where the highly-volatile Scarlet Witch created an alternate reality for heroes and villains alike.
Things, however, came crashing down for her, and with three words — “No More Mutants” — Bendis de-powered a large chunk of Marvel’s most popular characters. It was a bold story that helped pave the way for other seismic events, including 2008’s Secret Invasion with artist Leinil Yu, which brought a long-planned Skrull infiltration of Earth full-circle, and also reunited the then-fragmented trinity of Thor, Iron Man and Captain America (well, in the form of Bucky Barnes that is).
Then came 2010’s Siege (with Coipel on art once again) which brought Steve Rogers back into the Avengers fold as Captain America following his “death” in Civil War, and helped to end Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign over the Marvel Universe. These stories illustrated that Bendis was never scared of pushing the envelope and served to remind the heroes that they were always stronger together, eventually ushering in The Heroic Age at Marvel.
Bendis used 2004’s Avengers: Disassembled as the catalyst to reshape the Avengers universe for a new century. This event splintered the team by taking the likes of Thor off the table, and killing Hawkeye at the hands of a Kree armada. Bendis used this as a springboard to usher in a new generation of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes via The New Avengers, adding Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and, in a then-shocking move, Wolverine to the Avengers family. These were controversial changes, but they resulted in another hit, revitalizing the Avengers roster.
Bendis extended his magic to books like The Mighty Avengers and their evil counterparts, the Dark Avengers, which evolved when Norman Osborn’s H.A.M.M.E.R. replaced S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of Secret Invasion. Bendis had a ball subverting the heroes we knew like Tony Stark and Carol Danvers into public enemies, with the likes of Bullseye masquerading as Hawkeye and Daken as Wolverine.
Bendis also knocked it out the park on All New X-Men, which saw Professor Xavier’s First Class of mutant students transported to the present. The highlight of this was the young Bobby Drake aka Iceman controversially coming out as gay, with Bendis using this arc as a message of inclusivity and acceptance. He also delivered on Guardians of the Galaxy, where he had heroes like Iron Man, Angela and Kitty Pryde joining the likes of Star Lord, Gamora and Rocket Raccoon in their space adventures, reiterating that no matter the team, Bendis could do them justice.
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