Put It Out to Pasture - Bendis' Avengers

I know that I often sound like a broken record. I have the creators that I support no matter what (Millar, Hickman, Johns, Meltzer, Aaron, Ennis, Tomasi, etc..) and I have guys that I rag on constantly even when they're writing something somewhat decent (Morrison, Robinson, Fraction [Uncanny X-Men], Grant Morrison, Dwayne McDuffie, Winick, Grant Morrison again). It's the nature of the beast for comic book fans to attach themselves to writers whose style they really like or who they think tell great stories. Mark Millar, for example, gets his fair share of detractors on the internet but I really enjoy the way he writes, and I especially get a huge kick out of his bombastic wide-screen action stories. Meanwhile, I've given James Robinson chance after chance to earn anything except my hatred and disgust with Justice League, but the man is just terrible now-a-days and has taken one of my favorite DC characters down with him. But there is one man who went from the first group to the second group practically overnight. Someone who I was always high on and always supported through the bad stories and massive plot-holes, until finally I had enough and now am swearing off his work as much as I can. That man: Brian Michael Bendis. How did I reach this point? What happened to send me over the edge? Hit the jump for the answers.

Put It Out to Pasture - Bendis' Avengers

Sorry, I know that the headline said that I'd be writing about Bendis' Avengers, but instead of that article I'm going to be writing one about Winston Churchill. Since I didn't really bother doing any research on him, I'm pretty much just going to write whatever I think he's like and not care about who Churchill was at all. I think I'm going to tell a story about how he always wanted to be a pirate and only became Prime Minister to reinstitute privateers...

That'd be annoying right? Even if I just did that the one time, I would imagine that people would be pretty pissed that I labeled an article and set something up, but then wrote something that is nothing like the headline suggests. In a nutshell, this is not the biggest problem that I have with Bendis' writing, but it is the clearest indicator of the other problems that have plauged his tenure with the Avengers. While I could write an entire article harping on and on about the Hood, or how the covers NEVER indicate what the issue is about, there are other concerns especially for long-time Avengers fans like myself. Frankly, Bendis' attempts to involve "classic" Avengers characters results in that character acting almost completely out of character and taking on a personality that fits Bendis' writing but not the history of the character, Hawkeye being the perfect example of this. On top of that, Bendis has this way of writing events happening within the pages of New Avengers that should be consequential, but the way that they are written gives seemingly significant events this air that no one really gives a shit which undercuts the whole point of the event happening.

Slow Burn

First off, Bendis is the master of building stories right now in the Marvel Universe. I was a huge Bendis fan going into and coming out of Civil War, because he could build a mystery or story up expertly. But then Secret Invasion came along and revealed something that I knew all along: Bendis couldn't deliver. He built these stories and these sub-plots that he flat-out could not or would not deliver the goods to. Remember after Civil War how were promised that New Avengers was going to be the renegades to Iron Man's Mighty Avengers? And that the two teams were going to be at odds? To this day, since Civil War, they NEVER fought each other in the pages of either New or Mighty Avengers. Not once. They had tons of stand-offs and threats, but they never actually threw down with each other which I was most excited for coming out of Civil War. We were promised something that was never delivered on, and that trend continued through Secret Invasion and Dark Reign and into the Siege. We've been promised answers and people gettin their comeuppance, but until I see proof that something is finally going to happen I'm doubtful.

What's Really Happening Here?

That leads me directly into my next point: Bendis not only doesn't deliver what he promises but he misleads or outright lies to readers in order to trick them into sticking around. The covers to New Avengers post-Civil War promised a fight between the Avengers teams: instead we got four issues of them fighting ninja in Japan (Ninjas is not an actual word, as the plural of ninja is ninja. FYI). New Avengers #35 promised a Venom-ized New Avengers attacking the Mighty Avengers: instead we got the Hood and his gang hanging out. New Avengers #50 built up to a throwdown with Norman Osborn and the Dark Avengers: instead we got the thirteenth fight between the Hood and the New Avengers. Yet, all of those issues have covers that out right lie to the reader about the contents of the issue, now I'm cool with stylized covers that don't really focus on story and are instead just a sweet looking pin-up piece but covers that promise one thing when the issue is something else completely pisses me off. Take a look at these covers:

Nothing like that happens in these issues! And it's like that for every Bendis comic. I think I'm going to do a follow-up post where I show every cover that depicts something that is unrelated to the story. There's a lot of them.

Hang on to Yourself

The fact that the Hood is now so ubiquitous has a lot to do with Bendis' use of him in New Avengers. And in a lot of ways, the Hood represents 3 distinct problems of Bendis' run all by himself: Over-reliance on pet characters and projects, not understanding the original character so changing the character to suit Bendis' ends, and lack of any progression in the story. First, Bendis uses his pet characters WAY too often and too prominently. Look, I'm not going to complain about the work that Bendis has put in on Luke Cage and the Cage family, since I think that has worked out really well and made him into an interesting character. But aside from Luke Cage, we've had the Sentry, Spider-Woman, The Hood, Echo, and Daredevil featured in an Avengers book solely because Bendis likes them.

