Power Ranking: The 30 best comic book writers for February 2016

2016 brings with it an incredible amount of excitement in comics as well as new story arcs from some of the most addicting series. Last year at Marvel saw the rise of Jason Aaron and the mad genius of Jonathan Hickman, while DC made intriguing changes in the Bat with Tom King scheduled to take over, Snyder going back to Detective Comics, Frank Miller adding another chapter to his Dark Knight Saga and Batman: Europa finally landing on shelves. Valiant continues to expand its universe with Divinity and Faith in her own series. As Marvel said, it's an All-New, All-Different Universe out there, and these are the best writers out the gate in 2016. Again, don't be shy, people! Tell me what you think in the comments!

 

30. Simon Spurrier

A quick way of getting me interested in your new comic is putting a Heart of Darkness quote at the beginning and totally delivering on every expectation possible. That is what the wonderful Cry Havoc debut issue did as the reader learns of a group of individuals with basically werewolf powers that are being utilized by the military to fight against the Taliban. It’s a strong issue, perhaps the best debut issue from Image thus far this year, and worth checking out. There are a lot of places for Spurrier to go with this comic, and it’s worth getting on this train right at the beginning.

 

 

 

29. Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters

Picking up the series Captain Marvel from Kelly Sue DeConnick is a pretty hefty task to ask of anyone, but this new arc has been a fun exploration of the character as a commander of a military space post. Instead of trying to replicate what Kelly Sue did so well with the Carol Corps, Fazekas and Butters take a novel approach, juxtaposing the suspense of exploring a strange ship that acts like an organism with the ongoing investigation of what is happening on the ship under Danvers’ command. Adding in an ongoing conflict between Danvers and her second-in-command throws a lot at the reader but, so far, the questions have been intriguing and the atmosphere of the comic has been so enticing that it’ll be interesting to see where Fazekas and Butters take this. While it may have been easy to think that Captain Marvel might not be one to keep on the pull list, hold off unsubscribing, this comic has a good amount of life in it.

 

 

 

28. Kieron Gillen

With Commercial Suicide ending its Wicked + The Divine arc, it looks like Gillen has been setting the stage quite well for the next arc to be a doozy. With the announcement of Persephone resurrecting, Ananke’s time of manipulation and control might be at an end. I always have a little bit of sadness, even as new characters emerge in The Wicked + The Divine, that some of my favorite characters don’t get as much screen time as I would hope. Gillen has done well in building a world of gods and music that astounds, but, while Commercial Suicide has definitely lived up to expectations, there’s a hope that what lies around the corner to live up to the potential fans have been hoping for since the age of Lucifer.

 

 

 

27. Charles Soule

With the nightmares coming into focus in Inhumans and a complexity of issues being introduced in Daredevil, Soule looks to be expanding his stories in both series well, but it’s everyone’s favorite new Star Wars character, Poe Dameron, that I’m most excited about. Soule, who recently did my favorite in the Star Wars series in Lando, got the right to build the comic for Poe Dameron, a character who, if you follow Soule’s Twitter account, you'll know is his definite favorite in the movie. This looks like to be a perfect pairing and one of my most anticipated comics this year.

 

 

 

26. Jody Houser

Finally, one of Valiant’s most lovable characters is getting her own series. Faith has frequently been a fan favorite in the Valiant Universe, and the first issue doesn’t disappoint, as Faith works as a journalist who is relegated to working at a startup as a listicle writer while dealing with not-so-nice neighbors, famous ex-boyfriends and people who steal puppies. It’s an intriguing debut issue in a highly anticipated series that looks like it’s off to an excellent start.

 

 

 

25. Kate Leth

Spinning off from one of my favorite comic series, Charles Soule’s She-Hulk, Kate Leth takes She-Hulk’s investigator, Hellcat, and creates a fun, enjoyable series with a lot of potential that focuses more on cleverness than straight up action. There’s been a movement toward this direction that applauds smart, inventive writing over a lot of butt-kicking, even though this last episode had its fair share of that, as well. Patsy Walker aka Hellcat does an excellent job of mixing humor and introducing a character that the reader just wants to spend more time with. Also, as an added pleasure, Kate Leth provides an excellent essay about the all-ages comic that I recommend reading for all lovers of comic books in the debut issue. This series is one to keep your eye on.

