Frontlist | Justice League: The Biggest Worry About Bendis’ New Series
Brian Michael Bendis is, without exaggeration, a titan of modern comics, having enjoyed vast success with his work on Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil, and New Avengers for Marvel before moving over to DC and quickly stripping Superman of his secret identity, curating the Wonder Comics imprint, and recently assembling a brand new iteration of the Justice League which brings back classic and much-missed members in a never-before-seen configuration.
So why are fans nervous about an incoming writer unafraid to take big swings and backed by a sterling track record of large-scale, critically and commercially successful work? Of course, there will always be those who don’t enjoy a particular creator’s style, or even instances where a writer is a poor fit for a given property, but in DC fans’ discussions of why Bendis may not be a great fit, the same term keeps cropping up.
That term is “Bendis speak,” a shortform way of alluding to Bendis’ idiosyncratic way of writing dialogue. Few people would deny that Bendis has a very specific way of writing speech, marked by rapid interplay between characters, self-interruption and correction, and a habit of deconstructing and recombining a phrase so it can be delivered several times in a row. Bendis’ style has both fans and detractors – some celebrate how Bendis speak adds pace and variety to expositional scenes, while others argue that it serves to swamp pages in unnecessary speech bubbles, undercutting the visual art for no real gain. Everyone, of course, is entitled to their opinion, but it’s fair to say that Justice League in particular offers a hurdle likely to make Bendis speak more of a problem than an asset.
Previews of Bendis’ Justice League have revealed a truly mythic cast, including farm-boy hero Superman, grim billionaire Batman, social activist Green Arrow, ancient antihero Black Adam, teenage powerhouse Naomi, and aristocratic heavyweights Queen Hippolyta and Aquaman. The issue that has fans sweating is that Bendis speak, for all its positive qualities, tends to fail at giving characters individual voices, making each sound interchangeable in any given situation. This problem was almost undetectable in projects like Ultimate Spider-Man, with its cast of characters all of the same age and from the same city, but with a mix of characters from different times, civilizations, and of wildly different temperaments, characters speaking with the same habits, inflections, reference points, and verbal quirks is going to stick out quickly.
The Marvel Universe is undeniably diverse, but DC has always been ahead in terms of creating divergent mythologies, populating Earth with many intersecting worlds that just barely fit together thanks to skillful writing. While it’s believable that Iron Fist, Captain Marvel, and Spider-Man may all speak in the same way, that’s less true for the incoming Justice League team, and fans are already holding up the Batman of Batman: Universe and Naomi as evidence that Bendis’ forthright, empathetic, dignified Batman is no different from his forthright, empathetic, dignified Superman. It’s an issue that, for most readers, didn’t detract from those stories, but which is likely to be exacerbated if DC’s resident pessimist and its ultimate optimist are working beside each other every issue while sounding exactly alike.
It’s too soon to say whether those in the anti-Bendis speak camp are right to worry, and there are lots of reasons to think it won’t be as pronounced as they fear. Precisely because this Justice League are each such archetypal characters, many carry a sense of their natural tone and manner with them – it would, for instance, take conscious effort to force the imperious Black Adam to sound like the scrappy, irreverent Green Arrow. Likewise, Bendis has parodied his own dialogue quirks before, and often deliberately uses them to create the sense of a younger vernacular than wouldn’t be applicable to the lineup showcased so far. Ultimately, readers will draw their own conclusions once Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez’ tenure begins with March 16’s Justice League.
Source: Screen Rant