After Secret Invasion, was anyone clamoring for Spider-Woman to be back on the team? Or how many people say "Boy, I like the Avengers and everything but I really want to know what's going on with the Hood right now despite that he's in fifteen other books this month"? That's the thing, the Hood and his gang have been in every story arc of New Avengers since #33 and issue #61 has just come out, revolving around the Hood and his minions. That's half of the run of New Avengers taken over by some dweeb in a cloak that gets beaten every single time they face him. Baron Zemo was a force to be reckoned with because he took over Avengers mansion with his Masters of Evil and really took them to the limit in Under Siege, but the Hood gets pantsed by Brother Voodoo (I refuse to call him Dr. Voodoo. Dr. Strange was a real doctor, being sorcerer supreme was not the reason he was called doctor!!).


The Hood as created by Brian K. Vaughn was a real family man who did bad things because he was fed up with the situations that he kept finding himself in and he needed to provide for his pregnant girlfriend. Bendis took all of the aspects of his character that made him a three dimensional character and twisted them to make him into nothing more than a caricature of what he once was. Now, he just sits around in his warehouse plotting and shooting villains who disagree with him about how to handle things. The only thing of any note in the last three to four years Bendis has been writing the Hood was introducting Dormammu as the power behind Parker Robbins abilities, but that got chucked out right away so he could be Loki's lackey.

As bad as what he's done to the Hood, the hack job that Bendis has done to Clint Barton is worse. For starters, everyone knows the whole "killing him and bringing him back to life in House of M just for shock value" stuff so I won't harp on that too much. Instead, I'm going to share some pictures, the first from Kurt Busiek's incredible Thunderbolts run, and the second from Bendis' awful The List: Avengers.

Hawkeye makes Mach-1 turn himself in for killing someone...

And now he feels it's his turn to kill some people.

Now don't let the different costume fool you, that's Clint Barton (Hawkeye/Ronin) in both pictures. Hawkeye took over as the leader of the Thunderbolts, and he said that he would look past their villainous pasts except for Mach-1 who commited murder back when he was the Beetle. According to Clint, murder was the one crime that someone always had to answer to and this was a principal that his character held for years. That is, up to the point that Bendis started writing him, as now he threatens to kill anyone who he feels has wronged him (Scarlet Witch twice and Osborn). If Bendis doesn't understand that Hawkeye is a true hero who has convictions, then why does he want to use him so bad in his books? Does he just think of him as some dude who shoots arrows that's a blank slate for him to use to advance the story? It doesn't make sense to me either way.

Always Crashing in the Same Car

But honestly, the one positive about Dark Reign: The List: The Avengers: was that at the very least something actually happened in a Bendis comic book for once instead of just talking. If we go back to the last "reboot" of the Avengers franchise, back when Kurt Busiek and George Perez took over with Heroes Return, let's look at the action from the first 20 issues or so:

-Fought and defeated Morgan Le Fay in an alternate reality, picked the roster and announced it publically, battled the Squadran Supreme, defeated Moses Magnum, defeated Grim Reaper and the dead Avengers that he brought back from the dead, fought the Thunderbolts led by Hawkeye (who had just quit the Avengers to join them), defeated the Wrecking Crew, uncovered a conspiracy within the Triune Understanding, battled Alkema (Ultron's wife), and defeated Ultron after he wiped out a country and threatened the fate of the entire world.

That's just the main plots of the issues, and not even taking into consideration all of the myriad of sub-plots that Busiek squeezed in with Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, the Vision, and Hawkeye. Now allow me to examine the main plots of the first 20 issues of Bendis' run:

- Stopped a prison break at the Raft and recaptured Sauron, talked with the Sentry to try and figure out his problems, fought ninja in Japan with girl-Ronin, talked to Spider-Woman about her being a traitor for Hydra, Alpha Flight got killed, kind of fought the Collective and Magneto-Xorn.

That's it. Same amount of issues, but half as much happens. And let me just say, that even the issues where there is actual superheroism with Bendis the battles are so arbitrary that they are almost completely worthless. But they happen so infrequently that you don't notice, since hardly anything ever happens in any of the issues and most story arcs run too long or never develop any kind of plot that advances things. Or, as happened recently with the leadership of the New Avengers, things happen but are treated as if they don't matter so the audience doesn't care. In New Avengers #51, they have this weird conversation where Luke Cage is just like "wait, I've been leader of the Avengers? I didn't even realize it, you better lead". It completely refutes what a huge step forward it was for Luke Cage to be leading the Avengers following Civil War. Luke had moved up to the front lines to fight for what he believed in, to take a stand against something that he felt was wrong. But now, it was like he never even cared about leading the Avengers in the first place. UGH! Why should the readers care if it's clear that Bendis doesn't?

All the Young Dudes

Look, Bendis sells comic books, plain and simple. So he's not going anywhere sadly, especially since he's going to be launching a brand new Avengers core title with John Romita Jr handling art. I've dropped all Bendis titles the last couple months, and I'm begrudingly buying Siege so I can see how Dark Reign ends finally. I'm still hoping that Bendis will go back to just doing the street level heroes which he excels at and make way for Jonathan Hickman to take over the Avengers because that would kick ass. Ah well, at least a man can dream huh?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, fanboy rage! Love it. This is pretty well set out. I'm not a massive Bendis fan, I loved his DD, and find his current Spider-Woman to be slooooooow. Other than that I put my faith in other writers.