The 13 best Marvel stories by Brian Michael Bendis

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Nov 8, 2017

Longtime Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis is taking his talents to DC Comics. For 17 years, Bendis changed the face of Marvel Comics, helping the company usher in an age of dominance in the marketplace and in the hearts of fans during the early 2000s. Then, his work and era would be instrumental in influencing the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In addition to his comics inspiring many other comic creators, Bendis served as a consultant for Marvel Studios to ensure that the films didn't stray too far from comics continuity.

We can't wait to see what Bendis has up his sleeve for DC and their many imprints (in fact, we have our own wish list), but before he goes across the street, let's take another look back at some of his best contributions for the House of Ideas. Also, be sure to check out our longform Behind The Panel Interview with Bendis below.

Avengers (2004)

This was Bendis introduction to the center stage of the Marvel Universe. Up to this point he was isolated in the Ultimate Universe, the MAX imprint, and in Hell’s Kitchen, but what he did on Avengers either put him in the bullseye of fan rage or put him on a new level of greatness because he got people to care about the Avengers again.

The Avengers roster as we knew it — with Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and others — was forever changed when Jack of Hearts explodes at the Avengers mansion. This attack is followed up by Doctor Doom controlling Wanda to cause damage and friction to the team on several accounts. It was an absolute bloodbath. The deaths of many classic Avengers like the Vision and especially Hawkeye divided readers but it was just the beginning of many changes to the Avengers-related books

Aside from the Kurt Busiek and George Perez run of the Avengers, post "Heroes Reborn," it had been a mess of a book for most of the 1990s when the X-Men were cemented as the flagship Marvel team book. Suddenly, all eyes were back on the Avengers after the status quo was stagnant for years. "Avengers: Disassembled" would kick off a restructured roster and new launches for Captain America, Iron Man, the Young Avengers and The Thunderbolts.

New Avengers (2005-2010) & New Avengers: Illuminati

Post-Disassembled, Bendis didn't just shake up the roster of the Avengers, he changed the chemistry of the team dynamic, bringing in Spider-Man and Wolverine into the team when others didn’t dare to. Luke Cage was also brought in and Bendis continued to develop the character out of his exploitative beginnings into a character that belonged on Marvel’s A-Team. Let’s not forget Spider-Woman, The Sentry and Carol Danvers, who all had memorable stints with the team under Bendis’ watch.

Perhaps some of the more controversial elements that Bendis introduced in the New Avengers were the seeds of the Secret Invasion story and the introduction of the Illuminati (Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Namor, Black Bolt, Charles Xavier and Doctor Strange) as this group of heroes that have been working behind the scenes of the Marvel Universe since the first Kree-Skrull War. This would be the group responsible for sending Hulk out into outer space, introducing the Superhuman Registration Act, and inspiring villains to answer with a roundtable of evil called The Cabal.

House of M (2005)

The beginning of the end of Mutants in the Marvel Universe as we knew it forever changed in this "Avengers Disassembled" fallout story. Scarlet Witch is pushed to a mental breakdown and creates an entire reality to bring back her lost children. It was her spell, "No More Mutants," that rocked the Marvel U, reducing the mutant population from the millions to hundreds. Of all of the events that Bendis was a part of (and there were many), "House of M" made the most impact on the Marvel Universe, and looking back is still the most memorable.

Powers (2004-Current)

Bendis didn't start his fan-favorite supernatural procedural comic at Marvel’s Icon, but he did bring it over from Image Comics along with his partner in crime, Mike Avon Oeming, to become the imprint’s first creator-owned title. Since then, they published 41 more issues (Volumes 2 and 3) and a year's worth of the spinoff Powers: Bureau, taking detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim to places that fans didn't expect. Like, giving Deena powers and making her the prime suspect of a case.

There are some fans who preferred the indie side of Bendis’ writing and held onto to these issues of Powers (and another creator-owned title with Maleev called Scarlett) as the last remnants of that Bendis that built his early following.

