Annual Power Ranking: The 30 best comic book writers of 2016

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Dec 6, 2016, 7:27 PM EST

Well, this is it. We've reached the end of a year where Civil War the sequel wasn't as good as the original, Rebirth exploded out the gate to be much better than expected (much, much better than Convergence was) and Image Comics rose in both comic sales and influence as more and more creators are coming out with creator-owned comics. Also, small presses like Black Mask, BOOM Studios and Aftershock continue to turn heads, both with fans and comic book store owners, to find space on the rack beside the big two of DC and Marvel. It's an exciting time in comics, and these are the best of the best comic writers in terms of quality and quantity for 2016.


30. John Allison

The girls of Giant Days consistently bring one of the best young adult books on the stands as the drama of college life, their dorm situation and the playful, yet sometimes crazy aspects of Daisy, Esther, and Susan’s personalities act out as one of the best young adult comics on the stands. From apartment hunting to relationships with guys to activities outside of school (the film festival prize issue was my favorite), John Allison, with Liz Fleming and Max Sarin, create scenarios that get better as the series progresses.  It’s one of the most pure fun comics I read and a delight to find in every pull. (Image by Max Sarin)


29. Kelly Sue DeConnick

Though I wish there was more of Kelly Sue’s work on the shelves this year (I particularly miss her Captain Marvel stories), Bitch Planet continues to be one of the greatest comics on the shelves and one that, in this particular political climate, is more important than ever. This series arc has been even better that the last, leaving behind many of the background stories, for information on the currently political and cultural climate as well as showcasing a rebellion that was bound to occur, centered around the tragic story of Meiko Maki. Bitch Planet is not only one of the best comic books published today, but it's one of the most important, and through the next four years, might be a welcome retreat for many of us. (Image by Valentine De Landro)


28.  Chris Samnee and Mark Waid

Remember the Saturday Night Live sketch about Black Widow and how a film based on her character would most likely be a romantic comedy? I'd like to think Chriss Samnee and Mark Waid saw that as a challenge. They took on a character that was frequently B-listed and created one of the most adrenaline-filled comics of the year with Black Widow busting out of S.H.I.E.L.D. and working against a blackmailer who knows a secret that she can’t have revealed. It’s a great premise and the team of Waid and Samnee shows fans didn't need to lament the end of their Daredevil run, as there's only more to look foward to. This is a comic with breakneck speed and engaging spy drama that just explodes on the page. Here's hoping that Hollywood is listening. (Image by Chris Samnee)


27. Mark Millar

It’s no secret what you’re going to get from a Mark Millar comic: a white knuckle, edge of your seat experience that explodes at the beginning and end with a lot of story all at once. This year though, with Huck, Millar showed more of a sensitive side, creating a story that, while very Millar-esque (there were a lot of twist and turns), showed a blue collar hero with an amazing heart. It was the highlight to a excellent Millarworld season with Jupiter's Circle, Jupiter's Legacy, and Empress with each, yes, equally incredible in their action and story. But Huck was something special and a highlight of 2016. (image by Rafael Albuquerque)


26. Kate Leth

A wonderful new trend in super-hero comics, which I trace back to Charles Soule’s She-Hulk of 2014, is the theme of friendship with multiple characters coming together to battle both villains, which, at times could be ex-boyfriends, as well as real life issues such as monetary woes. There’s no other book out there that does this as lovingly as Patsy Walker aka Hellcat; a book that continually brings a smile to the face of all those who pull it. It’s not a Mark Millar book. There’s not going to be a huge amount of action or drama, but there is a collective environment of fun and the jokes really hit as Leth, and her artist Brittany Williams, have carved a section of the Mavel Universe to fit in her awesome style of characters. (Image by Brittany Williams)


25. Warren Ellis

While James Bond and Karnak rake destruction around the globe, the real prize in Ellis’s portfolio this year is Injection, a beautifully written series from Image comics with Declan Shalvey. While it has elements of mystery and action, the real highlight to this series is its characters, as Ellis is putting on a clinic on how to propel a story with strong, well-rounded, engaging personalities. This is a characteristic of both Bond and Karnak stories as they are most likely to investigate than throw down (except for a particularly crazy bloody episode of Karnak this year) and the slow, introspective approach is a welcome difference from the books that immediate want to run in guns drawn. Ellis is again proving that veterans know how to get the job done and 2016 continues to be an example of his talents. (Image by Declan Shalvey)


