Power Report: The 30 best comic book writers for January

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Jan 28, 2017

Happy New Year!

It's going to be a great year in comics, with more than a few Southern Bastards in the upcoming months, the return of They're Not Like Us and a variety of new titles that definitely look intriguing.

For January, we have selections from BOOM! Studios, Image and Black Mask (as well as the Big Two, of course). Did I get all of them? Tell me what you think in the comments!

Art by Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart, colors by Heather Danforth

30. Brenden Fletcher, Camerson Stewart, Babs Tarr

The old Batgirl crew is revving up their bikes and taking themselves to the digital future with Motor Crush, a blast of high-tech fun that involves racing, a mystery surrounding a drug called Crush and, in the latest issue, some excellent relationship drama with Domino's ex Lola, the best mechanic in town. The relationship issues hang over the conversations between the two in terribly tense scenes, showcasing the talents of this trio. This is a comic that pairs its writing so well with its artwork that it's almost criminal in nature as the Fletcher-Stewart-Tarr team consistently show they can churn out the best comics on a regular basis. So far, in 2017, this may be the comic that has the biggest potential.

Art by Marley Zarcone, colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick

29. Cecil Castellucci

There's a beautiful weirdness that persists in Shade the Changing Girl that makes it distinctive and wonderful. It's the story of a high school mean girl named Megan who, after having too many drugs and skinny-dipping in the lake, goes into a coma and wakes up with an alien inside her head. This alien, named Loma Shade, is obsessed with America through television and has possessed Megan's body, making for one of the most creative titles in DC's new Young Animal line. Castellucci, with Marley Zarcone doing some fun psychedelic artwork, weaves the story between timelines starting with a sex romp in an alien museum (yep, you read that correctly). There's a lot of excitement over the Young Animal list of publications, and Shade the Changing Girl might be the best of the bunch.

Art by Hayden Sherman

28. Sean Lewis

After his religion-focused series Saints, Sean Lewis' follow-up comic, The Few, is more Cormac McCarthy-like. The debut series sets a tone not only in the main character but in an environment that's reminiscent of Mad Max (more the Road Warrior than Fury Road). With artwork by the incredible Hayden Sherman, there's a lot to be excited about in this debut. Saints was one of the most underrated comics of 2015/2016, and The Few looks promising as well.

Art by Jock, colors by Matt Hollingsworth

27. Scott Snyder

The new story arc of All Star Batman gives Mr. Freeze a welcome return as he prepares to unleash an ice bacteria that could threaten the world. Oh, I should also mention that he's stolen everyone who has ever cryogenically frozen themselves to make an army. This issue has the aspects of the story we've come to expect from a Snyder Batman story, including new gadgets and creative ways to surmount impossible odds. Also this month, Snyder is coming out with A.D. After Death, a beautiful and rewarding prose-y piece with Jeff Lemire.

Art by Elsa Charretier, colors by Matthew Wilson

26. Jeremy Whitley

There's a wonderful amount of pure enjoyement and fun in Nadia Pym that makes The Unstoppable Wasp such a pleasure to read -- which reminds me, in many ways, of the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Both have a brilliant amount of optimistic flourishes that beam through the pages, inciting smiles and heartwarming feelings. Nadia stepping out on her own brings an utter enjoyment of seeing a superhero who's also a fangirl -- she delights in her interaction with Mockingbird and brings so much positivity that it makes them instant friends. This is one of the best debut comics I've seen from Marvel in a long time and an excellent way to ring in 2017.

Art and colors by Jason Wordie

25. Donny Cates

One of the best-reviewed books this month is the monumental debut of God Country, a story an old grandfather who, suffering from Alzheimer's, is bringing stress upon his son's family. Suddenly, a twister comes into town, bringing with it a demon and magical sword that changes the grandfather into something greater, allowing him to conquer his Alzheimer's and make him the man he once was. It's a rebirth story that revolves around family and the devastating effects of old age, making for one of the most engaging debuts of 2017. 

Art by Nicola Scott, colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr.