 

 

 

24. Chip Zdarsky

What is going on in Jughead? There are so many questions with this series that, at one point, I was actually wondering what is real and what is in Jughead’s overactive imagination. Zdarsky is clearly having fun with the possibilities, as well as playing with an audience that knows it’s lovingly being manipulated in the hands of a prankster. Zdarsky has always been a perfect choice to play the lovable miscreant in Riverdale, and he’s shown that not only can he poke fun at the authority, but he can expand the story to basically limitless potential. It’s intriguing to see where this series is going to go but, in Zdarksy’s hands, I know it’ll be a fun ride.

 

 

 

23. John Allison

Now an ongoing series, the beautifully written and absolute pure fun story of Giant Days is not to be ignored. While many comic fans point to the growing amount of YA series, it’s important to note that creating a series like this one, with characters that are enjoyable and smart enough to comment on things like the Bechdel test, are to be admired. The three characters, Esther, Susan  and Daisy, live up to what is most absurdly fun about college including drama, class, getting sick way too often in the dorms, and, most importantly, the bond you share with getting to know your new friends. It’s important to know when you read a lot of comics that you don’t need super powers to create something enjoyable in the serial form and that a comic like Giant Days is exactly what the reader needs to put a smile on their face throughout the day.

 

 

 

22. Warren Ellis

With Injection returning and James Bond proving to be exactly what Dynamite hoped for, Ellis looks to be in rare form these days. It’s true that Bond is looking like trouble is finding him a little too easily (as soon as I read about armor gloves, I knew Bond was in trouble) but the sheer fun and enjoyment of a character that hasn’t been in comic form for so long is an absolute pleasure to read, and Ellis takes the best of the character, including his smart quips, action scenes, and incredible gadgets, and uses them to create a story that looks to have a complexity that rivals the best Bond movies. Dynamite did an excellent job hiring Ellis to helm the series and, thus far, it has been a thrilling success.

 

 

 

21. Jeff Lemire

Jeff Lemire continues to be one of the hardest working writers in comics, and while he gets a lot of attention for X-Men and Descender, his Bloodshot: Reborn is consistently one of the best and most underated comics published.  Bloodshot: Reborn's new story arc of the Analog Man has been everything fans of the character would want: offering a fresh take of the character while giving loyal readers something to get excited about. Bloodshot has become the premier series from the Valiant brand and one that should be a part of every pull list. 

 

 

 

20. Mark Millar

It’s heartwarming to see Huck cross off each item from his list as he grabs a young woman from a drug-infested house or finds and saves a dog for a young boy but heart of this issue lies with how to say no, and if Huck will realize that sometimes saying no to people that are intent on taking advantage of him is necessary. Millar cleverly sets up the evil and selfishness that now confronts Huck as his kindness is now well known, especially when the Governor brings attention to Huck’s simple nature in a not-so-kind way. Millar is crafting two individual opinions of the world, the idea of the small town that is intent on protecting Huck and viewing happiness in relation to helping others, and the outside environment that looks to utilize people for selfish gain. The problem thus far is that Huck may be too nice, and what it will mean to his character to be influenced by people that might not have his best interest at heart. It’s been an intriguingly smart story and might end up being one of Millar’s best characters.

 

 

 

19. Cameron Stewart

With Spoiler and Bluebird on board, Batgirl is firing on all cylinders as one of the most enjoyable series being published. Stewart really succeeds when he’s having fun with the storyline and mixing action and butt-kicking with character bonding and friendship. These recent issues of Batgirl where she is working as a team really highlight these qualities and bring a sense of empowerment to the character. Also the tie-in with her father and his current struggles with Mr. Bloom in Gotham while Barbara is in Burnside creates a nice moment that builds in a good juxtaposition while adding to the background of a well-crafted storyline.

