Power Ranking: The 30 best comic book writers for September 2015

Wow, September was a rollercoaster in comics as the comic-book world gave us one hell of a startling revelation in Jeff Lemire’s Descender, a disappointing Bitch Planet and a beautiful 20th-anniversary Astro City (has it really been that long?). Certain people had to be cut due to inactivity, so we lost Chip Zdarsky and Jason Latour. We also lost some legends like Bendis, Millar and Rucka, because their latest output just wasn't as good as some of the new guys. This is not to say Old Man Logan or Jupiter's Circle weren't good or won't end up as excellent series, but, this particular month, there's better stuff being made, and there are only 30 spots.

Agree or disagree? Tell me in the comments and I'll give it another read, but for now, let's see the ranking.


30. Grant Morrison - Down five spots

Multiple times I thought about taking Morrison off the list, but I'm leaving him on in the last position since I'm not really sure what is going on in 18 Days, but trust Morrison to make this the incredible epic I'm hoping it becomes. Right now, I'm just convinced that Morrison definitely had a better comparative literature course than I did in college. There are a lot of questions in these first three issues, so hopefully we'll be getting to the answers soon.


29. Brian Wood - Not previously listed

The darkly funny, and sometimes just plain dark, Starve and character-focused history Rebels catapult Wood into the power report this week. Both had issues within the past month that showed how well Wood builds characterization and how he uses the world around him, whether it’s revolutionary war New England or a dystopian future, to impact the characters’ journeys with a subtext of philosophy behind it. Wood is a comic veteran, and he knows how to make well-rounded characters that grow and develop within a story. While these two comics are vastly different, they both display a confidence in their creation that comes from a master at work.


28. James Roberts - Up three spots

This week was a light deviation from the main story in Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, but those kinds of stories allow Roberts to really shine in characterization and expand on the personalities in the story. Roberts is at his best when he's relaxing with his characters, and you get to see the relationship between them (Rewind and Chromedome are definitely my favorite). This series continues to surprise me with how much I care for these characters and how deep and thoughtful (and sometimes downright hilarious) James Roberts' writing is. I know it may be not the typical book to pick up, but if you do, you'll be glad you did.


27. Warren Ellis - Not previously listed

I didn’t include Ellis in last month’s power ranking due to the fact that I didn’t completely understand what was going on in Injection and I was giving it more time. Now I realize, that was the point. Ellis keeps his cards very close, teasing the audience with answers without revealing too much while, at the same time, creating quite an incredible world around him. This month the big payoff came in such a way that after finishing, I thought about reading the whole thing again as a trade (it actually might work better that way). Regardless of how you choose to read it, Injection is worth picking up and showcases Ellis’ impressive story crafting skills.


26. Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon - Not previously listed

Along with the clever QUAKE: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th anniversary, Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon have created one of my favorite creator-owned short-run comics of the summer. We Can Never Go Home takes a typical “nerd and the popular girl story” and infuses it with whip-smart dialogue and confident storytelling, and a constant velocity keeps the reader turning the page. Most of all it’s really well done and thought out. These characters would be so easy to be stereotypes, but the wonderful dialogue and subtext make for a hell of a ride, many times leaving the reader with more questions than answers. The fourth of five books was released this month, and, while the series is short, the impact should make a name for its two talented writers.


25. Justin Jordan - Not previously listed

John Flood is the most promising and exciting first couple of issues this year and one of the best first issues I’ve read in a long time. Justin Jordan’s previous work on Luther Strode showed a lot of promise, but John Flood culmination of excellent action, twists and excellent storytelling. Definitely a series to start now.


24.  Kurtis J. Wiebe - Not previously listed

Rat Queens has finally returned after a four-month break with a new arc that highlights the pure joy that is this comic. There’s nothing really like a foul-mouthed fantasy series to always put smiles on faces, and Rat Queens combines good ol’ female camaraderie with magic, swords and monsters. Not having the team around felt like an eternity, so it’s nice to see two issues relatively close to each other to remind us how much this comic kicks f***ing a**.


