Brian Michael Bendis is one of the biggest comic book writers there is. I first started reading his comics in 2000 when he started doing work for Marvel Comics. I read his Ultimate Spider-Man and Daredevil and Powers. He’d been making comics on his own and through Image for years but when I found his David Mamet-inspired work it was exciting. Eventually I grew tired of breezy comics populated with indistinct characters talking around tables and engaging in little or vague action. While I wasn’t picking up his comics they continued to top the sales charts thanks to his dedicated fan base. Bendis is now leaving the Avengers franchise he’s helmed for eight years to launch a third volume of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Bendis’ iteration will follow up on the critically acclaimed second volume made of Marvel’s formerly abandoned cosmic heroes which is due for a summer blockbuster in theaters 2014. As a kid I read the odd issue of the original title and was a loyal reader of the second volume. I like the characters and think there is a lot of potential for great storytelling but sadly I don’t expect Bendis to capitalize on that.
A few weeks ago he did a promotional interview with his employer in order to sell their product where he said,
“My thought as a writer is that space in between planets is where the good stuff happens; this is where they have time to interact with each other. Think about Star Wars; the best scene in Star Wars is when they’re going from one planet to the other and Obi Wan is trying to teach Luke about the Force. And the Wookie is playing chess with the robots. That’s the good stuff, that’s where you get to know everybody. That’s what space means to me.”
The first problem with that statement is the fallacy of stating his opinion as a fact. I doubt many people would consider that the best scene in the movie. I would say the Death Star battle, or the rescue of Princess Leia, or the Cantina scene, or entering Mos Eisley, or “that’s no moon,” or the opening scene. The movie is full of memorable moments and the scene he’s mentioning is one of those, but it’s hardly the one people turn the movie on to see.
The real problem with his statement is that his reasoning doesn’t hold up because, that isn’t when we got to know the characters. The scene he’s describing is the fortieth scene in the movie. By that point we’ve spent time with characters and they’ve distinguished themselves in our minds through their actions. We’ve seen that Luke is an adventurous kid willing to try new things despite anyone trying to discourage him when he set out after R2-D2. We’ve seen that R2-D2 takes risks and that C-3PO will be trying to hold him back when they escaped the Rebel ship and stumbled around in the desert. We’ve seen that Obi-Wan is in tune with something larger than the others when he scared off Sand People and tricked Stormtroopers. We’ve seen that Han is a man who survives by his wits and willingness to fight when he killed the assassin that came to collect him.
No matter how many jokes Han cracks around a chessboard, we’ll never learn more about him than we did when he shot Greedo in the middle of their conversation. But Bendis thinks the best way to illuminate character is to have them sit around a table. He’s been given a character that allows him to send his characters anywhere in the vast Marvel Comics Universe but he’s most excited about having his cast sit around a table and talk. That self imposed limitation is why I stopped reading Brian Michael Bendis’ comics years ago and why I won’t be revising that decision anytime soon.