24. Greg Rucka

Ending the Year One storyline, Diana has finally embraced her role as Wonder Woman in a fitting comic to showcase her abilities in the coming year as she makes her way to her first solo cinematic adventure (Wonder Woman opens June 2). The fight against Ares, God of War, is impressive as it explores themes such as the defiance of war and promotion of peace, an interesting and effective approach from Rucka ... and a master class of an origin story. Rucka's tale is one of the best Wonder Woman serials ever written, a grand story going into the new year as, hopefully, the movie showcases this quintessential character as one of DC's best heroes.

Art by Marco Checchetto, colors by Andres Mossa 

23. Nicole Perlman

After individual series with Rocket, Star-Lord, Drax and even Groot, the last piece of the Guardians of the Galaxy team gets her own series. What separates Gamora from the others is that it's written by Nicole Perlman, one of the screenwriters of the much-loved Guardians film. With some of the best flashy space art I've seen in a comic by Marco Checchetto, Andres Mossa and Travis Lanham, a chase scene blasts off the second issue in the same breakneck speed that was the highlight of the debut issue. This is an origin story, starting with Gamora stealing Thanos' ship, and should provide even more background on the dysfunctional family of Nebula, Thanos and Gamora that was alluded to in the film. It's a bold and exciting start from one of the movie's best characters.

Cover Art (Pictured Above) by Nelson Blake II and Rachelle Roseberg. Art for the series by Takesi Miyazawa and colors by Ian Herring

22. G. Willow Wilson

On the surface, the latest issue of Ms Marvel is about a mystery surrounding a comment made by one character to Kamala Khan in World of Warcraft, but I have the feeling, with so much being made about internet privacy, that Wilson has a lot more to say. It's a smart and clever start to a new arc.

Cover Art (pictured above) by Annie Wu, Kiki Jenkins. Art for the series by Fabian Lelay with colors by Mara Jayne Carpenter

21. Katy Rex and Fabian Lelay

Out of Black Mask, Jade Street Protection Services has risen as one of the smartest storylines in comics. It's about a bunch of magical kids that aren't the best students at a school that shapes and hones their abilities. The manga-like action combined with a fair bit of on-point humor makes this series one of Black Mask's best. What's especially compelling are the internal monologues of Emma while she's dealing with a panic attack, a smart and engrossing look within the hero's mind and a reminder that even though they're 'magical,' kids are still kids ... and that means they have to deal with a variety of issues. 

Art by Mike Henderson, colors by Adam Guzowski

20. Joshua Williamson

With Flash, Birthright, Frostbite, Justice League vs Suicide Squad and Nailbiter, Joshua Williamson is definitely keeping himself busy. But let's talk about Nailbiter, which will be ending its beautiful yet bloody run with its 30th issue. The latest issue (#28) established that the last two installments will have a LOT of action as the Master is getting closer to Alice and her family while the town of Buckaroo is going down in flames. Nailbiter, a story about serial killers, has a lot of unanswered questions, but, if issue 28 is any indication, it'll be an explosive, fun time answering at least some of them.


Art by Natacha Bustos, colors by Tamra Bonvillain

19. Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare 

The sleeper hit of 2016 was Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, with Lunella Lafayette emerging as one of Marvel's best characters. The latest issue was one of the most exciting as it brought Ben Grimm back to the pages of Marvel, with the conversations between him and Lunella being the highlight. While so many comics highlight strength, this one puts an emphasis on intelligence ... and via a young girl, at that. Reeder and Montclare's wonderful scripts, with artwork by Natacha Bustos and Tamra Bonvillain, brilliantly bring to life characters like Amadeus Cho, Ben Grimm and especially Big Red. This heartwarming series continues to be one of Marvel's best and should be on everyone's pull list this year.

