Power Report: The 30 best comic book artists of January

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Jan 31, 2017

With the start of another year there’s a lot to be excited about. We have an Unstoppable Wasp that might be just as much fun as the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, we have a spider-romance brewing in probably the most talked-about cover of the month, and we have an homage to the best cover of the year with all proceeds going to the ACLU and the SPLC.

As you can see, there's a lot going on in comics right now, so let's get right to it! Here are the best comic book artists of January 2017, and if you agree or disagree with the choices, let us hear about it in the comments!

30. Brittney Williams

While Brittney Williams is not immediately returning to Goldie Vance in February, her awesome latest story arc on Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! where Black Cat turns whomever she scratches into a follower has been plain astounding. There's an optimistic brightness in her animation-influenced style that fits especially well with the enthusiastic characterizations of the first volume of Goldie Vance and Patsy Walker. It's a type of artwork that emphasizes the action and characters, but it's also incredibly stylistic and exciting at times. Williams lights up the pull list every month with a distinctive look and attitude.

29. Pepe Larraz and Rodrigo Zayas

There's a controlled chaos with Pepe Larraz and Rodrigo Zaya's incredibly beautiful Uncanny Avengers. The artwork is a master class in how to use artwork to impact perspective and time. From Hulk going all samurai, to, well, everything Deadpool is doing, this series is one of the most impressive in terms of visual presentation.

28. Elsa Charretier

There's a sense of fun excitement a reader feels when picking up a debut series in which the artwork perfectly matches with the story. Notable comics that do this are Erica Henderson on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Rob Guillory on Chew, and Declan Shalvey on Injection. Also, The Unstoppable Wasp clearly has the perfect chemistry with writer Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier, an artist who imbues a type of optimism in her characters that fits the glowingly infectious storyline. Each page is full of joy with excellent colors from Megan Wilson. 

27. Erica Henderson

With the 25th anniversary of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Erica Henderson looks like she's completely in her element. This fun journey down memory lane (partly written by Will Murray, co-creator of the character) features Doreen grappling with keeping her identity secret during a birthday party and later finding the motivation to become the unbeatable superhero she is today. It’s an issue that combines elements of previous histories and Henderson perfectly captures all the time periods to make this a hallmark installment in the series' impressive run.

26. Jorge Coelho

Sarcasm and quick wit reign supreme in Jorge Coelho and Matthew Rosenberg’s hilarious take on Rocket Raccoon. After the second Civil War, the Guardians of the Galaxy have been stranded on Earth without a ship. So what's a Groot-less raccoon to do but complain about the situation and make a fair bit of trouble while he's stuck? It's kinda like Home Alone 2: Lost in New York with Rocket filling in for Kevin McCalister. Coelho brings the humor with a keen sense of visual perspective, taking us on a journey with Rocket as he traverses the streets of NYC. Rocket has always been one of the most fun characters in the Marvel Universe and this series makes for one of his most amusing adventures. 

25. Wesley Craig

As we learn more about Saya and her new pledge, the punk rock aspect of Wesley Craig and Rick Remender's Deadly Class continues to rev its engine as one of the most nail-scratching thrill rides on shelves today. It's an ambitious task to take a supporting character and push her into the protagonist role, giving her a new group of misfits and deciding to go where eagles dare through a backstory full of, well, pretty damn sharp blades. From the Norse-looking metalhead to the secretively deadly new pledge, this new cast is a wonderful addition to Craig's arsenal of assassins and another example of why Deadly Class is one of the best in the Image collection.

24. Marc Laming

Roku's prison break takes center stage in Marc Laming and Matt Kindt's explosive Ninjax debut. Valiant is never afraid of adding a little ridiculous fun into their comics and Laming's depictions of obstacles confronting Roku are a highlight of the issue (especially the dog boys) as she attempts to put back together the Shadow Seven. From the depiction of Roku to the introduction of each character, there's a crispness to Laming's art that also expertly shows off the characters' various abilities (especially Roku's). It's an excellent debut for the next chapter of one of Valiant's greatest creations.