24. Hope Larson

With Goldie Vance and Batgirl, Hope Larson has proved once again that good storytelling with a bent on mystery and a cavalcade of twists leads to excellent comics. Larson’s Goldie Vance, with Brittany Williams, combines hijinks and adventure with a colorful amount of characters into a Nancy Drew-style mystery that is a perfect portal book for a young adult reader to get into comics. With DC, she pairs with Rafael Albuquerque to get Babs out of Burnside and into a old school mystery as she encounters her friend on a trip to Asia. Each story highlights the mystery genre as the reader gets small drops of foreshadowing in the most delectable way. She’s a veteran storyteller and this year, Hope Larson proved she’s one of the best. (Image by Brittany Williams)


23.  Sean Lewis

The best comic series that should have made a bang but ended up with a whisper was This American Life contributor Sean Lewis’s beautiful and striking tale Saints, about people who have been endowed with the powers of Christian martyrs like Saint Sebastian. They go on a road trip, get assaulted by organized religions who imprison other saints, and make friends with a Satanic Death Metal band that conjures up demons. Basically everything you want from a comic book in 2016. And while the ending was more fire and brimstone than the clever miracles, this collection, which was optioned into a TV show, should be on everyone’s holiday list, regardless of their beliefs. (Image by Benjamin Mackey)


22. Rafer Roberts

Archer & Armstrong has been one of the most fun buddy comedies of 2016 and Rafer Roberts, now on Harbinger Renegades, has continued his run on one of the best Valiant titles of the year. Especially with the relationship between Archer and Faith, this year has, in particular, been special and Rafer Roberts does an excellent job of developing the relationship between the two heroes. Now with the reuniting of Harbinger Renegades, 2017 looks particularly bright for the Valiant Universe. (image by Darick Robertson)

21. Jonathan Hickman

Tying together massive changes in world history, Black Monday Murders is the latest epic story by the master storyteller Jonathan Hickman. Its apocalyptic and demonic turn will not surprise anyone who is a fan of Hickman, who has used both history (Manhattan Projects) and the end of days (East of West) as a muse for his storytelling. Yet the tone, emphasis on design and style, and look reminiscent of Alan Moore’s work, has placed this particular comic with a great buzz attached to it. After Secret Wars, it would have been easy for Jonathan Hickman to take a break, but instead 2016 was a year where he launched an compelling new title and expanded his East of West conquest even further. (Image by Tomm Coker)


20. Max Landis

Moving from screenwriting from TV and film, Max Landis took his pen to comics in 2016 and ended up writing one of the best Superman books in years. Superman: American Alien, a chapter-based snapshot through different monumental moments in Superman’s life, shows his first interaction with Batman (and Bruce Wayne for that matter), his struggle with identity in moving from Smallville to Metropolis and, finally, taking control of his destiny during a fight with Lobo. Next up, his first creator-owned comic with Image in Green Valley: a tale of medieval knights and barbarians that quickly got fast tracked for a second printing. Landis is a young star making waves throughout the industry and, if he decides on making writing comics a permanent job, he’s going to have quite a following. (Image by Jock)


19. Robert Kirkman

If the drop in ratings in this season’s Walking Dead is directly related to the violence in the season opener, let’s hope the show never makes it to The Whisperers. The Whisperers, the mass of people that live like animals, wearing the skins of the dead, was both brilliant and sickening as rape and beheadings covered the black and white pages of The Walking Dead in 2016. War was inevitable and the Negan pages were especially fun to combine, all-in-all, for Rick’s group to have a pretty exciting year. (Image by Charlie Adlard)

18. G. Willow Wilson

Whether through Civil War or through her brother’s wedding, each series arc from Ms. Marvel seems like a progression of the person Kamala Khan has become. Her discoveries of her relationship with her family, friends, and idol, along with Wilson’s clever parallels with the division between Pakistan and India, build a complex and rewarding character in the Marvel Universe. Ms Marvel continues to be one of the best ongoing series Marvel publishes, and it's exciting to grow with this character throughout the years and see how her views, family and friendships develop.(Image by Takeshi Miyazawa)


