With the release of Invincible Iron Man #600 late last month, Brian Michael Bendis has officially left the building at Marvel Comics. His long career at the publisher saw him create iconic characters and helm some of the biggest stories Marvel had, to the point that Bendis was writing so many series he's actually said goodbye four different times.
The final covers of Bendis' last Marvel books. Image: Chris Sprouse, Karl Story and Edgar Delgado (Marvel Comics), David Marquez and Justin Ponsor (Marvel Comics), David Mack (Marvel Comics), David Marquez and Justin Ponsor (Marvel Comics)
We've covered some of Bendis' adieus already. But now that his time at Marvel is over, here's how the writer bid farewell to the four series he was still writing when his move to DC Comics was unveiled late last year - The Defenders, Jessica Jones, Spider-Man and Invincible Iron Man - in order of their success at bringing Bendis' Marvel run to a close.
Not just an alarmingly bald Tony Stark, but an alarmingly bald James Rhodes, too. Image: David Marquez and Justin Ponsor (Marvel Comics)
4) Invincible Iron Man
Invincible Iron Man #600 perhaps bore the brunt of Bendis' almost sudden departure from Marvel.
His run with Tony Stark and eventually Riri Williams' Ironheart in the post-Civil War II era had built up so many different plot lines - Tony's parents, the impact of Civil War II, shadowy forces going after Stark Industries' influence, Tony's bonds with a younger generation of Avengers, even a potentially dangerous AI of his own egotistical self - meant that Bendis' farewell was less like a planned goodbye and more like a hurried dash through a checklist of plots that he wanted to close so a new team could come in fresh.
It's the densest of Bendis' final issues for Marvel, and because of that - and because so much actually happens - it suffers from feeling exhaustive rather than contemplative, undercutting the potential of so many plot lines that could've potentially carried over into Invincible's future just so they can be tied up with a bow here.
Also, there's a frankly alarming amount of Bald Tony Stark in it that is still kinda creepy.
The past and present of the Defenders. Image: David Marquez and Justin Ponsor (Marvel Comics)
3) The Defenders
The first entry on Bendis' farewell tour is a strange one - these Defenders, a line-up similar to the Netflix show's match up of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, are all characters the writer had experience with a great deal outside the context of this book, which ran for just 10 issues.
And yet despite that, it is perhaps the most optimistically joyful of Bendis' goodbyes, featuring fan-pleasing cameos from Marvel's vast world of "street-level" heroes, and some well-deserved pats of the back for a team that is usually left to dwell in the relative obscurity those streets often provide.
It also helps that this feels less like a goodbye and more of an open door. It gives enough to feel like a worthy conclusion to the central conflict that persisted over the course of this new run, while also not wrapping it up so tightly that there aren't more stories to tell with this iteration of the Defenders.
There's an underlying sense of legacy here, that there will always be a team like this, not quite as flashy as an Avengers or an X-Men, working the beat and keeping the average citizen of New York safe.
Bendis makes it clear that as much love he has for the banter and relationship between these heroes, this is just the conclusion of one chapter of a story that is far from over.
A job well done by Jessica Jones, for one last time. Image: Michael Gaydos and Matt Hollingsworth (Marvel Comics)
2) Jessica Jones
Bendis arguably got two goodbyes with Jessica Jones - her final story arc was a gripping, cathartic re-encounter with her most infamous foe, the Purple Man, that felt like a fitting reminder of Jessica's evolution as a character. And then there's Jessica Jones #18, the standalone, one-off final entry.
But while it can't carry the dramatic weight of the Purple Man's return, it is a thoroughly Jessica Jones-ian goodbye to Bendis' own character - a weird little case that only Jessica can solve, that only someone like Jessica can care about in her little corner of the Marvel Universe.
It does not try to remind us of who she is and why she does what she does; the Purple Man arc already did that. It is just simply Jess doing what she does best (sprinkled with cameos here and there from more of Bendis' favourite street heroes, a surprising recurring theme in his goodbyes), and enjoying it.
What better way to say farewell to Jessica Jones than with one last case?
Miles and Ganke having the time of their lives at the end of Spider-Man #240. Image: Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor (Marvel Comics)
Bendis' final story with Miles Morales, like the one with Jessica Jones, is more personal, given the writer's direct hand in creating the character. But it's also the farewell that is most deeply personal to Bendis himself, heavily inspired by a near-death experience with MRSA the writer endured just weeks after the announcement of his move to DC comics late last year.
There is no real last hurrah or final battle for Miles, who is instead left recuperating in the hospital from a similarly serious infection. Instead, we get to see another rotating cast of characters checking in on the young webslinger, a reminder of the friends and relationships the character has cultivated since he was formally inducted into the prime Marvel universe after the events of Secret Wars.
But with the added intimacy Bendis' own traumatic experience adds to the piece, it becomes infinitely more touching as a goodbye, a reminder that the friends Miles has made will always be there for him (much like Bendis' own) even after his creator has moved on to pastures new.
Although he's spent the first half of this year slowly saying goodbye to Marvel over the course of these four series - and already started on his next big plans at DC with none other than the Man of Steel himself - it's strange to think that Bendis, one of Marvel's biggest creative forces in recent years, is no longer playing around in this universe.
Although new creative teams will move in and pick up these books, the impact that Bendis has left on these characters, especially on his own creations such as Miles and Jessica, will be felt forever.