23. Tyler Boss

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank mixes some Stranger Things with a little Runaways and maybe a dash of The Fix to create one of the best series currently on the shelves. It's the story of a group of kids who have to rob a bank before their moron parents do (because they would basically screw it up). It's ridiculous, sometimes crass and always brilliant, and Boss' inventive styling is stellar, from introducing the bank to having the kids stand outside the fence (a la King of the Hill). This one's a must-pull. 

22. Jenn St-Onge

There’s a lovely playfulness in the new Jem and the Misfits that works so well with the story's theme of finding family in friendship. There's a lot of similarity here to Sophie Campbell's incredible work on Jem and it's refreshing to see a variety of body types on display (especially for a book about the music industry). There's a remarkable bit of fun within the squabbling of the Misfits, and with the focus of the debut issue being on Pizzazz, the cartoony nature of the character combined with the group's lovable competitiveness is nothing less than adorable.

21. Marley Zarcone

Marley Zarcone's beautiful surrealist artwork on Shade the Changing Girl perfectly highlights the main character's shifts in mental states. The abstract nature of the art also makes for a wonderful accompaniment to Cecil Castellucci’s story, which follows an alien that's taking control of a mean high schooler's body. There's a lot of ridiculousness fun going on here (including museum sex) and Zarcone's art allows the reader to become engrossed in the ever-shifting weirdness. 

20. Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart

There's a lot going on in the first two issues of the sexy Motor Crush, in which a group of race-obsessed characters rev their engines in a cyber future. The same chemistry that brought the incredibly popular Batgirl is alive and well in a high-throttle environment with a cast of characters -- cartoony and fun, flirtatious and tough -- that complement Cameron and Babs' vibrant style. Motor Crush is already a darling of 2017 and a must-pull for anyone that loved the artists' Batgirl series.

19. Victor Santos

A wonderfully distinctive take on the Bonnie and Clyde story makes Violent Love as refreshing as it is genius. It's noir with a dash of Harley Quinn that perfectly showcases the strong female protagonist's motivation to go bad. Daisy Jane goes through some pretty dramatic changes and there's an excellent bit of foreshadowing within the art that, upon a second reading, opens new aspects to the character. 

18. Mike Henderson

It's going to be especially hard seeing Nailbiter leave my pull list. It was announced that the hit series would end its run at issue 30, and with January's issue being 28, there's not much time left to answer the plethora of unanswered questions in this complex and engrossing series. With all the main characters in grave danger, the end of the series seems impossible to predict as the story of the serial killers of Buckaroo comes to a close. What's most incredible is that amongst all the blood and death, there's a cartoony nature to the characters (somewhat similar to Rob Guillory's Chew) that allows the reader to still care for them. It's a playful line that Henderson walks so wonderfully and here's hoping there's a lot more of it in the two last issues to come.

17. Simon Gane

The unique and wondrous brilliance that is They're Not Like Us came back this month and Simon Gane's incredible artwork is fascinating in its attention to detail. It's the story of 'gifted' kids that form factions against each other as they're all manipulated by a character called The Voice. The artwork is robust and busy, intensifying the tension between the characters, whose faces and bodies are incredibly expressive via Gane's harsh and sometimes jarring realism. After a nine-month hiatus, this is an excellent point to jump into They're Not Like Us for those who haven't read the previous arc.

16. Pere Perez and Marguerite Sauvage

The triumphant hit of 2016 was the rise of Faith, the optimistic superstar of the Valiant Universe. Pere Perez and Marguerite Sauvage both have a distinctive style that works fantastically well in unison, with Sauvage creating the dream sequences while Perez takes care of the reality with a more photorealistic approach. Faith, as fans know, isn't the skinny superhero you see on the covers of other publications -- she's more full-figured, emphasizing that heroes come in all shapes and sizes. It's a beautiful book, and the two-artist approach works wonderfully for the story.

