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Random Thought! Brian Michael Bendis’s tenure on the Avengers books has officially come to an end. The past two weeks have seen the release of Avengers #34 and New Avengers #34 where each series under Bendis reached its conclusion. I definitely liked New Avengers more than Avengers, but neither was a home run ‘all time great’ finale. Of course, part of that is because it’s not the end. Avengers #1 comes out tomorrow. Unlike The Boys, Scalped, or any other finite creator-owned book, there isn’t a proper ending to the Avengers and its cast of characters. Every ending is simply a new beginning. Bendis’s two finales were almost the opposite of true endings with the redemption of Wonder Man, the return of the Wasp, Dr. Strange back as the Sorcerer Supreme, Iron Man owning Avengers Mansion, and Luke Cage looking like he’ll soon be a hero for hire once again. There was a definite sense of not just avoiding a definitive finish where nothing could follow, but of trying to make things as ‘normal’ as possible. The toys are put back in the box, a little scuffed up and dirty, but it’s the same toys and the same box.
There’s also the fact that Bendis rarely demonstrated an ability to actually deliver a conclusion that wasn’t a beginning when writing these books. I’ve seen him do it elsewhere, but something about making the Avengers the new franchise took away the ability to actually end things. It was always an end with a little something extra tacked on to try to sell you on the next thing. Or, it was a story where the entire point, by the time you got to the last issue, seemed to be, in retrospect, getting you excited about the next event or status quo. It’s a fine line to walk in mainstream serialised corporate superhero comics and, more often than not, Bendis fell on the side of ‘content with the promise of better content to come.’
His time on Avengers was about hype and spectacle. He destroyed the Avengers, be created new Avengers that weren’t really Avengers, he brought in a mysterious team member that everyone guessed so was made someone else, he (co-) wrote four events, he had people guessing who was a Skrull and who wasn’t, he killed Hawkeye and Wasp, he brought back Mockingbird, Hawkeye, and Wasp, he destroyed the mutants, he turned the Hood, Sentry, and Noh-Varr into his own, and he revealed that Iron man started a scret club where a select few superheroes (some who were often villains) made big decisions that affected the world in big ways. Bendis was fucking ballsy, he was.
What eventually drew me in and won me over was his voice. This wasn’t the Avengers, this was his Avengers. There’s no mistaking the two. Some people hated that, but fuck ‘em. There are actually people who still say that Spider-Man and Wolverine and Luke Cage can’t be Avengers, because they aren’t Avengers, because they can’t be Avengers, dammit! It’s insane, of course. Go back to the beginning of the Avengers: Stan and Jack taking all of their heroes who weren’t Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, basically, and putting them together. New Avengers was the purest remake of that concept since it happened. Anyone is an Avenger if they’re an Avenger. That’s the great thing about the team, especially under Bendis. It was the entire superhero community coming together to fight the good fight and not worry that this guy is a mutant with claws and that guy used to wear a tiara and that they have two Spider-People on the team at the same time…! All Captain America needs to know is that you’re willing to fight for what’s right. A pretty simple concept and, yet, so many people didn’t seem to get it. I’m glad that Bendis did and made it the underpinning of his eight years on these books.
He also twisted the concept and pushed it. Norman Osborn’s “Dark Avengers” were the Avengers for a time and I like that, too. At the height of the franchise’s popularity, the concept was taken by a madman and made his own. He used the superficial trapping of the Avengers to actually reproduce what Bendis had done with New Avengers. Bendis basically created a book to poke fun at the outcry against his own time on the title. There was Spider-Man and Wolverine and Ares and Noh-Varr and Sentry and, yes, Hawkeye, because why not dig the knife in a bit? HA! And, of course, they actually tried to play hero. Fuck you all.
It didn’t start with Luke and Jessica, but they became the heart and soul of New Avengers, so it had to end with them. Damn right. The best issues of the series were the ones about them. And Luke Cage is one of the greats now. He is one of the top Avengers in my book. He stood for everything an Avenger should and never backed down when someone bad was standing in his way. He was the man. That he walked away to be a husband and father only proves how great he is. the best part of Bendis’s Avengers was Luke Cage, so you’re damn right I’ll follow Bendis and Cage wherever they may go.
I didn’t always love Bendis’s Avengers comics. Some were downright awful. Some were amazing. Most were good. The new issue of whatever title was coming out that week was usually the first comic I read (if there wasn’t a new issue of The Boys) and I really, really enjoyed it. I even devoted 24 hours of my life to writing about just about it (and, yes, that archive post is the most-viewed post on my blog). I wasn’t there right from the beginning, but that hardly seems to matter. I got into the title shortly after I came to Windsor six years ago. Much like The Boys starting just before I moved here, Brian Michael Bendis’s Avengers has been a constant of sorts. I’m going to miss it now that it’s done. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun and surprising and enraging and engaging and heartfelt and thrilling and something that I liked having around.
So, thanks, Brian.
Random Joe Casey Question! Have you considered trying to launch a new comics project through crowdfunding like Kickstarter?
Random Joe Casey Answer! I’ve had good friends of mine talk seriously about trying it, but for me, I’ve never considered it an option. And I couldn’t tell you why… I couldn’t say that I have some hardcore stance on it, one way or another. In fact, I know I don’t. It’s just not a part of my general outlook right now. Image Comics has been far too accommodating to both me and my work to ever consider another way. I definitely don’t have anything against it… I think it’s an interesting avenue for creators to take and I’m sure its existence — and the success that a lot of folks have had with it — says something about the current state of Art in our culture. I just haven’t thought it would be a great fit for me, personally. Not yet, anyway.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Later.
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