 

 

 

18. Brendan Fletcher

The battle of the bands at the heart of Black Canary has not only showcased the incredibly artwork of Annie Wu but also the genius of Brendan Fletcher to make such a kick-ass music-themed series. The climax at the end with the Quietus is plain incredible and a fun, smart way of showing a fight in a way in which the comic medium can really excel. There is no other comic book today (other than maybe Snyder and Capullo on Batman) that has as good of a pairing as Fletcher and Wu, each showcasing their particular talents in this inventive rock and roll battle. The Black Canary tour has been one of the most thrilling series in the Marvel Universe in 2015/2016 and I’ll definitely be looking for hearing her belt out the hits in the next tour.

 

 

 

17. Ryan North

Squirrel Girl’s '60s adventure is reaching a climax against Doom, and it's a fun and playful look at the new style of comedy that North has created as well as an homage to the previous iterations of Squirrel Girl in Marvel’s past. North does an excellent job of taking the seriousness out of the Marvel Universe and highlighting the silliness within characters like Doom (especially during the Kirby era). Also, the time travel has given a fun insider look at the comic that those with a history of Marvel will appreciate. This continues to be one of the best series out there and a completely enjoyable read.

 

 

 

16. Brian Michael Bendis

Bendis’s Miles Morales starts off promising but his Invincible Iron Man has been where his talents have been on display. When you have Doctor Doom trying  to play nice with Tony Stark and then you throw in the wild card of Mary Jane, you’ve got yourself a pretty darn good premise. This particular series, you find that Bendis is having a lot of fun with the voice of the Tony Stark character and how he interacts with War Machine, Doom, and, well, all the women in his life. Also, hidden in the background of the story is the notion of demonic possession and Madame Masque.  There’s a lot going on here but Bendis has pulled this off before. Right now it’s fun, sitting back and enjoying the interaction with Doom as Stark as the story line progresses.

 

 

 

15. Frank Miller

It’s exciting that Dark Knight III: The Master Race is better than people expected given Miller’s last couple of runs, and we finally have Frank Miller back doing comics his audience loves. Miller is leaning heavy on his signature style as Carrie’s interrogation scenes drip of the best of Sin City and each issue moves very quickly. This comic has a quick cadence, one that is surprising and thrilling at the same time. Buy this comic, it’s everything you’ve been waiting for.

 

 

 

14. Greg Pak

Totally Awesome Hulk continues to mix the fun and excitement it is to be The Hulk with the possibly uncontainable power that The Hulk has in Amadeus. It’s an interesting team Pak has set up in Cho and his sister, with the added benefit of She-Hulk and Spider-Man in the background, while frequently commenting about the look in The Hulk’s eyes when the power seems to be too much for Amadeus. This continues to be one of the highlights in the All-New All-Different characters Marvel has created and a highlight in Pak’s career thus far.

 

 

 

13. Robert Kirkman

The 150th issue of The Walking Dead was about the bond of survivors that Rick Grimes is creating ending with the shadow of Negan in the background. Carl continues his sexual relationship with Lydia, but Rick has to deal with being the leader in a town that has been through a significant tragedy and wants blood. Yet the cover of the issue, a bloody Rick standing in front of the reader, is of a piece with how the issue ends, with Rick gathering support in standing together. This solidifies that a retaliation against the Whisperers will have to take place and, with the power that the Whisperers have already shown, this might be the greatest test for Rick and his followers.

 

 

 

12. Max Landis

Superman: American Alien continues to be one of the most fun Superman series to date. The first issue was surprisingly heartwarming, the second had a nice mix of suspense and philosophy, and the third...well you know when you have Superman pretending to be Bruce Wayne, you’re going to end up with a pretty silly, but fun comic. Instead of the moral, straight-edged Superman we’re used to, this Clark Kent shares that he had, at times, used his x-ray vison to see things he probably shouldn’t, drinks a lot and hooks up with cute girls while questioning his place in the universe and staring up at the stars. It’s only on its third issue but this is one of the most fun comics currently being published and the most enjoyable Superman comic series in recent memory.