17. Joshua Williamson

Joshua Williamson’s entry into DC has been a wonderful success without hurting his excellent Image series, Nailbiter, Frostbite, and Birthright. There’s a collective feeling of togetherness in Williamson’s work this year, whether it be with family or through the Speed Force, as well as a force of destiny that binds or breaks the characters. Yet in each story arc there is a firework of magic or blood (depending, really, on the series), that is eye-opening. Not for the faint of heart, Williamson’s style is bold and 2016 has been a launching point for this great writer.(Image by Mike Henderson)


16. Steve Orlando

Whether bashing skulls in Midnighter, with ACO, Stephen Mooney, Alec Morgan, and Hugo Petrus doing the art, or dealing with high school issues in Supergirl with Emanuela Lupacchino, each Steve Orlando comic book has one thing in common: charm. Orlando’s protagonists have a great likability to them and, even during the ultraviolent sections of Midnighter, I find myself really loving the brash, lovable nature of the character. With Supergirl it’s a lot easier, with his version of the character trying to assimilate into Earth after leaving her home planet hits home for anyone who has ever had to move and adjust to a new environment. She constantly compares both cultures but shows the heart of a hero and the lovable enjoyment of someone you just want to be friends with; an attribute of a character that is so difficult to pull off. This year has been a breakout year for Orlando, especially after such a great 2015 with Midnighter, and his run with Supergirl, with the CW series appearing in tandem, will hopefully encourage new readers to try this excellent writer. (Image by Brian Ching)


15.  Ryan North

I had a friend of mine ask me around July if I’m still reading Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and if the concept has worn thin. The most amazing thing to me is that the belle of the ball of the Marvel Universe is still definitely as unbeatable as she claims. Ryan North and Erica Henderson have created a lasting character that has become one of the best ongoing characters in the Marvel Universe. The positively optimistic dorm girl Doreen Green has gone a long way from her first day of college, and now the series is more about friendship and tackling villains as a group. It's wonderful how this series continues to progress as it is and should always be added to any pull list. (Image by Erica Henderson)


14. Dennis Hopeless

Spider-Woman is the best all-ages book by Marvel this year. It’s groundbreaking, creating a pregnant superhero and then establishing a family with Ben and Porcupine that pulls the reader in with caring, developing characters, allowing the reader to grow attached. Most of all, it’s a comic book for every family and a great book to read together. It has the fundamentals of a comic (action and adventure) but it also has tender moments that don’t always make it into the comic books these days, and that’s what makes what Hopeless is doing so special. It’s one of the best series of the year. (Image by Javier Rodriguez)


13. Marjorie Liu

Marjorie Liu’s Monstress is not for the person who is just getting into comics, it’s for the person who wants to see what comics could become. Monstress is an epic fantasy story that works like a novel. The characters are well-rounded, sometimes kind, sometimes selfish and calculating, working on their own personal agenda and not simply to propel the story. Also, more than any other book, it really encompasses the whole world, the different species that live in it and the countries and factions that world encompasses. Pairing that with the most enjoyable Star Wars comic of the year, Han Solo, Marjorie Liu reigns high as one of the best writers in comics today. (Image by Sana Takeda)


12. Matt Kindt

There’s a claustrophobic feeling I get whenever I read Dept H. Maybe it's all the water or the fact that the base the story went from a mystery to a tale of survival but the depth that the characters are stuck in is consuming and, at time, beautifully suffocating. Kindt does especially well in creating an atmosphere that accompanies the mood and motivations of his characters. In addition to Dept H, his work at Valiant has been voluminous and, well, astounding. Kindt has worked on Rai, Ninjak, Divinity, and 4001 A.D. This has been a banner year for Valiant, especially with 4001 A.D. (Space Dragon!), and a main reason is the incredible work of Kindt.   (Image by Matt Kindt)


11. Charles Soule

I don’t think I’ve done a power report without including Charles Soule and, for this end of the year issue, I’m happy that he’s within the top 11. This year, Soule did two of the most impossible tasks: take over everyone’s favorite comic, Daredevil, from Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, and debut everyone’s favorite new Star Wars character, Poe Dameron, with Phil Noto. The beauty is he totally made them in something his own, building a devoted following around both series. Daredevil, with Ron Garney, took a much darker turn, fitting in well with the Netflix series but still have a distinctive attitude that fit the comic. My favorite was when Soule had Matt Murdoch play high stakes Texas Hold ’em in Macau with no idea what his cards hold. It was clever, fun and ballsy. Charles Soule is, true to type, one of the Marvel’s most creative and brilliant writers. (Image by Goran Sudzuka)


