<i>by <a href=http://www.twitter.com/albertxii>Albert Ching, Newsarama Staff Writer</a></i> <p>With this week's <b>New Avengers #34</b>, the eight-plus year reign of Brian Michael Bendis on the main Avengers books came to a close. <p>No matter what you thought of his time on the titles and it's certainly been one of the more controversial runs in recent superhero comic book history it was an achievement for both longevity (he's now written more Avengers comic than anyone ever, by a considerable margin) and in how much he managed to reinvent and reshape what is now one of the biggest franchises in pop culture. <p>So what better time than now to reflect on the many changes brought about by Bendis during his time on <b>Avengers</b>, <b>New Avengers</b>, <b>Mighty Avengers</b>, <b>Dark Avengers</b> and <b>Avengers Assemble</b>? (No, he didn't write those all at the same time but pretty close to it.) Click "start here" in the upper-left corner to look back at the legacy of the Bendis <b>Avengers</b> era. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
Believe it or not, there used to be just one Avengers comic book. It was called "Avengers." <p>That was the state of things back in July 2004 when Brian Michael Bendis started his run on <b>Avengers</b>, with issue #500. Flash forward nearly a decade later, and Marvel has solicited 11 issues of nine different Avengers titles for the month of February 2013 <b>Avengers</b>, <b>New Avengers</b>, <b>Uncanny Avengers</b>, <b>Avengers Assemble</b>, <b>Secret Avengers</b> (pictured), <b>Avengers Arena</b>, <b>Young Avengers</b>, <b>Dark Avengers</b> and <b>Marvel Universe: Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes</b>, based on the recently completed animated series that has adapted Bendis-written stories. <p>During Bendis's run, the Avengers expanded into a bustling Marvel franchise rivaling the X-Men. Sure, there were often more than one Avengers title pre-Bendis <i>West Coast Avengers</i>, <i>Avengers Solo</i> but in recent years, multiple new series were not only introduced, but managed to stick around, and are continuing on in the expansive Marvel NOW! revamp.
Of course, Bendis utilized many of the long-standing pillars of the Marvel Universe during his <b>Avengers</b> run Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man and many more decades-old icons. <p>But he also paid a lot of attention to characters that had been created in recent years, and made sure that they didn't fade into obscurity. <p>A star in the early Marvel Knights era, The Sentry joined the team early in the original <b>New Avengers</b> volume, and remained a major presence through <i>Siege</i>. The Hood, best known for debuting in an acclaimed but under-read MAX book written by Brian K. Vaughan, became one of the Avengers' top villains, and plagued the group on multiple occasions. Echo, introduced by Bendis's frequent collaborator David Mack in Daredevil, became an Avenger for a while as did Marvel Boy (rechristened as "The Protector"), from the 2000 Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones miniseries. <p>He also created new characters of his own, most notably S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Maria Hill, who was portrayed on the big-screen in this past summer's <b>Avengers</b> film by Cobie Smulders.
During his eight-year run, Bendis wrote many classic Avengers villains, but always presented them in at least a slightly different light than what had come before. <p>Kang the Conqueror showed up in the initial story arc of the "Heroic Age" era <b>Avengers</b>, but was first seen actually asking the Avengers for help. The shape-shifting Skrulls returned, but as a bigger threat than ever, leading to the slow burn of Marvel event <i>Secret Invasion</i>. Ultron resurfaced in <i>Mighty Avengers</i>, but this time took the form of a lady the Wasp, specifically. (Loki was also a woman for a while.) <p>Bendis isn't quite done with the Avengers villains the miniseries event <i>Age of Ultron</i>, showing the ultimate victory of Hank Pym's "son," is scheduled to start in March.
Speaking of villains: Bendis reinvented no other antagonist during his Avengers run like Norman Osborn, who went from being Spider-Man's archenemy to a Marvel Universe-wide threat that also controlled national security for about a year. <p>As an extension of his role in the Warren Ellis-written <i>Thunderbolts</i>, Osborn ended up with the killshot that turned the <i>Secret Invasion</i> tide which led to him taking over H.A.M.M.E.R. (a successor to S.H.I.E.L.D.), while struggling to stifle his Green Goblin tendencies. <p>Osborn also led his own Avengers team, the Dark Avengers, as the Captain America/Iron Man hybrid Iron Patriot. It all came undone in a big way during <i>Siege</i>, but Osborn came back for revenge with a new New Avengers (and a new H.A.M.M.E.R. to boot) last year in <b>Avengers</b> and <b>New Avengers</b>.
