Brian Michael Bendis ends his run at Marvel by making you want more.
It’s the end for Brian Michael Bendis today as he closes out his last series with Invincible Iron Man #600. This oversized anniversary issue is a bittersweet milestone as it closes out an epic run not just on Iron Man but at Marvel in general. This issue isn’t all about endings though, and is very much about new beginnings — some you will not see coming.
So what’s it about?
Read our preview.
Why does this matter?
Bendis puts a period on many elements fans have come to love, but this is also a comic art fans will not want to miss. There’s an insane amount of artists involved in fact, from the series regulars Stefano Caselli and Alex Maleev, to David Marquez, Daniel Acuna, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Jim Cheung, Mike Deodato Jr., Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy, Scott Hanna, and Andrea Sorrentino. It’s a treasure trove of creators, many of which had epic runs with Bendis on instant classic story arcs.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is the kind of comic you’ll read, put down, and then after some reflection read again. A lot goes down in this book and there are some major plot turns that’ll be dictating future comics and future directions for characters. The opportune word here is characters, something Bendis has historically always been more interested in (just look at his ability to weave character wrinkles into the dialogue) and every single one that has mattered in this series pops up. It’s also a robust read with a heck of a lot of dialogue and captions to get through. Right off the bat, Bendis hits you with a wall of captions. At first I was annoyed, but then I remembered this is his swan song finale so why not go with it?
The main thrust of the narrative belongs to Tony Stark, but subplots like with Riri and Doctor Doom make huge strides that’ll change the characters forever. If this comic had a subtitle it’d be “How Tony got his groove back” because he does in spirit, action-packed heroics, and mind too. You get the sense his being gone all this time has allowed him to reflect and be a slightly better man even if his ego inherited from his mom is never going away. She too gets a major plot development in the way of the big reveal of the last issue and by the end of the issue, you’re going to be pondering where Dan Slott takes this massive tapestry Bendis has left him. Of all the subplots, I’m probably the most excited for where Riri goes from here–I hope she gets her own series–and how on Earth her dynamic with Blade will turn out.
The captions and dialogue are numerous in this issue. We’re talking pages with seventeen-word bubbles running down the page. At this point, it shouldn’t come as a surprise how verbose Bendis is, though these lengthy captions and dialogue bubbles actually serve as the backbone of the comic as well. Nearly every page has Tony’s A.I. talking to the reader, or to a character in a scene. I don’t know if this is because he’s the better self of Tony, or because this has story implications later, but he’s seemingly all knowing as if he’s God. It’ll be interesting to see if Slott continues to use him going forward.
The art team is, obviously, of high quality without a blip if impurity amongst the pages. Many of these artists have varying styles outside the usual superhero realm but it won’t phase you or jar you too much. Jim Cheung, for instance, gives readers one hell of a double-page splash in an action scene, while Bagley gets to draw a few Mary Jane scenes as if to remind us he worked with Bendis for hundreds of issues on Ultimate Spider-Man. Daniel Acuna gets to handle an important father/mother moment in his customary moody action, while Maleev gets to close out the Doctor Doom bits. As a whole, the multiple artists give this book more of a send-off to Bendis rather than celebrate the 600th issue, but given Bendis’ longstanding run in comics that’s perfect.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Doctor Doom’s story certainly suffers the most due to how much is trying to be done in this issue. By the end, he suffers a great deal and changes, but at the cost of a rather quick plot twist and an underdeveloped confrontation, nobody saw coming. His story needed another five pages to mean something and instead serves more as a footnote in a story he almost doesn’t belong in. It doesn’t help the two pages devoted to him are narrated by Tony’s A.I. self. I’m sure Slott will pick him back up and use him (he’s writing Iron Man and Fantastic Four this summer after all), but it’s unfortunate Bendis’ last time writing the character has such little impact. Hood gets an underserved end here as well and unless another writer picks him up Hood fans may feel cheated in how he’s left off.
As a milestone issue this serves more as a goodbye for Bendis rather than a celebration of the character. That’s unfortunate, though Bendis’ standing is so great it’s not surprising. The book ends in a way that celebrates an interesting idea about Tony Stark (future writers will probably abandon), but the last few pages are also confusing. There seems to be a deeper purpose to these scenes and maybe Bendis will clarify in an interview, or maybe we’ll get more from this future Doctor Strange character, but as it stands I was left confused by this scene which doesn’t quite dovetail out of the previous scene before it.
Is it good?
I liked this issue and I’m impressed with how much Bendis and company stuffed into its pages. This is a celebration of Bendis, a celebration of words, and a celebration of all that Bendis has accomplished. As a milestone issue, this series kicks off many new stories to explore and get excited about. This issue sparks the end of an era for Brian Michael Bendis, but in his last narrative he promises many more stories to come. What better way to leave the reader than wanting more?