Some random thoughts on the jawdropping news — at least for readers of superhero comics — that superstar Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis has signed an exclusive contract with DC Comics...
Wow. I mean WOW. This is huge.
I count myself as a huge Bendis fan. Daredevil was the first Marvel book I read, and as I followed Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark's run I also went back to read all the Miller and Smith, and then all the Bendis, and loved it. Then came his Avengers in the run-up to Secret Invasion, which is my favorite Bendis event, especially the carefully laid groundwork leading into it and the support stories in the Avengers books that ran alongside the main series. Dark Avengers and Siege were fantastic, especially with his multilayered Norman Osborn, but his Avengers titles began to get tired for me soon after The Heroic Age began. I soon gleaned on to his X-Men books (which I almost never read) and Guardians of the Galaxy. After the Marvel Universe died (but didn't really OK never mind hey look Miles is here everybody yay), his Iron Man work was brilliant, especially in the recent developments with Riri Williams and Victor Von Doom, and of course I love Jessica Jones (in all her Bendis incarnations) and Miles Morales, his two best creations. (Didn't like Civil War II, but oh well.)
In short, he represented a lot of Marvel was to me for the last 10-12 years, and I will miss his voice there (even if it has become less pervasive in the last couple years as his big franchises wound down).
Two obvious questions going forward are:
What happens to his Marvel books? I assume he'll stay on Iron Man until #600 (when Tony Stark will presumably return), after which the book will go to a heavy hitter like Jason Aaron (my first choice). The inevitable Ironheart book will hopefully go in a new, emerging writer, as should happen also with the Miles Morales book. Jessica Jones is too connected with Bendis (and Michael Gaydos), though, so I don't see anyone taking that over, unless she's wrapped into a joint book with Luke Cage. Defenders could go on with someone else, but it never received Legacy renumbering, so I expect it will be cancelled (especially now that the show is a memory) or re-oriented more towards the rotating line-up of the classic book (at which point it will be renumbered). I would also nominate Mr. Aaron for that. (Or anything. That fella's great.)
What will he do at DC? The best guess is Batman, whether one or both of the existing books (in which I would expect Tom King to jump to Marvel full-time) or a newly created book. Bendis has often expressed his desire to write the character (which was his sole DC credit to this point), and it makes sense given his focus on street-level heroes at Marvel, but personally I don't see Bendis' voice fitting the Dark Knight. (But I imagine this was the lure that got him to jump ship.)
The best fit in my opinion would be a restored Legion of Super-Heroes book: huge team (like the Avengers or X-Men), an entire world for him to play in and develop (like X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy), and so much dialogue to write. (I love his style of dialogue, which would work much better with Legion or Titans than Batman.)
My fantasy pick? Restore Green Arrow to his old, ornery glory and give him to Bendis. Call it Old Man Ollie if you want. (I really want my Ollie back, and I think Bendis would be great. The return of three-alarm chili!)
In general, I do have reservations. I don't think it's particularly novel to say that Bendis is an intrinsically "Marvel" writer, much like writer and penciller Jack Kirby was before he jumped ship to do New Gods and more at DC, and more recently when penciller John Romita Jr. moved to DC to draw Superman. Frankly, I wonder how the patented Bendis voice will fit at DC. (But then again, Kirby didn't do too bad!) Given my poor opinion of the state of DC at the moment, I'm inclined to welcome any shake-up. But I also wonder if the addition of such an "outside" voice, as talented and inventive as he is, would get DC even further off-track at a time when they need to find their center (as promised by Geoff John's Rebirth one-shot). I would prefer that they engage Mr. Johns to devote himself to focusing the line (rather than messing with what should never be touched), and find a corner of the DCU for Bendis to play in where he can indulge himself fully (as they did with Kirby). Again, I think the Legion would be perfect for this, or maybe a new or reimagined parallel Earth. (Earth-B, of course.)
What do you think?