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"The Scourge of Bendis"

by: Protoclown

Brian Michael Bendis is one of the most popular and prolific writers currently working in the comics business. He's also probably the most overrated. I liked Bendis well enough when I first discovered him, back when he was writing Sam and Twitch for Todd McFarlane (and it was a much better book than Spawn, although that's not saying much). He was a fresh new voice in the comic writing stable, but next thing I knew it seemed like there wasn't a single book at Marvel Comics that Bendis wasn't involved with in some way. And now he's gotten stale due to overexposure.

These are just a few of the million books that Bendis has written for Marvel.

The thing about Bendis is that he's not necessarily a bad writer—it's just that his overexposure has taken him well outside the realm of where his strengths lie. He's pretty good at writing crime books, and now that his run on Daredevil is over, he's only doing one of those (Powers). He used to be pretty good at writing Spider-Man as a teenager (in Ultimate Spider-Man), before he started making him sound Jewish. And if Spider-Man, like Bendis, was Jewish, I wouldn't have a problem with that. But he's not. And even if he does live in New York, where it's probably fairly common to hear Yiddish slang on the street, it still feels just as out of place to hear Spider-Man speak it as it would to hear him suddenly start spouting off ebonics or cockney rhyming slang. It just plain doesn't fit the character. Peter Parker is now dating a Jewish girl (Kitty Pride, the X-Men's Shadowcat) and she doesn't speak any Yiddish… only he does.

Okay, so he said "oy" a couple times. No big deal, right? I can let him get away with that.

But "shmendrick"? No, I don't believe for a minute that anyone who's not Jewish is going to have any idea what that word means.

Speaking of out-of-character dialogue, let's take a look at this Wolverine moment that really just speaks for itself:

I don't care what kind of drugs Wolvie is on—he could be tripping balls after drinking an entire swimming pool of PCP—there is simply no way those words would ever come out of Wolverine's mouth in a single sentence—in any order. It's simply not possible.

And I ask you, has posh Emma Frost ever sounded more dignified than she does when Bendis puts words in her mouth?

As I recall, Bendis never used to have this problem before Ultimate Spider-Man really took off. But he's starting to have so many bizarre "what the fuck!?" completely out-of-character moments that I feel like I'm reading some 12-year-old kid's Marvel fan fiction based on his role-playing game experiences. I have a theory about this. Bendis has such an extreme hard-on for Spider-Man that the more he writes, the more his characters all sound like a 15-year-old Peter Parker (except for Peter Parker who is starting to sound like an old Jewish man). Eventually, every single line of dialogue by every character is going to sound exactly like this. My guess is that these crazy out-of-character moments are just bumps along the road as the transition to Total Parker Takeover takes place.

One of the more controversial books Bendis is writing right now is The New Avengers, which has gone for 17 issues now and has still not gotten particularly interesting. The problem is that Bendis took the old Avengers team and replaced many of them with characters that we were seeing too damn much already. So now characters like Wasp and Giant Man have nary a mention in any Marvel titles, while Spider-Man and Wolverine have added their zillionth in an already long list of monthly appearances. And to make things even more boring yet, Spider-Woman appears on the team along with Spider-Man, because apparently one spider-themed hero just isn't enough.

I can just see how the conversation between Bendis and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada went now:

QUESADA: Alright Brian, who's in your New Avengers line-up?
BENDIS: Spider-Man.
QUESADA: Christ, he's in a lot of books as it is. But he sells well, so sure. Who else?
BENDIS: Spider-Woman.
QUESADA: Okay, you can have her on the team too. Who else?
BENDIS: Spider-Girl.
QUESADA: Okay, look. You've got ENOUGH Spider-People on the team as it is. This is the New Avengers, not the New Arachnids. Pick someone else.
BENDIS: Venom.
BENDIS: I like spiders.
QUESADA: I know you do, Brian. I know you do.

Even from a purely visual standpoint, the team is boring, with three of the members now having a red-and-gold color scheme (Iron Man and the Spider-Twins) and two of the others having a blue-and-gold color scheme (Wolverine and Sentry). One of the main reasons superheroes wear such outlandishly colorful costumes is so they can be easily differentiated from their teammates. It keeps the art visually interesting, and helps the reader figure out who the hell they're looking at, even if the artwork for that issue happens to be really bad. Nowadays when you look at a battle scene involving the team, all you see is a muddled sea of red, gold, and blue spandex attached to god knows whose firmly muscled buttocks.

Evil beware! The shrunken-headed heroes are on the case! I mean, look
at Captain America's head, seriously. It looks like a pin stuck in a potato.