Art by Audrey Mok, colors by  Andre Szymanowicz

18. Marguerite Bennett

It's been since early 2015 that Batwoman had her own series, and Kate Kane's involvement in Detective Comics, as well as veteran writer Marguerite Bennet taking the helm with art by Steve Epting, makes this relaunch one of the most anticipated of 2017. It's incredible the output that Bennett has been doing lately with Animosity and Insexts on Aftershock, DC Bombshells and Detective Comics for DC and the completely charming Josie and the Pussycats. Bennett continues to show her range in how different the books are but the quality is always there (Josie MAY be my favorite as of late). The ever-busy and prolific Bennett continues to show why she's one of the best writers working today.

Art and colors by Fiona Staples

17. Brian K. Vaughan

It's incredible how Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples continue to create a comic that, with each issue, makes the reader want to jump out of their chair. I speak, of course, of Saga, where The Will (or Billy, now) has finally returned to Sophia, the girl he saved, only to show selfishness; a new low for him. He’s not the man he used to be: he's broken, ousted from being a bounty hunter, and carelessly turns his back on Sophie. For Marko and Alana, total annihilation is coming in the form of a space baby and, in the most direct form, with a bounty hunter that wants Hazel. It's an incredibly strong story arc from one of the best comics ever published.

Art by Sean Phillips, colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser

16. Ed Brubaker

The devastating Kill or Be Killed, with art by Sean Phillips, is quickly becoming another classic series from master creator Ed Brubaker. The love triangle has ended and instead we find a much more confident Dylan with a better handle on what he's doing (to some extent). The narration is similar to the previous story arc in how it plays with timelines and makes the reader, at times, question the narrator. But this comic has been consistently one of the most disturbing and realistic (even if it has a demon) contemporary depictions of violence, making it a powerful and unnerving read. It's a great addition to the Brubaker canon as he continues not to disappoint.

Cover art (pictured above) by Veronica Fish, Lissa Treiman, Jen Bartel. Series Art by Veronica Fish

15. Pamela Ribon

A little thing about me: I love roller derby. So when I heard that BOOM! was releasing a roller derby series written by Pamela Ribon, one of the writers of Moana, I couldn't imagine a story I would like more. The great thing about SLAM! is that it accurately describes the feeling of belonging and togetherness experienced by those involved in roller derby. It's also about the enemies and complications also experienced by those in roller derby. The story centers around two new recruits, Amy Chu and Maise Huff (their derby names are Knock-Out and Ithinka Can, respectively) and how derby alters their lives (sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad). But most of all, it's just plain fun and a reminder that a great story doesn't need an alien invasion to be a great comic; it just needs excellent chemistry between characters and a compelling story. SLAM! Is a wonderful debut by Ribon and shows a lot of promise as an ongoing series.

Art by Leonardo Romero, colors by Jordie Belaire

14. Kelly Thompson

The new Kate Bishop Hawkeye offers a lot of potential with the story focusing on stalking and violence at a university. But the real star of Kelly Thompson's repertoire is Jem and the Misfits with Jenn St.-Onge, a wonderful spin-off of her excellent Jem and the Holograms run. The debut issue starts with the fallout from being dropped by their label and having to 'sell out' by doing a reality show. Therein the comic's star, Pizzazz, takes the spotlight as she shows why the Misfits are a tight-knit family ... despite all their dysfunction. I love comics that combine bands and a feeling of togetherness (it's the reason why Black Canary is still one of my favorite characters) and Jem and the Misfits is an excellent debut in that area.

Cover art (pictured above) by Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic, Series Art by Trevor Hairsine, colors by David Baron

13. Matt Kindt

While Dept H continues to unveil the motivations of characters and delves into evil at leagues below sea level, the beginning of a major event at Valiant with Divinity III looks to be the first major must-read event of 2017. With everything coming up hammer and sickle, it's interesting to see some of the Valiant characters, including X-O Manowar and Kommandar Bloodshot, as believers in Soviet rule. Like Divinity II, a cosmonaut comes back and uses their ability to change the world. However, this is not simply a Red Son comic -- this is a whole different universe, and Matt Kindt masterfully creates a timeline going back to 1922 that is just plain awe-inspiring. I was originally a little nervous about the event being a What If? scenario, but Kindt, with art by Trevor Hairsine & Ryan Winn, is doing something much more here and it's pretty exciting. Look for this series to be possibly one of the best of early 2017.