 

 

11. Kelly Sue DeConnick

Bitch Planet is back with a vengeance as Kelly Sue goes into the compelling, and quite bloody,  history of Meiko Maki. Every now and again, Kelly Sue brings out an issue full of rage that explodes on the page. Meiko’s story starts quietly but builds to a point that makes the reader forever look at a violin differently. It’s great to have Kelly Sue back and this issue shows her gift at creating these character backstories, building out one of Image Comics best series.

 

 

 

10. G. Willow Wilson

While the town of Jersey City is being infected with nanotech that kinda shares a look with Valiant’s Bloodshot, Kamala is finding both that it's hard to sway public opinion once a smear campaign has started and that she might have to be okay with Bruno’s new girlfriend, Mike. Wilson always does an excellent job intertwining issues of the superhero Ms Marvel with the teenager Kamala Khan but, in this run, she has expanded into issues of islamophobia, mob mentality, and the way Park Slope has totally lost its edge. This series gets smarter and more profound each story arc, dealing with issues that go far beyond the Marvel Universe and into a social and political commentary for our time.

 

 

 

9. Greg Rucka

With Lazarus coming back and Black Magick continuing its greatness, Greg Rucka is showing why he is hall of fame material. The next story arc of Lazarus offers suspense as well as more than a few twists as I, personally, forgot how absorbing and plain captivating the “Poison” story arc really is. Also, it’s very difficult to do a story in multiple settings and Rucka shows his veteran status by being able to shift in scenes effortlessly. These are two of the best series that Image is currently publishing so give it some well needed love and put it in your pull list.

 

 

 

9. Justin Jordan

With the underappreciated Spread exploring the backstory of its best character Molly, Justin Jordan is exhibiting why he’s one of the best writers in comics today. The story continues to be wonderful in how unafraid it is to confront the audience directly and immediately with the horrific surrounding as well as spend time on bringing the characters to life. Molly’s story is a pretty terrifying one, as you get to know the character from a young age and what she went through to become the broken woman that she now is (Jordan writes at the end of the issue how difficult this particular issue was to write). Outside of Spread, Jordan's ending his run of the brilliant John Flood with Boom Studios and bringing back the Legacy of Luther Strode. In 2012, Jordan was nominated for Most Promising New Talent and now, I’m happy to say that he’s become one of the best living comic book writers.

 

 

 

8. Mark Waid

Already blasting a breath of fresh air into Archie with fun and enjoyable issues, Waid shows he could be profound as well when the relationship between Betty and Archie hits some heart strings as Archie’s connection with Veronica deepens. This is the high school we remember from real life, in which moments in life could feel like the end of the world and relationships you build (and destroy) at a young age feel so important. Waid does an excellent job at making Archie significant again.

 

 

 

7. Dennis Hopeless

Marvel editor extraordinaire Will Moss announced that Spider-Woman is his favorite superhero comic (non-Moss division, that is) and it’s easy to agree. The story of a pregnant Spider-Woman taken hostage while on a routine doctor visit has proved to be funny, smart and engaging. Hopeless is breaking new ground with this comic and it has quickly become one of the best series Marvel has to offer. I never in my life thought I would write that Spider-Woman would be one of my favorite superheroes but, with Hopeless writing the character, I can see myself loving this character for a long, long time.

 

 

 

6. Rick Remender

When Blastr talked to Remender months ago, he frequently went back to his characters' backstory and how it’s impossible to create a good comic without taking the time to even flesh out the smallest characters in the story. Nowhere does this fit more than in the new story arc of Deadly Class. As the last story arc was overwhelmed with self-indulgent behavior from Marcus, it stood as a stark contrast to the exciting fight scenes with Maria and the Mexican cartel. Thankfully, this arc has started off with a bang, as the freshman rats are now running for their lives and the bond of friendship between Marcus and those that vouched for him is put to the test. This is the story in Deadly Class everyone has been waiting for, and it’s Remender at his best.

