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Kirkman, Bendis, or Millar?

If there’s one thing I do a lot of, it’s talking back to the radio in the car when I listen to podcasts.

One of the nice things about having my own site is that I can answer those questions on the site and get it out of my system.

This time, I’m going back to an episode of iFanboy from last month, where an email question asked the iFanboys to go back to a question originally posed a few years earlier:

“Kirkman, Bendis, or Millar?”

I had an immediate answer, and then had second thoughts and had to think it over.

Personally, it’s Kirkman for me now.   But I had to think about it for a minute.

Before I dive deeper into this, let me make sure it’s framed properly: This is a personal analysis.  It’s what works for me, as a comics reader.  This isn’t meant to be a strictly objective analysis of the matter at hand, if such a thing could be done.  This is how these three creators fit into my comics world today.  Things are ever-shifting.  Let’s revisit this topic in five years and see what’s changed.

For today, let’s do a breakdown:

Mark Millar

Three Millarworld Titles - Starlight, Huck, Chrononauts

Millar has traditionally been too hit or miss, but nearly gets to the top of this mountain because I’ve really liked his most recent stuff.  “Huck,” “Chrononauts,” and “Starlight,” in particular, were awesome comics.  I liked the first “Jupiter’s Legacy” mini, but haven’t followed it past that.

It’s a nice collection of work, even if we all know every one was made with a view to Hollywood.  That’s where Millar loses me, when the inner huckster comes out with the fake memes and publicity stunts.  I also wish he’d do one regular series somewhere to see if he could carry any one story out longer than six issues.

But comics is a business. Millar has found his niche in it, and it’s very profitable.  Some successful movies have been made from his works, and he’s smart enough to own all of that.  Millar and Kirkman would have a fascinating fight if we were to discuss their businesses, and not just their creative output in comics.  I’m trying to make this about the comics writing, though.

Brian Michael Bendis

Jinxworld Bendis Three - Civil War II, International Iron Man, Spider-Men

Ten years ago, the answer was easily Bendis.  Go back to a time when “Powers” was on a regular schedule, and “Ultimate Spider-Man” was in its hey day as the best monthly superhero comic on the stands by far.  Mix in “Alias” and “Avengers.”  It was a heady time.

But, honestly, I haven’t read a single Bendis-written title in years now.  When “Ultimate Spider-Man” lost Immonen, then crossed over with other titles and eventually killed Peter Parker, it lost all the momentum for me.  “Powers” sputtered into irrelevance as the classic case of a bad publishing schedule dooming a book.  I know people liked “Scarlet”, but I still haven’t read that one. He did a creator-owned book with Bagley that didn’t spark my interest to begin with, and then stumbled its way through a publishing schedule.  And the various “Avengers” titles got swept up into the Company-Wide Crossover churn that lost me as a Marvel/DC reader entirely.

Robert Kirkman

Skybound Comics - Invincible, The Walking Dead, Outcast

Kirkman is Mr. Consistency, and I appreciate that now more than ever.  “Invincible” and “Walking Dead” are always at the top of my reading stack when a new issue comes out.  I can’t wait to get to those.  “The Walking Dead” causes everything else in the world to stop immediately so I can read it.

I like to read more comics in collections and after stories are done these days, but these are two series I follow from month to month joyfully.  Both are having impressively long runs, too.  This sounds like a description of where Bendis was 10 or 15 years ago.

I do have to admit, though, that I’m not currently reading “Outcast.” I read the first couple, put the series aside until I could read the entire first arc, and then never talked myself back into it. I have a stack of all those issues sitting here, waiting for me.  I’m just not into the whole Exorcist vibe, I guess.  But, then, I wasn’t a zombie person before “The Walking Dead”.  I need to give the book a fair shot someday…

The Unfair Advantage

Based on all of that, I’m giving Kirkman the edge.

If I needed a tie breaker, though, Kirkman would win in a landslide for Skybound.  Ignoring for a second all of the gaming and multimedia stuff the company does under its umbrella, its track record for publishing other awesome comic books is very strong.  “Thief of Thieves” is one of my favorite comics, period, even with Kirkman no longer involved in it.  Andy Diggle has carried that book just fine on his own, and the new storyline is off to a great start.  Add to that Josh Williamson’s books like”Ghosted” and “Birthright.”  Then pile on “Clone” and “Witch Doctor” and “Manifest Destiny.”

If Skybound separated from Image and went into self-publishing on their own, they might just be my favorite publisher.

But Does It Really Matter?