Amidst all of the titles Bendis worked on for Marvel, he maintained his creator-owned endeavors through Icon, launching The United States of Murder Inc., the all-ages Oeming with Taki Soma, and Brilliant with Mark Bagley. The popularity of Powers continues to build and after a failed attempt to bring it to life on the FX Network, Bendis and Oeming finally got to see a TV series loosely based on the early issues of Powers on the Sony Playstation Network.

The United States of Murder Inc. (2014-2015)

The United States of Murder Inc. was another Bendis and Oeming production that was set in its own world and again tapped into that classic Bendis crime fiction, which captured a lot of hearts and minds when he was first breaking into the industry. Murder Inc followed Valentine Gallo, a man who was literally conceived to one day infiltrate the FBI for the mob. It was only six issues long but it showed that Bendis could still dip into the creative well and do something that wasn’t superhero-related.

Ultimate Spider-Man (2000-2015)

In the modern era, how often do you see an artist and writer team pump out a mainstream monthly book for ten years straight?

It’s extremely rare, but Bendis and artist Mark Bagley did exactly that on Ultimate Spider-Man. Launching the Ultimate Universe was a daunting task. How could one take the history of the Marvel Universe, specifically the Spider-Man corner, and update it to a contemporary story and time period? Would it bring in new readers? Would readers of the main 616 Universe read this?

Boy, did they ever! The title became the blueprint for how to approach the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What could be tweaked by today’s sensibilities? What could be developed better? What stories deserved to be adapted?

It honored the classic stories by icons like Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr. and many more but recaptured the energy of those classic runs for a new generation. Some of the character designs were updated (Electro!) while others were revamped completely (Green Goblin) but it was still the dynamic storytelling and seeing Parker as a teenager again that made it, at times, better than the issues of Amazing Spider-Man that were published at the time. And Bendis’ Mary Jane was memorable. His original run would go on to inspire video games, an animated series, and be the cornerstone of the Ultimate universe, while bits and pieces of it landed in the feature films.

Bagley would eventually stay on board until issue #111 but Bendis continued on through #160, before two more volumes in which he went beyond the initial concept of the title and introduced Parker’s successor: Miles Morales. Morales would get his own strong fan following, and once the Ultimate Universe ended he was brought into the main 616-Marvel Universe.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2013-2017)

While he never established GOTG, Bendis took all of the previous incarnations along with the revered Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning run and solidified voice of the series and cast while the MCU films rise in popularity climbed. He strengthened Peter Quill/Star-Lord’s voice, captured that wonderful team dynamic, and brought some touching moments for Gamora and Captain Marvel too.

If someone came off the streets looking for Guardians of the Galaxy comics after seeing the film, Bendis’ run would be the primer, whereas Abnett/Lanning’s run would open the readers’ minds to all of the high-concept, cosmic madness that Guardians can go to. But sometimes you need that bridge to greatness and that was Bendis’ run.

Scarlet (2010-2016)

Currently being developed for premium cable, Scarlet began as an Icon comic created by Bendis and Alex Maleev, centering on a woman whose boyfriend was shot by a bad cop. Scarlet Rue takes on the deep corruption of authoritative figures and the abuse of power. Bendis and Maleev took some great time to tell ten issues' worth of story over the course of six years, but it remains on the pulse of the what is going on in our current society and as it imagines what happens when the public can no longer take it and begins a new revolution.

Ultimate Team-Up (2001-2002)

With comics still having that dark and grim theme, the Ultimate universe was just fun. Part of that fun came with another title launched in the imprint when Bendis came up with Ultimate Team-Up, because it grew the Ultimate landscape out from what was just Spider-Man and Fantastic Four at the time to far beyond. He introduced so many characters that made their Ultimate debut like Hulk, Iron Man, Daredevil, Punisher, Doctor Strange and even Shang-Chi, with the idea that readers would be able to experience the discovery of these characters again through the eyes of Ultimate Spider-Man.

What was most interesting was that each team-up was drawn by a different artist, which influenced the tone of each meeting. We got to see Terry Moore drawing Black Widow, Chynna Clugston-Major drawing the X-Men, Jim Mahfood drawing Skrulls, Matt Wagner drawing Sabretooth and Wolverine, and Bill Sienkiewicz drawing the Punisher and Daredevil.