 

 

 

5. Scott Snyder

The loss of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo as the writer/artist team of Batman will be an undoubtable blow to comics fans everywhere. This incredible team has brought forth some of the best Batman adventures, and Mr. Bloom is no exception. These latest issues, with the Joker showing up at the lake to convince Bruce to stay happy and away from the cape, both has philosophical impact on the Batman lore, itself, and adds great weight to the ending of Endgame. Funnily enough, Joker is right: Bruce is happy, and the audience has seen it. Even though Bruce has a lingering feeling  that he’s missing something out of his life, he has been happy, more happy than we’ve seen him for quite a long time. Meanwhile, Gordon has had the responsibility of battling the diabolical, nightmare-inducing Mr. Bloom. And, sadly, given how strong and brave Gordon is, he’s not the same Batman. This run is an explosive ending to one of the best Batman runs to date and worth reading and rereading again and again. Scott and Greg will definitely be missed in Gotham.

 

 

 

4. Tom King

The best comic you’re not reading is The Vision, a story that dives into American suburbia and the American dream while looking at the difficulty of fitting in through racism and separatism. It’s an incredible comic, one of the best written series currently being produced. The story is of The Vision, who admittedly is not on my A-list of Marvel characters, and how he created a family to live in the suburbs of Washington D.C. as he works at the White House. He, and his family are examining what it means to be human as well as questioning the term “nice” as it is said in everyday life while learning about what it means to fit in to a neighborhood that can’t identify with them. It’s brilliant, and it makes sense that King has just been named the writer of Batman when Snyder leaves as the detective story gets more and more intense with each issue. Tell us what you think, but I believe that DC couldn’t have made a better choice.

 

 

 

3. Jonathan Hickman

The Secret Wars has been an astounding success, and Hickman ended his three year journey with a lot of twists and an epic showdown that lived up to everything it promised. It’s been a long time (that was actually made longer with a delay) with a final confrontation that shows that the egos of Doom and Richards were still at the heart of the war. And Hickman explains what we’re now left with these All-New All-Different characters, in a universe that has been changed forever. It’s impressive the breadth of scope that Marvel has undertaken and Hickman had pulled off an incredible feat. 

 

 

 

2. Jason Aaron

With Loki’s entrance in Thor and an escalation of questions in Doctor Strange, Jason Aaron’s series are getting more and more interesting every month. In Doctor Strange, Aaron beautifully creates a murmur in the wizarding community. It keeps the same ideas of the first issue of the series, that magic is all around us. Aaron built this magical world to astound the audience, and then he’s taking it away in the objects that comic book readers love most: Books. It’s a brilliant reversal that continues to promise more as the series progresses. In Thor, Jane is beginning to show herself more in her history as the cancer has, recently fallen in the storyline to the entrance of Loki. Look for Aaron, though, to circle back around to tie the two together. Spoken quite plainly, Aaron is currently one of Marvel’s greatest writers.

 

 

 

1. Brian K Vaughan

Each week, when I look at what comic books are in my pull list and I think about writing the power list, I wonder if the number one writer is going to stay the same...and, thus far, nobody has gotten number one more than Brian K Vaughan. And this month, Vaughan has again shown why he’s currently unbeatable. Bringing back the chemistry between Alana and Marko in the latest Saga was plain brilliant. It’s been so long since the reader has seen them together, and their loving embrace - which, at times, comes through a look - reminds us why readers love Saga so much. Also, with another issue of the absurdly mysterious and completely fun Paper Girls, Vaughan again shows his ability to create multiple series without having a lull. Quite possibly my favorite scene in any comic is when Tiff has her life flash before her eyes and she’s basically playing the video game Arkanoid all the time and can’t believe she spent so much time caring about getting to level 32 of a stupid game. Tiff, I can relate.

 

Whose work is at the top of your pull list? Let us know in the comments, and check back next month to keep up with the latest in our comic book power rankings!