AVENGERS (RE)ASSEMBLED1 of 12
Brian Michael Bendis made a huge impact on almost the entire Marvel Universe, but none moreso than the franchise on which he made his name, the Avengers.
Under Bendis' watch, the Avengers became a household name. He brought characters who had never been Avengers into the fold, redefined the role of the team in the Marvel Universe, and made Earth's Mightiest Heroes Marvel's flagship property.
With Bendis now departing Marvel for DC Comics, Newsarama decided it was high time to look back at Bendis' contributions to the franchise that started it all.
AVENGERS IS NOW AN X-MEN-LEVEL FRANCHISE2 of 12
Believe it or not, there used to be just one Avengers comic book. It was called "Avengers" (and that time is returning with Avengers' "No Surrender" in January 2018).
That was the state of things back in July 2004 when Brian Michael Bendis started his run on Avengers, with issue #500. Flash-forward over a decade later, and Marvel has maintained multiple Avengers titles for years.
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 - West Coast Avengers, Avengers Solo - but in the years following Bendis taking on the franchise, the number of Avengers titles reached unprecedented levels.
KEPT NEWER CHARACTERS IN ROTATION3 of 12
Of course, Bendis utilized many of the long-standing pillars of the Marvel Universe during his Avengers run - Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and many more decades-old icons.
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.
A star in the early Marvel Knights era, The Sentry joined the team early in the original New Avengers volume, and remained a major presence through Siege. 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.
He also created new characters of his own, including S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Maria Hill, who has been portrayed on the big-screen by Cobie Smulders.
OLD VILLAINS USED IN NEW WAYS4 of 12
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.
Kang the Conqueror appeared in the initial story arc of the "Heroic Age" era Avengers, 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 Secret Invasion.
Ultron surfaced twice - once in Mighty Avengers in the visage of the Wasp, and then later for Bendis' Age of Ultron event series.
NORMAN OSBORN'S RISE TO POWER5 of 12
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.
As an extension of his role in the Warren Ellis-written Thunderbolts, Osborn ended up with the killshot that turned the Secret Invasion 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.
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 Siege, but Osborn has since returned multiple times.
CHANGED THE DEFINITION OF 'AVENGER'6 of 12
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.
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).
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 (or rarely) previously closely associated with the Avengers.
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.
And yeah, there are a couple of more that fit this category that we didn't mention yet. We'll get to them.
'NO MORE MUTANTS'7 of 12
One of the biggest developments during Bendis's Avengers run was Scarlet Witch saying "No more mutants" at the end of House of M, an action that ended up decimating the mutant population - all but 200 or so lost their powers, and no new mutants manifested for years.
One of the most far-reaching developments in recent Marvel history, the fallout was felt all the way through 2012's Avengers vs. X-Men, when Scarlet Witch and Hope managed to undo the seven-year-old damage.
(Yes, this wasn't in an Avengers book specifically, but House of M co-starred the Avengers, Scarlet Witch is an Avenger, and the book was written by Bendis.)
STREET-LEVEL AVENGERS8 of 12
The Avengers are traditionally Marvel's top superteam - well-funded, connected to the government and living in a plush mansion, facing the biggest threats.
Bendis flipped that paradigm around a bit in New Avengers, making the team outlaws on a couple of occasions - during and in the aftermath of Civil War, 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.
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.
HE BLEW UP THE MANSION9 of 12
Bendis sent a very clear, very visceral message at the start of his Avengers run that things wouldn't be business as usual: He blew up Avengers Mansion, the team's long-time home and headquarters.
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 New Avengers.
"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.'"
HE KILLED HAWKEYE (AND WASP, AND SCOTT LANG, AND SENTRY, AND...)10 of 12
Yep, Scott Lang died in "Avengers Disassembled." So did Vision. So did Hawkeye.
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 Secret Invasion. And after introducing Sentry and Ares to the mix, they both were killed off during Siege.
Yes, all of them are back now (except for Sentry - poor guy), but their deaths had an impact, and helped cement Bendis's reputation as a frequently polarizing writer.
SPIDER-MAN AND WOLVERINE: AVENGERS11 of 12
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.
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.
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).
Given that Avengers 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.
1 of 12
2 of 12
3 of 12
4 of 12
5 of 12
6 of 12
7 of 12
8 of 12
9 of 12
10 of 12
11 of 12
12 of 12