Bendis has proven himself to be much better at writing books about one or two main characters rather than those involving a large cast, so he's probably not the best person to write a major team book like New Avengers anyway. If you want an example, take a look at Bendis's House of M series, which was supposed to impact the entire Marvel Universe, but really only focuses on a small handful of characters, leaving the others all but forgotten in the background. Now compare that to DC's Infinite Crisis, written by Geoff Johns. Johns really knows how to balance an insanely large cast of characters, giving everybody ample page time while still bouncing around between various divergent plot threads, and conveying rather well the idea that the entire universe of heroes is involved in the events. Give them both a read, and you'll see a world of difference in their writing styles in terms of handling major universe-wide catastrophic events.

Bendis has a massive hard-on for a very small group of characters in the Marvelverse, working them into just about every story he writes, whether their presence is appropriate to the situation or not. I've decided to measure his level of affection for each of these characters using what I like to call the Bendis Bone-o-meter™.


Like Spinal Tap's amps, Spider-Man goes up to 11. There is nobody in the Marvel Universe that Bendis has a bigger man-crush on. If Bendis were to someday sign an exclusive contract with DC Comics, you can bet your ass that he'd find some way to work Spider-Man into his stories over there. Rumor has it that Bendis sent out Spider-Man valentines this year, and by that I mean they were all addressed to Spider-Man.


Second only to Spider-Man, Wolverine finds a way to keep popping up in many of the books Bendis writes. In fact, he and Spider-Man teamed up several times in his stories before becoming New Avengers teammates. So now this "loner" who doesn't like to work with others is on the X-Men AND the Avengers. At any given moment in Marvel continuity, Wolverine can be found in New York fighting alongside the X-Men and the Avengers, in Japan or Canada seeking out his past, and in the Savage Land fighting dinosaurs. In fact, the team recruited Wolvie after bumping into him in the Savage Land, because it's a rule that anytime anyone goes to the Savage Land for anything, they have to encounter Wolverine.

Iron Man

Tony Stark, Marvel's resident drunkard, finds himself high up on Bendis's favorites list. He always seems to dispense sage-like, fatherly advice to the other heroes and has an annoying tendency to avoid using contractions when he speaks.


Despite having an obviously huge fascination with Daredevil, Bendis showed a surprising amount of restraint by not having him join the New Avengers team. They did try to recruit him to the team however, where in a fit of angst he told them that he was a loner and there was no way he could join them.


Even though he killed off Hawkeye, it's pretty clear now that he always intended to bring him back in the House of M storyline. I'll probably get shot with an acid-tipped arrow by some obsessed fanboy for saying this, but I've never seen the appeal of Hawkeye. I'm one of the rare people who finds DC's Green Arrow to be the cooler archer.

Captain America

Whereas Tony Stark plays the part of the alcoholic dad of the Bendisverse, Steve Rogers is the kind of dad who can make you pee your pants in shame by standing in front of a backdrop of the American flag and staring you down, all because you weren't patriotic enough to satisfy him. It seems that if Cap stands around posing with his shield long enough, he'll eventually make the bad guys cry.

Luke Cage

Bendis did for Luke Cage's career what Tarantino did for John Travolta's. Which is cool and all, because for years Luke Cage didn't get any page time at all. Now he's getting so much page time that I'm actually starting to get sick of him. And I like Luke Cage too. I don't want to be sick of him.


Spider-Woman is another character who is having a resurgence in popularity, largely because of Bendis. Frankly, I'd much rather have her on the Avengers than Spider-Man, because she definitely fits into a group more than he does.

Jessica Jones

To be fair, this character is Bendis's own creation, so he has every right to use her as much as he likes. And I loved following her through her book Alias, where she first appeared. Then that book went away, and she started showing up in The Pulse instead, where she couldn't curse anymore. Then she got pregnant, and then she got really annoying by getting herself into dangerous situations, and doing everything short of running into the middle of a superhero fight just so she could berate the combatants for fighting around a pregnant woman.


Bendis apparently has no love for this burly Viking god, as after his death around the time of the Avengers: Disassembled story arc, there was barely even a mention of him. My understanding is that his death took place in his own book, but Bendis couldn't even spare a "Hey, where's Thor? What!? He's fucking dead? That's a bummer, man" in the Avengers title.

For someone who reputedly excels at writing realistic dialogue, Bendis not only makes most of his characters sound the same, but he frequently has pairs of characters fall into the same formulaic speech pattern "rapports" with one another. Anyone who's read more than a handful of Bendis books knows exactly what I'm talking about. For those of you who haven't, it goes a little like this:

ME: Man, I hate that Bendis dialogue thing.
YOU: Bendis dialogue thing?
ME: Yes.
YOU: He has a thing?
ME: He does.
YOU: A dialogue thing?
ME: Yes. A dialogue thing.
YOU: I can't say I've noticed.
ME: You wouldn't.

