Brian Michael Bendis officially ends his 15-plus year tenure at Marvel Comics this week with the publication of Invincible Iron Man #600. The issue brings his impressive Iron Man saga, which introduced Riri Williams and reimagined Doctor Doom, to a close along with his even more impressive catalog of Marvel superhero comics. Looking back across Bendis’ career so far, there’s an incredible array of new characters, redefined legends, and epic crossovers. Quite frankly, it’s difficult to know where to even start when showing off how much Bendis has accomplished at Marvel Comics.
That’s what we’re here to do though. We have assembled a list of Bendis’ greatest hits from his time at the publisher, ranging from the grittiest street stories to the biggest summer events. If you’re looking to find out what made Bendis a force to be reckoned with for so long, these 10 classic Marvel stories make the case.
Ultimate Spider-Man (vol. 1) #1-7
Art by Mark Bagley, Art Thibert, and Dan Panosian
This isn’t just the best place to start with Brian Michael Bendis comics; it’s a perfect introduction to Marvel Comics as a whole. From the entire Ultimate line, no series reimagined its hero with more clarity or better stylistic updates than Ultimate Spider-Man. These early issues provide the essential teenage superhero narrative with all of the angst, action, and comedy that readers could hope for. Everything that follows is great as well, but this is a perfect beginning.
Daredevil (vol. 2) #32-40
Art by Alex Maleev, Manuel Gutierrez, Terry and Rachel Dodson
It’s difficult to pick just one story from Bendis’ incredible run on Daredevil with Alex Maleev, but just as difficult to argue that any story had more of an impact than “Out.” This is where Daredevil’s identity is finally exposed and his life is changed forever. It would continue to resonate in Marvel Comics until just this last year. The story itself shows Daredevil at his best (or worst) as his life is torn apart and he scrambles to save the day.
Alias (vol. 1) #22-28
Art by Michael Gaydos, Mark Bagley, and Art Thibert
The culmination of Alias delivers one of the darkest stories in modern comics. After 21 issues, Bendis and Jessica Jones co-creator Michael Gaydos finally revealed why their hero stopped putting on a costume. It’s a tragic story that sets up a showdown with Purple Man that made him one of the most chilling villains at Marvel’s and provided Jessica with one of her greatest moments.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man (vol. 2) #6-12
Art by Chris Samnee, Sara Pichelli, and David Marquez
There’s not a single low note in Bendis’ run with Mile Morales, but the second big story featuring the new Spider-Man showcased what made him unique. Bendis recast the role of the Ultimate Prowler with Miles’ uncle, and permanently shifted the character’s focus to themes of family and loyalty. It’s a challenging adventure for Miles, but one that enshrined his status as a hero in the mighty Marvel tradition.
Siege (vol. 1) #1-4
Art by Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales
This is the gold standard for modern Marvel Comics events. Bendis took all of the bloat associated with event comics and delivered the same sprawling cast, epic events, and titanic villains in just four issues. In spite of criticisms of decompression, this story shows that its writer and style are both capable of being told with efficiency to great effect.
New Avengers: Illuminati (vol. 2) #1-5
Co-Written by Brian Reed
Art by Jim Cheung and Mark Morales
In the midst of his run on New Avengers, Bendis simultaneously rewrote the history of Marvel Comics, inventing the organization of the Illuminati that would become integral to a decade of future stories. This cabal of powerful heroes provided a story of Marvel Comics’ greatest hits of the past, while reshaping the current status quo in a way that would build into big stories like World War Hulk and Secret Wars.
Ultimate Spider-Man (vol. 1) #156-160
Art by Mark Bagley, Andy Lanning, and Andrew Hennessy
The conclusion of Ultimate Peter Parker’s life is tragic, but Bendis and his collaborators earn their big finale by telling a Spider-Man story that distills everything important to the character in just a few issues. Spider-Man’s final battle with Norman Osborn is all about protecting the people most important to him. When the dust settled there was no doubt that the world loved this hero, and, more importantly, he had certainly made his Uncle Ben proud.
Secret Invasion (vol. 1) #1-8
Art by Leinil Francis Yu and Mark Morales
This event series paid off years of careful planning from Bendis and his collaborators, revealing designs set into place as far back as “Avengers Disassembled.” The battles between superheroes and Super-Skrulls make for some of the most impressive displays in any Marvel event, and the infiltration plot also highlighted many minor characters in a meaningful manner. Events don’t get much bigger than this.
Daredevil: End of Days (vol. 1) #1-9
Art by Bill Sienkiewicz and Klaus Janson
Bendis’ conception of a final Daredevil story is as much a love letter to essential Daredevil creators like Frank Miller and Klaus Janson as anything else. It takes the most important elements of the franchise and reframes them in a possible last story. Even with Matt Murdock dead, it’s clear that his legacy and world are too vibrant to ever really die.
Invincible Iron Man (vol. 1) #593-600
Art by Stefano Caselli, Alex Maleev, and others
Brian Michael Bendis is leaving Marvel Comics on a high note. His run on both Infamous Iron Man and Invincible Iron Man have provided some of the best Tony Stark-related stories of the past decade. This final adventure in which Tony is returned to life brings all of those pieces back together in an issue that redefines Tony, as well as fellow Iron Man figures Riri Williams and Doctor Doom. It’s a storyline that serves as an excellent conclusion to Bendis’ career at Marvel Comics… or perhaps an ellipses.