No, of course not.  It’s a silly question, but it’s a fun one.

Ranking and rating isn’t necessary. Comics is not a zero sum game.  I still own works of all three writers that I’ll always enjoy.  I’m sure in a couple of years, I could return to this question and have different thoughts.  This is a snapshot in time.

It’s grist for the proverbial mill.  Fun to talk about.

Fill The Gaps

Tell me, Bendis Faithful, which book of his from the past five years should I give a shot?  Is there something isolated in a trade that I can try? Is “Scarlet” really the only option?  (And I think that’s older than five years, but I still haven’t read it, so…)  Should I track down the “Powers” volumes I’m missing and have a big reread of the whole thing?

More Questions?

Do you have similar kinds of questions you’d like me to answer here?  Leave a comment below or tweet or email me.  I could keep cribbing the best questions from iFanboy, but feel like I should come up with some of my own material, too.

6 Comments

  • lifefeed August 11, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    I’m a big fan of how Mark Millar will write complete stories. I’d give my vote to him for just that reason.

    I do love Kirkman’s and Bendis’s neverending comics, and I go back and reread them every few years. But it can get a bit frustrating to never have a proper conclusion.

    Reply
  • George Tramountanas August 11, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    I might have to give it to Millar, but it’s super-close with Kirkman.

    I love Bendis, but I somewhat agree with your assessment. To me, reading a Bendis book is like watching a Tarantino film or a Mamet play (that’s high praise with a caveat). I’m probably not going to see anything that hasn’t been done before, but the dialogue is going to ring in my ears like music and I’m entertained. Plus, Bendis’ joy of comics is the most infectious of the three (and is most obvious in his early Ultimate Spider-Man books).

    Kirkman is the most solid structurally. His plots hold up the best and his characters are the most well thought-out (hm, maybe I’m switching to Kirkman). It’s clear Kirkman is a comic book writer first, and therefore, his stories hold up better over long runs. Invincible and Walking Dead are still on the top of my read pile, and I’m never bored with them. That said, I always feel like an outsider watching events when reading his books. His characters are interesting, but for some reason, I never feel the emotional connection I’ve experienced with Bendis’ Peter Parker Or Millar’s Kick-Ass. Maybe it’s because Kirkman never has his characters use inner monologues? Or maybe I’m dead inside?

    With Millar, I always feel like I’m getting the biggest bang for my buck. His characters somehow draw me in more (even the asshole characters), and his twists and turns are twistier and curvier than Kirkman or Bendis. Millar tells a complete story, and he doesn’t waste a lot of time doing it. Although, I will say that Millar’s stories typically seem to be missing part of an act. His set-ups are always fantastic, and then he does a nice build, but the climaxes always come a hair too early for me. There seems to be a small part in the middle of his stories where the character could have a bit more of an arc. Right around the end of the second act, when things come crashing down for his main character, they seem to rebound a bit quickly (for my taste) and then the climax comes and we have a happy ending. I want to see a bit more of the main character’s struggle…but that’s just me.

    In any case, I’m more than happy to read any of these writers on any given day. 🙂

    Reply
  • Trip August 12, 2016 at 12:10 am

    I’m a Kirkman guy as well as I am continually amazed at the consistent release schedule for TWD. I can also count on an Invincible book for 9-10 months per year so that is good as well. The Bagley/Immonen USM was the high point for me for Bendis. His X-Men run was also fun as well. I am starting to feel like he stays on books too long. Millar has always been my least favorite of the three but I am eager to get a collected edition of Empress in my hands. (Yes, I love Immonen too!)

    Reply
  • Augie August 13, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Oh, for the glory days of Ultimate Spider-Man again… And when Powers came out regularly. And, heck, when I could follow all the Avengers stuff, before crossoveritis hit it so badly….

    Reply
  • Augie August 13, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Yeah, they’re different beasts in that way. Sometimes, a simple beginning, middle, and end is all you need.

    I still like the concept of ongoing series that can wander in any direction they want. I’m old fashioned that way. 😉

    Reply
  • Dan Condon-Jones August 23, 2016 at 11:24 am

    I just recently pulled all of my Bendis Avengers and Marvel event TPBs aside for selling. I’m just sick of it all. I’ll still keep Ultimate Spider-Man, Alias, Daredevil and his crime stuff – and I’m still buying and enjoying Powers.

    Millar and Kirkman are almost neck and neck. Bendis has higher highs and lower lows. Both are consistently entertaining though.

    Vaughan is on course to eclipse them both though.

    Reply

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