Brian Michael Bendis’ impending departure from Marvel Comics marks the end of an era for the publisher. In his 17-year career at Marvel, Bendis elevated and redefined nearly every franchise he touched, building a career that shaped the entire course of Marvel Comics – and Marvel Studios – for nearly two decades.
Bendis’ first big Marvel moment came with the launch of 2000’s Ultimate Spider-Man, a relaunch and retelling of Peter Parker’s origin, free from the continuity of the still ongoing mainstream Marvel Universe Spider-Man titles. Alongside Ultimate X-Men, Bendis and artist Mark Bagley’s updated take on Spidey and his supporting cast led to the launch of an entire Ultimate Universe, in which Bendis would write many other titles (including, eventually, Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four).
Bendis would help shepherd the Ultimate Universe until its demise in 2015 (more on that later), but he was simultaneously reshaping the mainstream MU as well. With a storied run on Daredevil with Alex Maleev that lasted from 2001 to 2006, Bendis turned the story of Matt Murdock into one of Marvel’s first modern auteur titles. Bendis followed this with the creation of Jessica Jones alongside artist Michael Gaydos in Alias. Bendis would later serve as a creative consultant on the Netflix adaptations of both titles, setting the tone for the entire Defenders TV line (remember that later, too).
It was Bendis’ character-driven, street level work, along with his low-key espionage event series Secret War, that led to Bendis taking over on Avengers following a long run from Kurt Busiek and brief follow-ups from Geoff Johns and Chuck Austen. Bendis actually ended the title with the Avengers #500 story “Avengers: Disassembled,” killing Hawkeye, Vision, and Scott Lang, and turning Scarlet Witch into a villain. “Disassembled” coincided with a “Ragnarok” story in Thor which also took that character off the board for several years.
In the wake of “Disassembled,” Bendis relaunched the team as the New Avengers in 2005, adding Wolverine, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Sentry, and Spider-Woman to the line-up, along with characters such as Ronin, Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, and Daredevil in later volumes. Bendis guided the Avengers franchise for years, splitting the team in the wake of Civil War - a decision that also led directly to the next several phases of Marvel continuity. It was during this era when Bendis’ radically different take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes propelled them to become Marvel’s flagship title, supplanting the X-Men for the first time in decades (and quite likely making a feature film seem like a viable option).
In the course of New Avengers, Bendis wrote the 2005 Avengers/X-Men crossover House of M in which Scarlet Witch decimated the world’s mutant population, bringing their total number under 200 for many years. Bendis also introduced the concept of the Illuminati, a secret group of Marvel’s elite heroes who possessed the Infinity Gems and guided cosmic level happenings, a conceit that brought the Infinity Gems back to prominence in Marvel continuity.
Around this time, Bendis also wrote the post-credits scene from 2008’s Iron Man, which introduced Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, whose Ultimate Universe version was based on Jackson’s likeness - and, more importantly, cemented the idea of an integrated cinematic universe with Marvel's in-house films.
Back on the comic book front, Bendis brought together story threads from Secret War, Avengers #500, and New Avengers to unveil a Skrull infiltration story with 2008’s Secret Invasion, an influence on 2019’s Captain Marvel film which will put the hero up against at least one secret Skrull. Secret Invasion begat the “Dark Reign” era which lasted until 2009 and made Norman Osborn America’s top cop, leading him to found replace S.H.I.E.L.D. with H.A.M.M.E.R. and lead the Dark Avengers as the Iron Patriot.
As part of the lead-up to Secret Invasion and “Dark Reign,” Bendis created the Secret Warriors in 2007, a team of secret metahumans assembled by Nick Fury to fight the Skrulls. The concept became an ongoing series co-written by Bendis and Jonathan Hickman, which lived on and evolved after the Skrull invasion with Hickman taking over sole writing duties. The concept was adapted for television in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and is currently an Inhumans-centric ongoing series written by Matthew Rosenberg.
”Dark Reign” led to 2009’s Siege, in which a corrupted Sentry destroyed Asgard after it settled on Earth, leading to the founding of a new Asgard, called 'Asgardia.'
Meanwhile, over in the Ultimate Universe, Bendis killed off Peter Parker in 2011 and replaced him with Miles Morales, a younger hero whose origins reflected Peter’s, but who offered a different perspective on being Spider-Man. Miles would later join the mainstream Marvel Universe (again, more on that later) and would play a role in the Bendis-driven Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. Elements of Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man (and a sly reference to Miles Morales) also made it into this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming movie.
Back in the mainstream Marvel Universe, Bendis was one of the writers of 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men, in which Cyclops, possessed by the Phoenix Force, killed Professor X, and resulted in a splintering of the X-Men. The story also marked his swan song on the Avengers franchise and his jump to the X-Men titles.
Bendis wrote the adventures of Cyclops’ fugitive team in Uncanny X-Men, but in All-New X-Men, Bendis brought the teenage versions of the five original X-Men from the past into the present, where they currently remain part of the mainstream Marvel Universe.
Bendis also took over Guardians of the Galaxy after his Avengers departure, bringing Iron Man into the team and kickstarting a run that lasted until April 2017. In this, Bendis retconned the origins of Star-Lord and others to more closely align with the movie continuity, and also brought Agent Venom and Angela into the fold as temporary members.
During that time he also authored Age of Ultron, a time-spanning epic that inspired - albiet in name only - the second Avengers film.
Bendis’ X-Men run ended with Secret Wars in 2015. While Bendis wrote several miniseries as part of the line-wide crossover and relaunch, his biggest contribution of the time was Ultimate End - that thing we said we’d talk about where Bendis brought the entire Ultimate Universe to a close.
In the aftermath of Ultimate End and Secret Wars, Miles Morales and his supporting cast have become a part of the mainstream MU, with Miles joining the Avengers and later the Champions.
After Secret Wars, Bendis relaunched The Invincible Iron Man in 2015 with the intent to make Tony Stark Marvel’s flagship character. Bendis redefined many elements of Tony’s character after Secret Wars, following the previous revelation that he was adopted by revealing the identity of his birth parents as a British radio DJ and a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who joined Hydra.
Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man led to Civil War II, in which Iron Man and Captain Marvel clashed over how to handle the precognitive powers of a young Inhuman. This 2016 mini-series changed She-Hulk’s personality, killed James Rhodes by Thanos’ hand, had Hawkeye kill Bruce Banner, and left Tony Stark in coma - effectiely removing him from the playing field.
This led directly to Tony’s young protégé Riri Williams to become Ironheart, operating with the guidance of a Tony Stark A.I. in Invincible Iron Man, while Doctor Doom became the star of a second title, Infamous Iron Man.
Bendis’ work on Marvel’s street level characters came full circle in 2017 as well, with the writer launching a new Defenders ongoing series based on the Netflix franchises he helped inspire - and picking up story threads from his concluded New Avengers run years prior. He also relaunched Jessica Jones in her own eponymous ongoing series.
Bendis remains on Spider-Man, Invincible Iron Man, Defenders, and Jessica Jones through January's solicited titles, and the status of the Punisher: End of Days miniseries announced earlier this year is now in limbo.
Bendis isn't the first major Marvel creator to make a high-profile exit (just ask Jack Kirby and Chris Claremont), and Tuesday's news doesn't discount a potential return down the road.
But big picture, what do the Newsarama readers think of Bendis' impact at Marvel Comics?