15. Greg Capullo

I didn't know what to think when I saw how bright and cheerful-ish Reborn was in comparison to the dark gloom I've become accustomed to in Capullo's work on Batman, but it makes for an excellent example of how, regardless of the story, the artist puts his stamp on the storyline by building a world all his own ... and a mesmerizing one, at that. Greg's in a class all his own.

14. Jock

The environment acts as a character in Jock’s incredible artwork in All Star Batman. The gritty nature of the title, the first arc of which was drawn by John Romita Jr and Declan Shalvey, is intact but this current story, which takes place within the Arctic Circle, has elements of old-school Batman as Mr. Freeze threatens the world with a dormant bacteria contained in an ice core. It's almost a horror comic as the fantastic visuals, told with narration not in bubbles but within the snow, adds to the frigid environment. It's an excellent beginning to the new story arc, one that looks completely different than the one before it.

13. Jason Latour

Jason Latour continues to pull no punches as the next story arc of Southern Bastards further advances the downward spiral for Coach Boss, who seems to be losing his hold on his team and his town after the death of his defensive coordinator. Coach Boss has resorted to cheating, attacking the opposing team's star player in an issue that highlights Latour's rough and dirty style. There’s a lot of grit in football in the south and there's no better artist for it than Latour. This new arc has been everything fans have hoped for and, with the excellent Joelle Jones 'Feminist Agenda'-inspired cover, Southern Bastards continues to inspire as well as amaze.

12. Chris Samnee

There's no comic that tells more without words than Chris Samnee and Mark Waid’s captivating and brilliant Black Widow, a title that can go from 0 to 60 in the most exciting and fun way possible. It's a white-knuckle ride, and each image along the way (all the way to the moon, in fact) is meticulously crafted. From the first image of Natasha breaking through the glass in her motorcycle, each issue of Black Widow has had multiple jaw-dropping moments. 

11. Fiona Staples

Whether it's talking mushroom spores or a Siamese twin bounty hunter, the creations of Fiona Staples’ Saga bring this space opera to life each month. The longevity of the series and the following that Staples and Vaughan have established is a testament to the brilliance of Saga. This is consistently one of the most beautiful books on the shelves and Fiona Staples is one of the best artists working today.

10. Joelle Jones

There's a one-two punch of awesomeness this month with Joelle Jones. First, let’s tip our caps to the wonderful Southern Bastards cover inspired by her work, which has all the proceeds donated to ACLU and SPLC. That cover was my favorite of 2016, and the homage is not only a worthy reflection of an excellent artist but it was created for really good cause. Second, we've got Supergirl: Being Super, one of the most beautiful comics currently on shelves thanks to Jones' gorgeously detailed drawings. Her brilliance lies in how she's able to effectively blend her signature aesthetic with a variety of different stories and styles. 

9. Jerome Opena

There are certain comic book artists that are impossible to fully appreciate with just one reading. They beg to be pined over and returned to frequently to catch all the details. Just the effort alone that these artists make is a marvel, and Jerome Opena's spectacular work on Seven to Eternity, with Matt Hollingsworth as colorist, is a master class of technique. Opena does slow and quiet as well as loud and magnanimous incredibly well, and his close-ups of patchwork and detail are excellent. Each turn of the page is a wondrous display of beauty. 

8. Nicola Scott

While maintaining a sense of realism as Diana becomes Wonder Woman, Nicola Scott heightens the character's beauty and prominence to grace. There are a great many sequences that are plain breathtaking and dense descriptive backgrounds that are plain astounding. It's been an excellent run with Greg Rucka as writer, but Nicola Scott's impressive visuals are truly what have astounded fans month after month. It's an incredible achievement and a fitting tribute to one of DC's great origin stories.