Invincible Iron Man

Last year we were introduced to super-genius and Tony Stark fill-in, RiRi Williams. Invincible Iron Man builds a story around RiRi Williams and her support system made up of her mother, stepdad and best friend Natalie. After her mentor Tony Stark disappears (Civil War II), Williams dons an armor of her own creation to fill the void left in Tony’s absence as Ironheart.

In RiRi, Bendis created a non-tragic, teenage gearhead to look up to that added diversity to the comic racks. Stefano Caselli presented Bendis’ vision with thrills and excitement. To paraphrase Stark in Spider-Man Homecoming, "if you're nothing without that suit, then you shouldn't have it." RiRi is much more beyond the suit and the time and craft by Bendis and Caselli to illuminate that is why the first year of Invincible has been an enjoyable one.

Daredevil (2001-2006)

While DC was exploring the vulnerability of its secrecy and identity with Identity Crisis, Bendis was working on tearing that barrier down by exposing Daredevil’s alter ego, Matt Murdock, to the public. This was the height of a four-year run with Alex Maleev, putting forth a run that was able to step out of the shadows of Frank Miller’s work and stand beside it. There were wonderful moments with many new characters introduced but also with longtime supporting players like Foggy Nelson and Ben Urich. It was paced to perfection and Maleev’s art did so much to establish the tone of Hell’s Kitchen for the modern era. Readers of this run will tell you that it inspired a great deal of Season 1 of Daredevil on Netflix and solidified Daredevil as one of Marvel’s must-read titles.

Alias / Jessica Jones (2001-2004)

Another feat that Bendis performed was pumping new life into Marvel’s mature MAX imprint, creating one of the most unlikely protagonists and creating a beloved character riddled with many flaws. After an embarrassing tryout with the Avengers, Jessica Jones lost herself at the bottom of many bottles of hard liquor and became a fledgling private investigator in hopes of finding some redeeming purpose in her life. She was a character full of complexities, the kind we hadn’t seen roam the Marvel universe.

Her adversary, Zebediah Killgrave, aka The Purple Man, crawled under readers’ skins and minds, showing us that well-written villains still existed in Marvel at a time when it was vogue to see villains shed their evil ways. Before she went all Captain Marvel on us, Carol Danvers was Jessica’s last link to the Avengers and no one could gossip like those two.

This would be the first time that Bendis used Luke Cage in a supportive role to become an unlikely hookup for Jessica that would blossom into romantic and comedic gold, eventually spawning the PG-Alias spinoff, The Pulse, also written by Bendis, where we see Cage and Jessica raising a baby. Of course Jessica’s profile went bonkers when Netflix developed a TV show starring Krysten Ritter and put her beside Luke Cage, Daredevil and Iron Fist in The Defenders this past summer.

With the rise in popularity, Jessica Jones got her own series with her name on it in 2016, reuniting Bendis with artist Michael Gaydos, and now we will see if someone picks up his creation to add something new to her legacy. Jessica Jones went an awful long way from that embarrassing tryout and she’s one of Bendis’ best creations.

Daredevil End of Days (2012-2013)

Billed as a Dark Knight Returns story for Daredevil, Bendis put an eight-issue mini-series that gave us the last moments of Matthew Murdock, with appearances of his rogues, surviving loved ones and many more. Daredevil and Bullseye have one last fight to the death and his final word before he breathed his last gasp of air was “Mapone.” Ben Urich, working with what’s left of The Daily Bugle, starts investigating what "Mapone" means and visits all of those key members of Murdock’s life one-by-one, slowly unraveling this last mystery.

Bendis co-wrote End of Days with longtime friend and collaborator writer/artist David Mack, with whom he got his break into Marvel when they collaborated on the Daredevil story, "Wake Up," in Daredevil #16-19. Klaus Janson, Alex Maleev and Bill Sienkiewicz contributed at the art end.

It's a dark trip down memory lane as Urich's investigation goes deeper and darker into what Murdock was up to in his final years and for those who loved what Bendis and Mack did with Marvel (and Daredevil) when they started will enjoy this Marvel: The End story, especially because it’s in canon.