Words By Dr Hip-Hop | @DrHipHop85
The year was 2004. The storyline was “Avengers Disassembled”. And the mainly street-level, noir writer Brian Michael Bendis was tasked with closing out this chapter of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Starring the complete mental breakdown of the Scarlet Witch, “Avengers Disassembled” killed several long-time Avengers and completely rocked the team to its core. It seemed like Bendis was just going to demolish a Marvel staple and leave it at that.
Instead, for the next eight years he would completely redefine the Marvel Universe and help elevate the Avengers to the most popular franchise, arguably, in Marvel history. His run would have its ups and downs, but at the end it’s impossible to deny that Bendis fundamentally changed the idea of what it meant to be an Avenger.
Now, Bendis has moved on to the X-Men franchise, but his work at Avengers is surely missed. To pay homage, I’ve put together 10 of the biggest, most controversial, or insane things instituted under his reign. For your reading pleasure, here’s the best of Bendis.
10. The Hood’s Rise To Prominence — A common theme of Bendis’ run was bringing some cult favorite new character into the limelight. One such character was the Hood. Created by the brilliant team of Brian K. Vaughn, Kyle Hotz, and Eric Powell, Parker Robbins was a small time thug before he acquired mystical hooded cloak. With this acquisition his life changed but he still remained relatively small time.
That is until Bendis got his hands on the character and turned him into a self-styled godfather of the supervillian community in New York City. The Hood created an almost mafioso style family where everyone was given a cut as long as they did there job. His rise to power accumulated with his membership in Norman Osborn’s Cabal during the Dark Reign and him even momentarily having some of the Infinity Gems. Who says hard work doesn’t pay off?
Key Stories: Hood #1-6; Dark Reign: The Hood #1-5; New Avengers Annual #2; New Avengers #51-53
9. Expanded the Avengers Roster — In a span of eight years Bendis added a staggering 23 new members to the Avengers lineup. This included uber-popular characters like Wolverine and Spider-Man, as well as cult favorites like Luke Cage and Iron Fist. He added new characters like Flash Thompson’s Venom and Echo. As well as long time Marvel characters like Dr. Strange, Daredevil, and Nova. He even crossed the usually “DON’T DO THAT” line with the X-Men when he added Storm to the team. Looking back, there is no doubt any comparison to any other writer when it comes to how many characters they added to this team.
Key Stories: New Avengers vol.1 #1-5; New Avengers vol.2 #1-4; Mighty Avengers #1
8. “No More Mutants” — It was three words that would forever alter the Marvel Universe. During the mega-event of House of M (the first of many over the next 8 years), the mentally unstable Scarlet Witch had altered the very fabric of reality and created a seeming paradise world. But as most seeming utopias go, this world was far from perfect and thanks to the very blessing the Scarlet Witch had bestowed, a group of revived heroes waged a war to restore reality. At the climax of this battle, the mega-powerful Scarlet Witch wished to punish her father and uttered the worlds “No More Mutants”.
And in a white flash more than 90% of the world’s mutants were depowered and reality was restored. And from these events the X-Men’s world was forever changed. With the effects of this event lasting until this summer’s Avengers vs X-Men. Talk about far-reaching consequences.
Key Issues: House of M; X-Men: Deadly Genesis #1-6; X-Men Messiah Complex; X-Men Second Coming; Avengers vs X-Men
7. Osborn’s Rise to Prominence/Dark Reign — Not only did Bendis elevate a relatively unknown character like the Hood, but during his tenure on the Avengers he helped take Norman Osborn from just a Spider-Man villain to a global threat. Thanks to the work of Warren Ellis during his run on Thunderbolts, Norman Osborn was in a perfect position to benefit from the end of Marvel’s Secret Invasion event. From there he wormed his way into the position of “top super-cop” and recreated S.H.I.E.L.D. as H.A.M.M.E.R. For one year his “Dark Reign” was absolute. Sadly, as is the case with Osborn, his lunacy got the better of him and he was defeated by a newly revived Captain America and Avengers during Siege.
Key Stories: Thunderbolts #122-125; Dark Avengers #1-16; Siege
6. No One Was Safe — Sure Bendis brought new things into the Avengers but he also took some away. From the start of Avengers Disassembled, it seemed like no character was safe when a zombified Jack of Hearts killed Scott Lang. The body count would then escalate to include Hawkeye, the Vision, the Wasp, Ares, and the Sentry. All but the Sentry, died in some heroic fashion, showing that at least Bendis wanted to send the heroes off as they lived. Luckily, most of these guys have been brought back in one way or another but it doesn’t change the fact that he was willing to kill’em.
5. Moved the Avengers Out the Mansion (And Eventually Back In) — It’s hard to deny the visual that Bendis gave us in Avengers Disassembled when he had the iconic Avengers mansion destroyed. These events were like a cleansing of what came before and set the stage for his era of Avengers. The team did move to a snazzy penthouse in Stark Towers, relabeled Avengers Towers. This move, while controversial at first, would become very mainstream. It even appears in the multi-billion dollar Avengers movie. But, even Bendis couldn’t deny the nostalgia of the mansion and with his second volume of New Avengers, he moved the team back in.
4. Brought the Avengers to the Street Level — The Avengers were always considered “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”, a grouping of the best of the best of Marvel’s superheroes, who come together to face threats that one superhero can’t. But when Bendis brought in guys like Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Iron Fist, the team became much more street level in their constitution. So instead of being a team of Gods and space-gladiators, people like Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Mockingbird were the premiere superheroes. This changed not only the roster but the way they viewed threats and handled them. It was a bold move for Marvel’s big kids club.
3. Made Luke Cage Their Leader — When Bendis took over the Avengers Captain America was originally their leader, but after the events of Marvel’s Civil War someone else stepped up to lead the “New” Avengers. On the run from a government-led Iron Man team, Luke Cage took the mantle of leadership for the New Avengers. Through a Skrull invasion, the dark reign of Norman Osborn, battles with other-dimensional deities, and super-criminal syndicates, Cage earned his place among the great Avengers leaders by holding his team together through it all. If Cap is the classic Avengers leader, then Luke Cage was what we needed for the new millennium.
2. Made the Avengers Into the “New” X-Men — Once upon a time there was only one Avengers title (well technically there were times when the Avengers had multiple titles but hear me out) and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes didn’t have a record-smashing movie or a highly popular animated series. And while we can’t give all the credit to Bendis, there is no denying that his take on the superhero team and the story elements he brought in didn’t have a HUGE impact on the explosive popularity of the franchise. At the start of the Marvel NOW! movement there are currently 6 titles with the word Avengers in it, making them a franchise that rivals that of Marvel’s Merry Mutants.
1. Redefined What It Really Means to Be An Avenger — Before there was a clear distinction between “Avenger” worthy characters and those who were either solo characters or relegated to second-class status in something like The Defenders or Champions. Sure the ’90s saw people like Rage, Justice, Firestar, and Darkhawk join their ranks but they faced a lot of negative reaction and the general idea of what constitutes an Avenger didn’t change.
With Bendis, the idea really expanded to include any hero that was willing to put his or her life on the line. This didn’t sully the name of the Avengers but instead turned them into a real inclusion superpower organization that made their presence much more tangible for readers and people in the MU. Now in 2013, it’s no longer strange to think that Wolverine and Spider-Man are Avengers mainstays.