23. Dennis Hopeless - Up nine spots

Hopeless added to his run of Spider-Woman as the travel chronicle entered the Alamo and extended a trip that has been one of the most enjoyable road-trip books to date. Impressively, Hopeless has also added three (yes, three!) issues of House of M, one of the more enjoyable series to spawn off of the Secret Wars. Dennis looks to be one of Marvel's rising stars that continues making excellent work.


22. Robert Kirkman - Up two spots

Kirkman released two pretty good but not great comics in Aug/Sept; issue 146 of Walking Dead and issue 12 of Outcast. In the former, the ramifications of the previous massacre are still affecting the group, and this is something we’ve come to expect from Kirkman. He doesn’t pull any punches but afterwards he doesn’t mind spending some time reflecting on what he had done either and this is one of those issues. Outcast continues to be a consistent, yet somewhat slow at times, horror tale that is worth the ride.


21. Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Noelle Stevenson - Up eight spots

I really love everything there is about Lumberjanes and the latest, number 17, was no exception. It’s also a constant reminder to me that even though the plot and adventure of a story could be excellent, the reader typically goes back for the characters and the relationships they’ve made and Lumberjanes have some of the most clever interactions in all of comics. Not many books provide me with as much joy as seeing a Lumberjanes book in my pull list and, while Stevenson is leaving the series, I’m curious to see what Kat Leyh will bring.


20. Kurt Busiek - Up four spots

Fans of Astro City should be happy to see the 20th anniversary edition in their pull list this month. Astro City has always been extremely beautiful but the character of Samaritan has changed a lot in 20 years. This month’s issue is a fitting return to the character as well as a reminder at how great a character writer Busiek is and how Astro City is one of the great comics of our lifetime.

19. Brendan Fletcher - Down one spot

Three comics that should be on everyone’s list are Black Canary, Batgirl, and Gotham Academy (the latter if you love YA stuff like I do). Fletcher this month, proved he could be clever and cute (Gotham Academy), juggle multiple storylines with ease (Batgirl) and turn the volume up to eleven with awesome fight scenes and a pretty cool motorcycle spread (Black Canary). Black Canary is still at issue four and provides an excellent onboarding point; I recommend getting on this in your pull as soon as possible.


18. Becky Cloonan - Down one spot

Becky Cloonan moves up this month after inching us closer to the killer in her fantastic space mystery, Southern Cross, which has the best soundtrack in all of comics (sorry Kieron), and after releasing a fun, theatre focused story in Gotham Academy on which those that love theatre should geek out for months (especially if you love Shakespeare). I’m always impressed with writers who can maintain two storylines, especially for two very distinctive audiences, and Cloonan does it effortlessly.



17. Jonathan Hickman - up eight spots

With noSecret Wars issue this month, Hickman more than made up for it with a great, but most likely forgotten, issue of The Dying and The Dead, and the long-awaited new story arc to East of West. He makes an apology in The Dying and The Dead about not keeping to a schedule (the last issue was on April 1st) and that’s refreshing to hear since the series has a lot of promise. East of West is a showstopper, though, a comic that acts like a stone in a pond creating ripples as it is dropped to the entire comic book community. Issue 20 is no exception and it’s exciting to have such an excellent series back in rotation.


16. Kelly Sue DeConnick - down five spots

DeConnick has made Carol Danvers one of Marvel’s best superheroes and her work on Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps continues to build out the character in each exciting issue. And while I love everything Carol Danvers, the real highlight for me this week was the long-awaited Bitch Planet, ending a delay that has been going on since April. Unfortunately, this was not episode I hoped for. While Bitch Planet still has one of the most compelling and smartest stories written, this story arc leans heavily on The Longest Yard, so much that I swear some exact interaction seems pulled from the movie. Also, a twist at the end of the issue is offset by how long the delay was, distancing the reader from joy and comradery shown in issue four. While Bitch Planet is still one of the best ongoing series Image is releasing,  DeConnick slips down a few spots this month.


