This afternoon, comic fans were made aware of Brian Bendis’s departure from Marvel, headed exclusively to DC. Via CBR:
In a brief statement on Twitter, the publisher revealed that Bendis has signed a “multifaceted, multilayered” exclusive agreement. Bendis retweeted the announcement, and later added, “This is real. I love you all. Change is good. Change is healthy. I am bursting with ideas and inspirations. Details to come! Stay tuned!
No news yet on how this will affect the Mile Morales-centered book, Spider-Man. Morales is easily the writer’s biggest legacy left behind at Marvel.
From the hundreds of reaction comments I’ve seen across various sites today, Marvel customers across the spectrum have reacted differently to the news. Some lament the loss and view it as a blow for Marvel (currently a struggling House of Ideas) and another win for DC. Others think of it as a positive change for the writer, who some felt was becoming burned out at Marvel. Others voiced relief and some see an opportunity for real change now in the quality and direction of Marvel storytelling.
Bendis’s story style at Marvel was a swirl of character elements that were interesting on the surface mixed in with repetitive dialogue and padding stories for trade paperbacks. He had hits and misses. His time on Daredevil is remembered positively, for example, but his run on Guardians of the Galaxy was unfocused and lamentable. If you are an Avengers fan you may remember him fondly as a writer who “shook things up” or “killed sacred cows” – or you may think of him who wrecked something you used to really like and made it something just couldn’t follow anymore.
With Rebirth (along with a healthy dose of mea culpa and no small amount of pride-swallowing from editorial) DC has been enjoying great success. It’s where all the energy seems to be now from “the Big Two.” But does Bendis really fit in with DC’s new storytelling tone and character image? It’s an odd mix; Bendis’s instinct seems to lean toward taking something people like and then bludgeoning it with a claw hammer, then wearing it’s skin and creating something else entirely from the ashes. That doesn’t seem to be a natural fit with the latest incarnation of DC at first glance. But he’s also had success with the legacy hero route, so maybe he’ll just do for DC what he did for Marvel with Miles Morales. Legacy heroes are DC’s wheelhouse, after all, far more so than Marvel.
Marvel’s dystopian Ultimate universe began with Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man. That alternate universe has been defunct for awhile now, having largely lost its allure to fans awhile back through storytelling trainwrecks like Ultimatum. Still, its influence lingers in much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which continues to draw some measure of style and inspiration from the now shuttered brand. At least some of that must be attributed to Bendis’s involvement with Marvel.
In full disclosure I was a fan of Bendis’s prior to his work on Ultimate Spider-Man. When he was writing books like Sam & Twitch, I was highly impressed. But at its release, Ultimate Spider-Man felt alien and unrecognizable. It felt… unnecessary. I never lost that opinion, and rejected the Ultimate brand wholesale. Per my own preferences and tastes where Marvel is concerned, especially as someone who stopped reading Avengers entirely with Disassembled, Bendis just wasn’t a writer I wanted to spend much time on. Later down the line, I always felt he had too much say in the direction the larger universe was taking. Despite that, putting my own biases aside, there is no mistaking the impact Brian Bendis had on Marvel, both for good and for ill. Especially when it comes to longevity.
To conclude, we wish him luck at DC. Maybe this will recharge him creatively. And if things go south, DC can always just reboot again. It’s what they do.