By Todd Allen
These days, it seems like three years on a title is a good run. Brian Michael Bendis is calling it a day with eight years on the Avengers titles. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Bendis says:
“I’m going to wrap up ‘Avengers’ and ‘New Avengers.’ At the same time the first storyline of ‘Avengers Assemble’ will be done,” Bendis told CBR. “It’s a good time to move on to other things. Before I go, though, I’m ending things big. I’m in countdown mode. You know when you’re watching a show like ‘Breaking Bad,’ and every episode feels like the second to last episode? That’s where I’m at. I’ve been on the Avengers longer than anybody in the history of the book. When you take everything into account, I’ve written over 200 issues. I’m very, very proud of that, and what we have coming up this summer gives me the opportunity to go out on a high note. I know enough about showbiz to know that’s a great time to go.”
Looking back at his time on the Avengers, one word comes to mind: events. The two things that immediately popped into my mind were Secret Invasion (Bendis spent a lot of time laying the ground for it before the actual series) and Dark Reign. Upon closer examination, throw in the mini-event of Avengers:Disassembled, which led directly into House of M. The New Avengers hiding out during Civil War. The Bendis Avengers run really has been the spine of Marvel for the bulk of the last seven years.
This is not to say everyone was enchanted by the Bendis Avengers. Plenty of fans didn’t think they actually _were_ Avengers comics. This is not an entirely invalid viewpoint. Bendis did his own thing, with his own flavor on Avengers.
There are at least 3 things on the Avengers plate for 2012. First off, Norman Osborn has just returned and re-taken command of H.A.M.M.E.R. Thus far, the current storyline appears to be a redux of Dark Reign, but without crossovers into all manner of other titles. Actually, the launch of this arc has been more lively than things have been in a while. (Neal Adams on the point one issue didn’t hurt.) The endcap to the Bendis run will almost certainly be the long-foreshadowed “Ultron War.”
In the middle of all this, Bendis is one of the cast of writers for Avengers Vs. X-Men, joining Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman. This is a 12 issue bi-weekly series, starting in April. Actually, it’s probably really a 13 issue series, since Bendis is writing a zero issue for March. The writers will tag off with each writing a couple issues. The plotlines involve the return of the Phoenix Force and the return/redemption of the Scarlet Witch. Interestingly, this would be wrapping up a plot element that’s been simmering in the background since Bendis had Wanda utter “No more mutants” in Avengers Disassembled and launched House of M.
At this point, it isn’t clear whether Avengers Vs. X-Men will be self-contained or cross over into the regular titles. That will likely be revealed at a press conference scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.
Eight years is a good long run, and I’d agree with Bendis that ending with a high note is a good thing. It will be interesting to see how he handles going from Osborn, a distinctly Bendis-era villain (in terms of the Avengers), to Ultron, a more classic villain.
In the last year or two, Bendis has been setting up a few more of his creator owned titles. He’s effectively re-organized his long running Powers comic (which followed him to Icon/Marvel from Image), started Scarlet with Alex Maleev and more recently Brilliant with Mark Bagley. While they aren’t monthlies, you could certainly see Bendis getting the itch to try some new things when he set himself up with three of his own titles. That he’s changing his primary assignment shouldn’t be a shock if you noticed the increase in his Icon work.
Bendis made his name writing crime comics and then getting promoted to Ultimate Spider-Man and Daredevil. The Avengers came later and came to take up a lot of his writing time, far away from the more ground-level perspectives he started out with (and has at least partially returned to in Scarlet). It’s good for a change of pace and it will be very interesting to see what Bendis has in mind for his next act… although one imagines we won’t hear what’s next until summer at the very earliest. We also wait to see who’s taking up the Avengers pen next. (Expect a few Avengers purists to start lobbying for Dan Slott, who had a well-received run on Mighty Avengers a couple years back.)