Art by Erica Henderson, colors by Rico Renzi

12. Ryan North

I never thought I would ever see an origin story come from Ryan North and Erica Henderson but, well, the last issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl was kind of an origin story. Featuring Doreen's parents dealing with her abilities, the origin of her costume and the 'Unbeatable' moniker, and a first encounter with being a superhero, this 25th Anniversary issue is everything a fan of the series could want with some excellent laugh-out-loud moments and more of the wonderfully fun mood that made Squirrel Girl such a hit in the first place.

Art by Ben Oliver

11. James Tynion IV

Detective Comics continues to be the best Batbook being published with the new Batwoman Begins arc, with Margarite Bennett co-writing and Ben Oliver on art. Instead of containing the whole Bat-team this time, the focus is on Batman and Batwoman, including flashbacks and a better understanding of Kathy Kane's relationship with her father. In addition to the Bat-adventures, James Tynion's magical work at BOOM! with The Backstagers continues to be one of the best and most underrated series our there, combining mystery, theatre and magic. 

Art (pictured above) by Joe Eisma, Series art by Pere Perez and Marguerite Sauvage

10. Jody Houser

Faith continues to be one of the most wonderful series in the Valiant lineup, and the new storyline of bringing the Renegades band back together is making Faith go all Haley Joel Osment in seeing dead people. It's nice to see that she's not beyond the complexity of guilt that comes with being a superhero, and the last issue had her dealing with loss (I mean, she did just lose her duplicate). Elsewhere, Houser is teaming up with Steve Orlando, with Jamal Campbell and Clayton Cowles on the artwork, to do a much-needed Vixen Rebirth series. Vixen uses the mystical Tantu Totem to call upon any animal’s abilities, and the Rebirth debut is an origin story that shows Mari McCabe's motivation in becoming Vixen. It's an exciting debut for a superhero (with a unique superpower) that's certain to gain a following.

Art by Steve Dillon, colors by Laura Martin

9. Becky Cloonan

Becky Cloonan is not only the first female artist on Batman but is now the first female writer ever to helm a male character for Marvel. And boy, did she pick a badass character to fit with her style in The Punisher, with a story that centers on a drug that turns you into a killer that feels no pain. The latest issue, which also happens to be the last issue of the great Steve Dillon's career, is a total pleasure, with one of the greatest bar fights I've seen in a long time. It's a fun read for Punisher fans and a great extension for viewers who love the character on the Netflix Daredevil series.

 

Art by Chris Samnee, colors by Matt Wilson

8. Chris Samnee, Mark Waid

If you ever get into a discussion with artist Declan Shalvey, the conversation will most likely involve how artists are writers themselves, creating a storyline within their visuals. Nowhere is that argument more apparent in 2017 than in Chris Samnee's work on Black Widow. Both Waid and Samnee's story has been incredible, but to give the series such a wow factor each and every issue is impressive, with the latest issue having more than a few flat-out incredible spreads. Not to mention the fact that part of the story takes place on the moon and a little-known guy named Nick Fury makes an appearance adds to this comic's immense OMG factor. Overall, Waid and Samnee really know how to keep this story compelling and the introduction of Lion into the mix is only making it more fun.

Art by Ryan Browne, Series art by Ryan Browne and Jordan Boyd

7. Charles Soule

The world is in danger, but thankfully Wizord and a rat/koala named Margaret are here to help (#teammargaret). It's Curse Words, a hilarious new series from Charles Soule and Ryan Browne focusing on the Merlin-looking Wizord as someone getting used to New York and loving the spotlight. It's a rather incredible addition for the writer who's also at work on Daredevil, Poe Dameron, Inhumans vs. X-Men and the Uncanny Inhumans. Soule continues to show why he's one of Marvel's greatest writers and, with the addition of this new Image series, his quality and quantity on a monthly basis is a marvel to behold.