7. Oliver Coipel

Oliver Coipel is a legendary artist. His work on Marvel products, especially Spider-Man with Dan Slott in 2014 and Thor with J. Michael Straczynski, is hailed as some of the Marvel’s best work, so when Coipel joined Jason Aaron for The Unworthy Thor, many heads immediately turned. This Thor is a harder, rougher Thor than ones drawn in the past, matching Thor's loss of spirit with the hero that is still Odinson. You can see the underlying fury of the character beneath the surface, and there's an overall brilliant clean crispness to the work.

6. Leslie Hung

Fashion has never been so outrageously depicted as via Leslie Hung's green-haired vixen Lottie Person -- or, as she's known because of her terribly runny nose, Snotgirl. The story focuses on Lottie and her interaction with her former intern who stole her boyfriend (and her underwear), her fellow fashion bloggers (all with playful names like Cutegirl) and the self-absorption that's synonymous with those that thrive in social media, making Snotgirl a brilliant satire illustrated with a gorgeous lushness. Hung's drawings perfectly amplify a tech-heavy world gone mad.

5. Sara Pichelli

There's no comic book fan that immediately didn't do a double-take in the store when they saw the beautiful cover of Sara Pichelli and Brian Michael Bendis' incredible Spider-Man. Miles Morales and Gwen Stacey are finally kissing in the most iconic way possible and Pichelli, throughout the entirety of the issue, shows why she's one of Marvel's top talents. The artwork, especially during the dimension hops which distinctly differentiate 616 New York from Spider-Gwen New York, keeps the reader grounded throughout the complexity of multiple universes. This issue is definitely going to be a fan favorite.

4. Sana Takeda

Whether in the deep ocean or on the magical Isle of Bones, the absolutely breathtaking beauty that is Sana Takeda's work should be cherished by artists and fans alike. There isn't a fantasy comic more detailed, more lush or more evocative than Takeda's incredible Monstress. Also worth noting that with all the violence in Monstress (and there's a lot), it never gets to a point of repulsion; people get their limbs torn off, their lives sucked out of their bodies and tortured in a variety of ways, but Takeda manages to make this book accessible, engaging and, most of all, magical. 

3. Greg Smallwood

Moon Knight is Marvel's best book right now. It's dark, trippy and plain mind-blowing as the 'Is This Real?' storyline continues to last longer than any critic thought it could at the beginning or to such a wonderful extent. From Moon Knight's childhood to what the deal is with all that sand, the mystery of juat what the hell is going on is expertly crafted by Smallwood. More than anything, his use of space is astounding, from geometric shapes that denote space and time to an extended panorama on framing around zooms that distort the reader's perception. The psychological tease is expertly crafted in this head trip of a story.

2. Veronica Fish

Veronica Fish's work on Spider-Woman pierced my heart. From her discussion with Porcupine's ex-wife to crying in the shower to the uncomfortable moment with Captain Marvel, the latest issue stands out as a hallmark in wonderfully sad and beautiful artwork and writing. It was everything fans were waiting for after that horrible cliffhanger the month before and proof of how Fish can use her artwork for emotional effectiveness by drawing the reader into the family at the center of the story, something she continues to do well in the friendship-focused roller derby comic SLAM! with BOOM Studios. SLAM! has quickly become a critical darling and Fish's artwork depicting the trials of Amy Chu and Maise Huff as they enter roller derby (and try to keep their lives together) has been a thrilling lovefest of togetherness and mayhem.

1. Steve Dillon

At the end of 2016, the comic world lost one of its greatest artists in Steve Dillon at the young age of 54. His work, especially on Preacher, was revolutionary in how he could tell so much with something so small as a subtle smirk and proved that sometimes not saying something speaks at a much higher volume than screaming at the top of your lungs. Steve hits #1 this month because his last work, Punisher #7, marks the end of not only a great career but an excellent run on the Punisher series with Becky Cloonan. It's a fantastic issue, and one that every fan of Dillon's should pick up, with Marvel doing an excellent send-off in the letters at the end. He will be greatly missed by fans, critics and creators alike.