And so on and so forth, over and over again. I don't know how many conversations I've read by him that are built in that same annoying way. Most people don't talk like that, but in the Bendisverse, apparently everyone talks like that. So now I'm going to show you how to write dialogue the Bendis way. This is his secret formula.


In a recent story arc of Bendis's creator-owned title Powers (which is the best book he's currently working on), he's framed the action of the story with these seemingly unrelated stage rants given by random people who have nothing to do with the story. Presumably, these rants are given in a comedy club, although none of them have been remotely funny (just ranty). I don't know why anyone would go to a club to hear people whine about shit that annoys them if they're not going to at least be funny about it, but one of these rants was a thinly veiled rant by Bendis himself about people who anonymously talk trash about him on the internet. There's a lot of that going on, and Bendis obviously revels in the attention (and if you don't believe me, read a few issues of the Powers letter column—he encourages these people). But in the interests of not being anonymous, on the off chance that Bendis ever sees this article, my name is Jason Grunert, and I live in Richmond, Virginia. There. I'm not anonymous anymore.

And again, Bendis isn't exactly a bad writer. But he should never, ever be compared to the likes of someone like Alan Moore, who I've seen him compared to several times. Bendis is a case of a decent writer who blew up too big too fast, and I think the quality of his writing has taken a severe nose-dive as a result of his newfound popularity. Compare his early graphic novel Torso with his recent work in Ultimate Spider-Man and I wager you'll find a world of difference between their levels of quality. Bendis needs to get over his own popularity and get back into the creativity that he used to be capable of.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans brag about how Joss Whedon is so good at writing dialogue that you can often take a single line by a character, out of context, and still identify who said the line. Even if you haven't seen the episode it came from. There are online quizzes out there based on this premise. My argument is that with Bendis's dialogue you won't know your Luke Cage from your Spider-Man. So in the interest of testing that theory, I've created this brief BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS DIALOGUE QUIZ! Enjoy!

1) "Yes! Yes! He is ALWAYS alive!! His legs are broken and he shattered a rib! But he ALWAYS LIVES!!!"

a) Luke Cage
b) Daredevil
c) Sentry
d) Captain America

2) "Wow, woof! I can't believe that worked... I saw it in a Jackie Chan movie. Jackie Chan is my newWHATCHA!!"

a) Iron Fist
b) Steven Seagal
c) Spider-Man
d) Luke Cage

3) "Aaagghh!! My baby!! My baby!! I'm PREGNANT!! HE KILLED MY BABY!! Oh God!!! He killed my baby!!"

a) Iron Man
b) The Hulk
c) Jessica Jones
d) Dr. Strange

4) "And the next time you even THINK about comin' around here trying to sell that stuff I want you to remember that name!! Say it—SAY MY NAME!!"

a) Luke Cage
b) Spider-Man
c) Jesus Christ
d) Daredevil

5) "House of Magnus!! House of Magnus??!! Logan, we're gonna—we're going to find Magneto, and oh! That is IT!! THIS IS IT!! We're going to KILL him! AND his kids!"

a) Hawkeye
b) Spider-Woman
c) She Hulk
d) Emma Frost

6) "Listen—I got some mutates on my tail for a good six hours now. I was keepin' them at arm's length but happy pants over here broke my stride."

a) Wolverine
b) Nick Fury
c) Hawkeye
d) Cyclops

7) "Listen to me, all you B-list jokers have bitten off a #$@% load more than you can chew—I already called in the cavalry and an army of gun-totin' S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are about to swarm right up your armored patooties! So do yourselves a big favor now... and stand down!"

a) Black Widow
b) Captain America
c) Spider-Woman
d) Nick Fury

8) "You're an idiot monkey!! The entire city hangs in the balance over what happens here and you're sticking your nose where it doesn't belong!!"

a) Spider-Man
b) Moon Knight
c) Black Cat
d) Namor

9) "You listen! You sanctimonious piece of crap!! You listen! You're dead to me! I've never said those words in my whole #$@%ing life, but I'm saying them to you. You're dead to me!"

a) Nick Fury
b) Jessica Jones
c) Galactus
d) Daredevil

10) "Sucks to be you, peppy! Because I can absorb all kinds of energggAAGGHH!!"

a) Iron Man
b) Spider-Man
c) Ms. Marvel
d) Scarlet Witch

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Tales From the Longbox column!




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