15. Scott Snyder - Down 4 spots

It’s difficult to push a writer down on the list because of lack of issues but that’s what happening with Snyder this week. Snyder’s previous output of Wytches, The Wake, American Vampire, and, of course, Batman was to be worshipped for how he’s put out compelling, award-winning stories with great speed. Since August 19th, though, Snyder has only released one issue of Batman. Was that Batman good? No it was better than good; it was awesome. A flashback issue that made you think he might phone it in, it instead becomes one of the pinnacle issues in Snyder’s run. Snyder has more in the upcoming months to get excited about but for this past one, we have to settle with an outstanding Batman.


14. Cameron Stewart - Up one spot

I frequently tell myself when the new Batgirl comes out that I could save money and be happy with this comic alone. It’s such a fun and well-thought out series that juggles a lot but still maintains its composure. Plus this month it had tigers. Also, take the absolute opposite of everything Batgirl and you get Fight Club 2, a surprisingly well-done series by Chuck Palahniuk with Stewart serving as artist. Two series that I highly recommend pulling each week if you haven’t done so.


13. G. Willow Wilson - Up eight spots

Nobody makes being a superhero as fun as Wilson’s Kamala Khan. Her latest issue crossover with Captain Marvel is a touching passing of the torch that emphasizes how much idols affect us. Wilson always brings whatever incredible situation is happening in Jersey City back to Kamala’s family and friends, a central part of this story as Kamala is very much a teenager learning about relationships as she is a superhero trying to save her city. Though fans only get one issue per month by Wilson, the quality of Ms. Marvel made this series one of Marvel’s best and the character of Kamala the best new character in the Marvel Universe.


12. Skottie Young - Up seventeen spots

How do you jump from 28 to 11 in one month? Well, you put out two of the most absurdly funny and brilliant comics of the month. Howard the Human is a witty flip on the Howard the Duck comic; a detective story wrapped in an absurdly enjoyable comic. It’s great and deserves to be picked up and smiled over repeatedly. I Hate Fairyland is absolutely freaking amazing, an unleashed Skottie Young gone wild, and perfect for those that love a combination of blood and ultra-violence in a cartoon setting (you know who you are). Young is proving to be quite the talent and his humor, though oh so very dark, should find a sizable audience.


11. Ed Brubaker - Up nine spots

Every now and again I think I can be a comic book writer. I think of stories on the subway that I think could I could flesh out to something wonderful. Then I read a Brubaker comic and realize that complex and brilliant stories with multiple arcs that cause the reader to reread and reread again and then shake their head and possibly even reread again aren’t built on subway rides. They require work and there’s no writer that I give that respect to as much as Brubaker, whose The Fade Out continues an absolutely awe-inspiring run while Velvet begins a new story arc that is one of the most fantastically well-crafted of the month.


10. Mark Waid - No change

Ending a solid five year run with The Man Without Fear, Mark Waid finaled with a thrilling fight between Murdoch and Fisk that seemed like it should have lasted longer, but was incredibly thrilling nonetheless. For those that enjoyed the Netflix series, this presents a lighter mood, but a still very accessible way to bridge the enjoyment of the television show to its comic origins. While Waid’s work will undoubtedly be compared to Miller’s, he’s carved out his own voice on a staple Marvel character. His work on S.H.I.E.L.D. this month as well as a fun, smile-inducing Archie episode where Veronica is introduced, reminds every comic lover why Mark Waid is still one of the best in the business.


9. Jason Aaron - Down two spots

After the delay of Southern Bastards, I was ready to get mad at Jason Aaron for spending time doing work on Star Wars, especially as football season begins. Then, wonderfully, a fun and incredible book called Weirdworld fell into my hands. Weirdworld is a fantasy lover’s dream, a harkening back to the '70s style of art and storytelling that is a highlight of Marvel’s Secret Wars and a story it looks like Aaron is having a ball creating. The other highlight of early September was Thors, the second Aaron title released this past month, as a solid interrogation mystery story. Truthfully, however, nothing really compares to the brilliance of Southern Bastards. Thankfully, not one but two issues of Southern Bastards, plus a beautiful hardcover version, arrive in the next thirty days to remind you that watching football may be fun, but reading football in comics is even better.


