Let’s get the most obvious out of the way – this reboot of Spider-Man, which attracted an entirely new audience to the character upon its debut, was my first sample of Bendis’s work. I took the plunge in the winter of 2004 and purchased the first three hardcover volumes, collecting the first thirty-six issues or so of the series. Although later volumes jarred with me, the first 50 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man are my favourite stories overall involving the character; from a modern perspective, I honestly believe Bendis and Bagley’s run on USM are more essential than anything in regular Marvel continuity.
I think it’s Bendis’s postmodern approach to superheroes that makes his work so enjoyable. In Powers, the theme is taken to strange new places as the seedier side of vigilante life is explored through the series’ protagonists, police officers Walker and Pilgrim. The book rarely hits a rough patch, and some volumes are absolutely outstanding and exceptionally clever in the way they challenge our perceptions of what a superhero is (or should be). Start with volume one and work your way through. You won’t regret it.
I can’t begin to relay how much I enjoyed Bendis’s collaboration with Alex Maleev on this noir superhero title. In the Eighties, Frank Miller deconstructed the character of Matt Murdock with an unprecedented level of maturity; in the last decade, Bendis and Maleev took Daredevil apart and put him back together again on multiple occasions, each time adding layers to what was a fascinatingly bleak – but also very cool – psychological crime thriller. I’m quite amazed the writer’s run on Daredevil doesn’t get the same level attention as his work on, say, The New Avengers, but in years to come I’m hopeful it’ll receive the same level of acclaim as Miller’s run.
When I interviewed Bendis in 2008, I mentioned that I had a copy of Jinx sat in my drawer next to my desk, unread. He advised me not to read it, but I’m very glad that I did – as one of his earlier, self-illustrated works, it’s a diamond in the rough, but you can see the stepping stones of snappy dialogue and brave experimentation with storytelling style that would elevate him to such high status within the comic book industry later in his career. Without wanting to spoil it, one chase sequence within the book is perhaps my favourite action sequence of any Bendis work.
I adored Alias, so much so that I managed to work volume 2 of the series into our 25 Greatest Graphic Novels Of All Time feature. Following the exploits of ex-superhero Jessica Jones, the character operates in the shadow of the Marvel Universe, encountering her old costumed pals sporadically but mainly trying to do right as a private detective. Alias offers an intriguing alternative look at the Marvel Universe, the mature content MAX label enabling Bendis to explore far darker themes than he otherwise would be able to. Buy all four volumes. Now!