Art by Tyler Boss

6. Matthew Rosenberg

If I were to convince you to read one comic this month, it would be the absolute brilliant 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank by Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss. Reminiscent of both The Monster Squad and Stranger Things, the story focuses on a group of kids who decide they need to rob a bank because, well, they can't let their moron parents do it. It's crude and funny and has an awful lot of heart. Combine this with a hilariously annoyed Rocket Raccoon putting the hate on Earth since Civil War II left the Guardians of the Galaxy without a ship and Matthew Rosenberg is showing himself to able to do both comedy and drama very well.   

Art by Joelle Jones, colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick

5. Mariko Tamaki

The biggest breakout writer of 2017 thus far has been Mariko Tamaki, who has taken the helm of two incredibly popular superheroes and made stunning debuts with them. First, let’s talk about Hulk, which details a struggling Jennifer Walters, who just wants to return to work and try not to dwell upon the ramifications of the Civil War and the death of her cousin. Tamaki does an excellent job of delving into the psychology of Jennifer and her insistence on not being green and sprinkles the story with a bit of mystery surrounding a young girl with dark eyes that doesn't want to leave her apartment. Meanwhile, with Supergirl: Being Super, the tone is completely different as Supergirl has to deal with a zit, a track meet and a pretty intense earthquake. The debut issue mainly introduces the characters and their relationships, and the chemistry is wonderfully refreshing. Many Supergirl comics place a focus on her loneliness, especially in the debut issue, while the friendships explored in this debut are refreshing and charming.

Art by Veronica Fish, colors by Rachel Rosenberg

4. Dennis Hopeless

There’s probably no comic I looked forward to more this month -- and dreaded reading at the same time -- than Spider-Woman. Last issue's horrible ordeal with Porcupine is continued this week as Jessica confronts his ex-wife and learns of his reluctance to give up the costume. It's a beautiful moment by Dennis Hopeless and Veronica Fish as Jessica finds out Porcupine's true affection towards her -- one that this reader has been waiting to see happen for a while. At the end of the issue there's a mysterious turn that may change the course of this story arc (I hope it doesn't), but this series, which I recently named as a best of 2016, continues to be a must-pull.

Art by Jeff Lemire

3. Jeff Lemire

While Lemire currently has an incredible amount of ongoing titles, let’s use this time to talk about A.D. After Death with Scott Snyder, a beautiful work of prose and artwork containing some tragic and brilliant scenes. With this morality tale taking place in a world where mankind has found a cure for death, Lemire and Snyder have created a master class in storytelling, compiling an intimate episode of Jonah as a child that provides a strong theme to his character going forward. The prose format makes it slightly frustrating that A.D. is a serial comic and not a graphic novel but this is one of the most ambitious and beautiful comics of 2017.

Colors and art by Sana Tanaka

2. Marjorie Liu

With ominous sea creatures watching from a distance, Maika's journey is taking her to the Isle of Bones intermixed with more of the mother and daughter story. There are also a lot of hints about the power of the god-like monster Maika has within her, an always intriguing part of the story. With each issue of Monstress, it feels more and more that we've only scratched the surface of a larger story to come -- a pretty ambitious thought since this continues to be one of the most dense series I've ever read, one perfect for anyone who loves fantasy.

Cover art (pictured above) by Aco, Series art by Fernando Blanco, colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr.

1. Steve Orlando

While Supergirl continues to be a ball of completely charming fun, Midnighter and Apollo is plain insane brilliance. When Apollo gets killed, Midnighter goes to hell, where Neron, the Underworld Unleashed demon, is playing board games with Apollo that seem kinda like they were invented by a Puritan (we all have sin, people ...). This is perhaps Orlando's best work, as amid all the gore and battles going on there's a blatant Orpheus connection to this story of lovers separated by death as Neron and Apollo discuss the intricacies of morality. At the heart of the story is the power of love -- the love that these two characters share and how, even with all the demons in Hell in their way, nothing will keep them apart. It's an excellent series and puts Orlando at number one this month.