10. James Tynion IV

The victim syndicate and the entire gambit of the Batman group, including Red Robin, Bat-Woman, Spoiler, and Clayface, is like an X-Men for Batman. It’s the best of the Batman bunch and a fitting story to bring to Detective Comics, with art by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Adriano Lucascloser, to the monumental 1,000th issue. After Batman Eternal, Batman fanatics must have felt comfortable with Tynion, a former student of Scott Snyder, taking over such an iconic publication, but nobody knew the breadth of scope that Tynion would have in including, and fleshing out so well, all the characters in the Belfry. In addition to the DC work, Tynion used 2016 to show the variety of what he could do, expanding the ongoing series The Woods, with Michael Dialynas, to its final season as well as creating a magical young adult theatre comic entitled The Backstages, with Rian Sygh, for BOOM! Studios. If I had to buy stock in one comic book writer to rise next year both in popularity and in pulls, it would be Tynion. (Image by Eber Ferreira)


9. Scott Snyder

Ending a magnificent run of Batman that will be forever recognized as one of the best pairings of a writer and an artist, with Greg Capullo, in DC history, Scott Snyder follows that up with….Batman. Yet All-Star Batman, with John Romita, Jr., has proved to be exactly what Batman fans need. Sometimes the way out of Gotham is through a Mad Max style road trip with Batman and Two-Face, with the world against them. It’s a far cry from the philosophical discussion that Joker and Batman had on a park bench at the end of Snyder’s run that really struck a chord with me about aspects of happiness between Bruce Wayne and Batman, but it’s a welcome adrenaline-filled piece of madness that fits well in the Batman collection. Also with the beautiful, and gut-wrenching at times, AD After Death making its debut with Jeff Lemire, there’s a lot to be excited about outside the Batcave in 2017. (Image by John Romita, Jr)


8. Kieron Gillen

With an explosive end to The Wicked + The Divine and an exciting finish to Darth Vader, Kieron Gillen has had an incredible 2016. First Darth Vader, the comic that was so popular it was frequently competing with Batman, ends with Princess Leia on a mission to kill Darth Vader. This is the Leia that is calculating and angry, more of a tactician than Han or Luke, as she embarks on what is clearly a revenge mission as Vader, himself, is overcome by his quest for Luke. Of course, there’s a huge amount of foreshadowing to Return of the Jedi, and Gillen interweaves the dramatic irony here well. Elsewhere, in The Wicked + The Divine, where the gods finally discover Ananke’s deception, all hell breaks loose in the best possible way as Laura, now Persephone, takes center stage as a force to be reckoned with. These two series, The Wicked + The Divine, with Jaime McKelvie, and Darth Vader, with Salvador Larroca,  were two of the greatest series by each publisher and a testament to how especially the serial genre could build up anticipation to a major event that totally proves worth it in every way. (Image by Jaime McKelvie)


7. Robert Venditti

At the end of every year, it’s good to look back at monumental achievements in the industry and there is no other accomplishment, in my opinion, as groundbreaking as Robert Venditti’s incredible run on X-O Manowar. Completing an uninterrupted 4-year run that never slowed down and always lived up to the level of achievements die hard fans expect of Valiant, Venditti took a Visigoth barbarian through time and space to create some of the most awe-inspiring battles in comic history. While 2016 ends Venditti’s run on the character, Aric faces Torment, a final adversary that creates one hell of an apocalyptic fight for the character and a grand finale that lives up to the magnitude one would expect from Valiant. Valiant continues to amaze, bringing in incredible writers and expanding their universe with excellent storylines but, this particular run by Venditti, should always be remembered. (Image by Cary Nord, Bob Layton, Brandon Peterson, Stephen Platt and many more)

6. Rick Remender

The lovely struggle in Tokyo Ghost between the technology driven society of Los Angeles and the pure life of Japan juxtaposed with the conflict between Debbie and Dent, as he is at odds with his ability to protect Debbie and the rich life that they have when he’s not jacked up, creates one hell of a story. And as Remender follows closely to the Kill Your Darlings belief in writing, as we know from both Black Science and Deadly Class, it’s always an exciting experience reading a Rick Remender comic. 2016 continued to be an excellent year for Remender, and with television shows lined up for his comics in 2017, here's hoping that Remender will be the next household name. (Image by Sean Murphy)