There used to be a very strict line of who was an Avenger, and who wasn't. Wonder Man, Vision, Wasp those were Avengers. Luke Cage, Doctor Strange and Daredevil were not. <p>Bendis changed all that not only did he mainly use Wonder Man as a villain (admittedly, a misguided and ultimately repentant one), he killed off both Vision and Wasp (though he did bring them back). <p>But while mainstay Avengers like Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Carol Danvers, Hawkeye and Black Widow all played major roles during his run, Bendis also opened up the boundaries, allowing characters like Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, Spider-Woman, Daredevil and Thing to join, all veteran Marvel characters, but ones never previously closely associated with the Avengers. <p>Luke Cage (along with his wife, Jessica Jones, and their child, Danielle) made one of the biggest impacts, eventually becoming the leader of the New Avengers, and the owner of Avengers Mansion. <p>And yeah, there are a couple of more that fit this category that we didn't mention yet. We'll get to them.
One of the biggest developments during Bendis's <b>Avengers</b> run was Scarlet Witch saying "No more mutants" at the end of <i>House of M</i>, an action that ended up decimating the mutant population all but 200 or so lost their powers, and no new mutants manifested for years. <p>One of the most far-reaching developments in recent Marvel history, the fallout was felt all the way through this past summer in <i>Avengers vs. X-Men</i>, when Scarlet Witch and Hope managed to undo the seven-year-old damage. <p>(Yes, this wasn't in an Avengers book specifically, but <i>House of M</i> co-starred the Avengers, Scarlet Witch is an Avenger, and the book was written by Bendis.)
The Avengers are traditionally Marvel's top superteam well-funded, connected to the government and living in a plush mansion, facing the biggest threats. <p>Bendis flipped that paradigm around a bit in <i>New Avengers</i>, making the team outlaws on a couple of occasions during and in the aftermath of <i>Civil War</i>, and during Norman Osborn's "Dark Reign." These were Avengers on the run, who were based out of Doctor Strange's home (and later Bucky's) rather than Avengers Mansion or Tower. <p>By nature, the New Avengers were more "street-level" than Earth's Mightiest Heroes usually tend to be fitting, given the presence of characters like Spider-Man, Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
Bendis sent a very clear, very visceral message at the start of his <b>Avengers</b> run that things wouldn't be business as usual: He blew up Avengers Mansion, the team's long-time home and headquarters. <p>Thanks to Scarlet Witch's chaos powers running out of control, Jack of Hearts returned from the dead and subsequently exploded, taking Scott Lang/Ant-Man and the mansion with him in the process. This story "Avengers Disassembled" set the course for Bendis's hotly debated Avengers run, and led to the debut of <b>New Avengers</b>. <p>"Some people really loved that, and some people were like, 'Whoa, whoa!' It was tantamount to someone going on the playground and just knocking over your toys," Bendis said to Newsarama. "You're like, 'I liked my toys, why are you doing this?' I didn't see it that way at the time, but in retrospect I wouldn't have changed the story or anything, but I was shocked by some of the reaction, and then I went, 'Oh, no, I get that. I literally just blew up the house on page three.'"
Yep, Scott Lang died in "Avengers Disassembled." So did Vision. So did Hawkeye. <p>That last one was a very big deal, angering fans of the beloved character. But it wasn't the last time Bendis would kill off a long-time, beloved Avenger: Wasp died at the end of <i>Secret Invasion</i>. And after introducing Sentry and Ares to the mix, they both were killed off during <i>Siege</i>. <p>Yes, all of them are back now (except for Sentry and Ares poor guys), but their deaths had an impact, and helped cement Bendis's reputation as a frequently polarizing writer.
This is somewhat related to No. 6, but important enough to stand on its own: During Bendis's run, Spider-Man and Wolverine became full-fledged, active Avengers for the first time ever. Two of Marvel's most popular heroes arguably Marvel's two most popular heroes, period joined the ranks of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. <p>It was derided by some at the time as Bendis "JLAing the Avengers," and crossing an invisible line the old conventional wisdom was that Spider-Man is meant to be a loner, and Wolverine is an X-Man, and an X-Man only. <p>Though controversial, the addition of the two characters helped spur a surge of unprecedented popularity in the book and the Avengers franchise as a whole, opening the teams up to further unconventional choices (even Storm joined the Avengers for a bit). <p>Given that <b>Avengers</b> is now a multi-title franchise and the subject of the third highest-grossing movie in history, it's looks like adding Spidey and Wolvie has paid off.