8. Ryan North - Down two spots

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has taken my comic book store by storm and there’s no one I know that’s not a fan. The book has an infectious chunk of happiness in it that leaves it able to get away with practically anything. This past issue, about a giant squirrel that turns those around him into his minions, has hilarious crossovers with Spider-Man, Thor, and Loki. Plus, the continued interaction with Doreen’s roommate, Nancy White, shows that North excels at his supporting characters in creating a wonderfully absurd story that is a plain delight every month. North slips a couple spots due to the volume of content from his competitors but still this is a comic that everyone should be pulling.


7. Dan Slott - Up six spots

Another highlight of the Secret Wars has been Slott’s exceptional work on Silver Surfer and Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows. Although the latter ended in a somewhat predictable fashion, Spider-Man’s family fighting together against Regent was not only fun to watch but interesting in how it explored the central great-power-to-great-responsibility theme in regard to Spidey's family. Slott, who previously put Doc Ock in Spider-Man’s body in Superior Spider-Man, always finds a way of creatively exploring the role of the character without denying his history and this recent stint showed why Dan Slott is one of the most creative and interesting comic writers today.


6. Charles Soule - Down one spot

I have a confession to make: The only Star Wars comic I enjoy reading is Lando. And I’ve really tried. I love Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, Mark Waid, Greg Rucka (basically all the writers on a Star Wars book, I’m obsessed with). But I can’t get into them and it eats me up inside because I really want to like them. Thankfully Charles Soule’s Lando saves the Star Wars Universe for me. Everything about Lando is fun to me. I love the bounty hunter after Lando, the really strange thing with the glowing eyes he found on the Emperor’s ship, Lobot’s role in the comic (I even love how he calls him Lo!). But, most of all, I love Lando Calrissian, a character for which Soule took the best characteristics from the movies and fleshed them out to an even greater extent to turn him into a leading man. This is not only the best Star Wars comic, it’s one of the best comics being written, and Soule’s best work since She-Hulk.


5. Bryan K Vaughan - Down four spots

With Saga on a break, Vaughan slips this week to the fourth position, retaining a top five position only due to the better than expected Canadian war comic We Stand On Guard and the highly anticipated Paper Girls on sale October 7th. Saga will be coming back in November with a new story arc so here’s hoping that Paper Girls and Stand Guard feed the Vaughan addiction until then.


4. Rick Remender - Up four spots

One of Remender’s greatest skills is to transform environments into high intensity arenas where characters must prove their worth. Remender’s latest arena is the city of Los Angeles in his highly anticipated collaboration with Sean Murphy, Tokyo Ghost; an exciting sadistic look at Internet culture gone bonkers with a blood total that rivals Total Recall. Also with Black Science coming back in November, it feels like every week is a Remender week. And that is a very, very good thing.


3. Kieron Gillen - Up one spot

Kieron does an excellent job with '80s nostalgia. His Phonogram: Immaterial Girl issue on the A-Ha music video for "Take On Me," which I will still argue is the best video of all time, is incredible, not only in its musical allusions but in its strong storytelling and engaging characters. Also, the latest The Wicked + The Divine finally poked back Sex Criminals, which we all knew would be coming, and solidified Ananke as one of the most diabolical villains in creator-owned comics right now.


2. Matt Fraction - No change

While the new sexual superpowers story arc of Sex Criminals isn’t as deep or moving as the Jon's battle with depression, nothing beats the stories that Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarksy tell at the end of the comic, or Sex Criminals #12, in which they explain the origin and mishaps of signed cover frenzy. Combine this with excellent issues of Casanova and Ody-C and Fraction stays strong this week in the second spot.


1. Jeff Lemire - Up two spots

Lemire’s work has always been voluminous, but this past month has been plain bananas. Aside from the monumental twist issue six of Descender, which could possibly be my favorite issue of the month, he’s also launched a new series on Image entitled Plutona that has great potential, a solid All-New Hawkeye as well as a really fun Bloodshot Reborn issue with a Terminator cover. Plus, with The Extraordinary X-Men starting in October and A.D. After Death with Scott Snyder in November, Lemire’s current output and potential is higher than any comic book artist working today.


That's our list! What'd we get right? What'd we get wrong? Let us know in the comments!


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