5. Jason Aaron

It's disappointing that the greatest Jason Aaron title is the one we got the least of this year. Southern Bastards, with Jason Latour, published three times thus far this year compared to the six that came out last year. Maybe it was because Aaron renewed his exclusive agreement with Marvel in October of 2015 and has been keeping himself busy with an up-and-down Doctor Strange, with Chris Bachalo, that, when throwing in the absurd works wonderfully, but drops at times when Strange is fighting in the last days of magic. He's done an excellent job though with a captivating new Jane Foster Thor, with Russell Dauterman, who must weigh her cancer treatment with her role as the God of Thunder, and he also finished up his wonderful Star Wars series in the beginning of 2016 while lending his pen both to C3PO and Vader Down. Yet, I go back to Southern Bastards because it’s THAT amazing of a series and I'm a fan who just wants more. Thankfully, it looks like 2017 has two issues already coming in January and February, so I have high hopes for Aaron to be shooting up the ranks in the future. Still, he's a solid top 5 for the year. (Image by Jason Latour)


4. Nick Spencer

This has been a hallmark year for Nick Spencer. Not only did Morning Glories, with Joe Eisma, hit 50, but he introduced one of the year’s best Image titles with The Fix, with Steve Lieber, and set the comic world ablaze with his Hail Hydra Captain America: Steve Rogers, with Jesus Saiz, that was set up brilliantly by Assault on Pleasant Hill. Also his Captain America: Sam Wilson, with Paul Renaud, and Astonishing Ant-Man, with Ramon Rosanas, have both been incredible series (many reviewers highlighted Sam Wilson as the better of the two Captain Americas). What do we see when our eyes are opened? We see Nick Spencer as one of the most dependable comic book writers, mixing in humor and twists within an engaging narrative that the reader never could predict. Also, his use of technology in his stories, most notably in Ant-Man where there was an app for henchmen, hilariously satirizes the real world with the comic book universe. (Image by Jesus Saiz)


3. Brian K Vaughan

BKV has had the two of the best comics of 2016, Paper Girls and Saga. Let’s first look at Paper Girls, where BKV blasted the girls into the future to have them face their future selves in sometimes comedic and sometimes heartbreaking fashion. More than any other comic this year, Paper Girls had cliffhangers that were mind-blowing. Issues ended with drop-offs that plain affected your week and made the comic book fan mark off their calendar to eagerly await the next issue. And Saga continues to live up to its name as the story evolves each month with new characters that, with BKV at the helm, never feel safe. Everyone in the Saga universe could live, die, or get really, really high and freak out at any moment. Perhaps, the greatest achievement is, more than any other ongoing series, Saga has created a universe that, even after all this time, is exciting to be explored. (Image by Cliff Chiang)


2. Tom King

The greatest comic of 2016, in my opinion, is The Vision. It has been called the Breaking Bad of comics and it's the vehicle that has led to the breakout stardom of Tom King, rising from a writer that only some people knew of to the writer of Batman. Away from the big two, King has also quietly put together a series that should also be many “best of” lists this year with The Sheriff of Babylon; a smart, complicated look at the situation in the middle east that dealt with politics and power in a fashion that usually is not dealt in comics (especially the serial kind). I don’t want to say something magnanimous like Tom King is on the road to changing comics forever, but, judging from his output this year, I also don’t want to say that he won’t. (Image by Gabriel Hernandez Walta)


1. Jeff Lemire

Looking at Jeff Lemire's list of comic output and quality, it's easy to see why Lemire is number one on our list. Let's name them off: Black Hammer, AD After Death, Moon Knight, Descender, Death of X, Bloodshot USA, Bloodshot Reborn, Old Man Logan, Extraordinary X-Men, All-New Hawkeye, Secret Path, and Plutona. That's 12 titles this year, and each title compelling and up to a level of quality that we associate with the writer who gave us the classics Essex County and The Underwater Welder. In terms of quality and quantity, Lemire has had no equal in 2016. I could talk about an individual title or two but really, they've been so good this year, fans should pick up them all (but, probably, especially Bloodshot, Black Hammer and Moon Knight). He consistently has his books on the shelves without delays, his work is hall of fame-worthy and, without any doubt, he is number one for 2016. (Image by Dean Ormston)


*Correction: We originally posted with Mark Waid as the writer of Black Widow. This is incorrect. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee wrote Black Widow as a team and Chris Samnee has been added to the list.