Spec Ops: Where at Marvel Will BENDIS, HICKMAN, More End Up?

Are you ready? Turn your speculation engines to "on."

The first comic book convention of the year with a major Marvel presence is WonderCon in Anaheim on March 16-18, exactly three weeks away.

That event should bring at least an indication of what the publisher has planned for June 2012 and beyond, and it's a more potentially newsworthy period than we've seen in a while due to uncertainty surrounding some of their biggest creators. Heading towards Avengers vs. X-Men, speculation has been fueled by the news that Brian Michael Bendis is leaving the Avengers franchise — creating questions as to who's going to take over Avengers, New Avengers and Avengers Assemble, plus what's going to take their place on the writer's Marvel schedule.

Just last week, Marvel announced that Jonathan Hickman is transitioning off of Ultimate Comics Ultimates, with quickly rising star Sam Humphries taking his place. Jason Aaron recently ended his run on PunisherMAX and his last Wolverine issue ships in April, though it's still not clear if that means he's taking on more Marvel titles. Mark Waid has recently hinted about more Marvel work beyond Daredevil, and though it hasn't officially been stated, it sure looks like Matt Fraction is starting to wind down his Invincible Iron Man run.

So given the possible creative shake-ups that lie ahead, we're reading in between the lines and giving our best educated guesses as to where all that talent might land by the end of 2012.

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN Covers Revealed
AVENGERS VS. X-MEN Covers Revealed

Brian Michael Bendis
: The news that Bendis would be leaving the Avengers after eight years came as a bit of a shock, given how much of a franchise institution he's been since the "Avengers Disassembled" storyline. And not only is his Avengers run winding down at some unspecified point this year — the guy tends to work really far ahead, and there's still the as-yet unscheduled "Age of Ultron" story to get to — Moon Knight is also ending in April, leaving Ultimate Comics Spider-Man as his only for-sure work-for-hire series at this point.

Now, that would leave him a busy guy as it is — he's writing several creator-owned books and working on Marvel's upcoming MMO, has various movie projects including consulting on Marvel Studios productions, plus Powers is still in development at FX — but he's already made several references to upcoming new Marvel projects. So: What are they?

There's certainly some appealing symmetry in seeing Bendis leave the Avengers after Avengers vs. X-Men and then watching him take on Marvel's mutants, which would be new territory for him — other than a year on Ultimate X-Men, he hasn't really written much of the X-Men in a starring roles. Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen have a pretty solid hold on Wolverine and the X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, respectively, right now, and both books just launched this past fall — but maybe Bendis on a slightly left-of-continuity book like Astonishing X-Men?

Also, after a dozen years of writing Ultimate Spider-Man, Bendis on the classic version of the character (in a capacity beyond his co-starring role in the Avengers books) would be an intriguing twist, especially since he's no longer writing Peter Parker in the Ultimate world. Again, it's difficult to imagine Dan Slott giving up the Amazing Spider-Man reins anytime soon, but Bendis could presumably have a lot of fun on something like the team-up book Avenging Spider-Man.

Keep in mind that there's likely to be some amount of the new and unexpected to come with Bendis's new Marvel work. Most fans didn't anticipate Bendis doing Moon Knight, but him and long-time collaborator Alex Maleev put a year into the title. And it's hard to imagine a creator that Marvel would place more confidence in to do something totally new in their fictional Universe than Bendis. 


Jonathan Hickman
: Last week during a Marvel "Next Big Thing" conference call with the comic book press, Hickman said the following when asked by Newsarama about leaving The Ultimates:

"I never planned on leaving The Ultimates, and when I got offered the Ultimate Thor gig, I took that job because it came with the understanding that I was going to get The Ultimates after that. When I first got in the door at Marvel, that was the book I wanted to do more than any other. When I came on the book, I think [editors Mark Paniccia and Sana Amanat] would agree, we're doing very special stuff there. But I got a job offer that I couldn't refuse, so I'm taking it."

Those are the kind of tantalizing words that send speculation-obsessed fans into a tizzy, and immediately the math starts working in your head: Bendis is leaving Avengers, Hickman is leaving Ultimates, The Ultimates are effectively the Ultimate Universe's Avengers, so that all must equal Hickman on the Avengers, right?

Well, maybe. But as pointed out to me in a discussion with Blog@Newsarama's Graeme McMillan, Hickman on Invincible Iron Man certainly seems to be an ideal match — the possibility for big, futuristic ideas and crazy tech fits perfectly with Hickman's sensibilities. But for that to be true, something would have to change with the next creator on our list.


Matt Fraction
: It hasn't been said that upcoming arc "Long Way Down" is Fraction's last on Invincible Iron Man — in fact, Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort outright said it isn't — but it's hard to shake the notion that the writer might be stepping away from Tony Stark at some point in the near-ish future.

"We're in the final stretch for sure," Fraction told Newsarama earlier this month. "Everything I've been doing since the first arc has been building to where we're at, and the end is much closer than the beginning at this point, if I'm being honest.

Given his experience writing Avengers icons Iron Man and Thor, plus taking the entire team through Fear Itself, it's not hard to picture Fraction on at least one of the Avengers books. The only thing possibly casting some degree of doubt is the fact that Fraction is already writing a lot of Avengers-type characters in Defenders, but that book very deliberately has its own tone different from typical Avengers fare.

In the interest of wild speculation, Fraction on a Spider-Man book could be great fun, given his past work on books like 2007's Sensational Spider-Man annual. Either way, with "Long Way Down" being ruled out as his last Iron Man arc and a new Icon book announced soon, it looks like any Fraction-related moves might be later rather than sooner.


Jason Aaron
: While we know who is taking over Wolverine from Aaron (The Sixth Gun's Cullen Bunn), we don't know yet what — if anything — will take the book's place on Aaron's schedule.

To some extent, Aaron's schedule is probably just normalizing a bit, after writing five books for much of the past few months, plus co-writing Avengers vs. X-Men. But with Scalped also ending, it's a fairly safe bet that something new will join Wolverine and the X-Men and Incredible Hulk on his docket. Maybe joining Wolverine's pals over in New Avengers?

With PunisherMAX and Scalped both done, it's been all-but confirmed that Aaron's new work will include something mature readers or creator-owned — probably both.

"You certainly will at least hear about my next project as we get closer to the end of Scalped," Aaron told Newsarama in January. "It'll be something along the same lines."

(And, oh yeah, between Captain America, Winter Soldier and creator-owned books like Fatale, we're guessing that Ed Brubaker, the only Avengers vs. X-Men co-writer not mentioned yet, is staying put where he is for a while. But we could definitely be wrong about that.) 


Mark Waid
: If you pay any amount of attention to the comic book industry, you've probably noticed that people like the Waid-written Daredevil. A lot.

So it's only natural that Marvel would want more from the guy, and it seems that's exactly what's happening. Waid was in attendance at Marvel's creative retreat in January, and recently told this to Newsarama when asked if there's a chance he'll be doing more for the publisher in the near future:

"There's always a chance. A good chance, in fact. I'd say more, but I'm already dangerously close to triggering the shock collar."

Waid's '90s run on Captain America is still revered, but how about him taking on the entire Avengers team? With spots on three books opening up, there could be a place for Waid on one of them — especially on the Cap-centric main title and Avengers Assemble.

Beyond that, his '90s X-Men run was a brief one, and Waid joining an X-book would be an interesting post-AvX development. Regardless of what ends up actually taking place, the upcoming convention season should be a fun one to monitor for Marvel readers — you just might have to bring a scorecard.

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