Power Report: The 30 best comic book writers for June 2016

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Jun 23, 2016, 4:17 PM EDT

Summer is finally here and with it comes DC’s Rebirth, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s long-awaited Black Panther, and yet another Marvel War (this time at least it’s civil). Also there was a lot of Batman….like a lot lately. But this month in particular has shown some of the best comic books of the year thus far as superstars writers like Tom King, Marjorie Liu and Nick Spencer are sharing shelf space with some impressive breakout stars in Matthew Rosenberg, Benjamin Percy, and Sean Lewis. This might be my favorite and most complete list since we started this power report as these latest series are examples of why we really are in a golden age of comics. As always, do  you agree or disagree? Tell me what you think in the comments!



30. Frank Miller/Brian Azzarello

Diving into the back story of Jason Todd, Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello write The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade as a prequel to The Dark Knight Returns. The story is well crafted and the Joker bits are good as well, meshing the storylines between Todd and Joker to a conclusion that accounts for Batman’s mindset at the time of The Dark Knight Returns. There’s a lot of action and blood in these pages and as a prequel the comic works. Together Miller and Azzarello have proven to be a good team with the latest Dark Knight story a welcome addition to the canon.



29. John Allison

Each issue of John Allison’s delightful Giant Days feels like a wonderful sitcom, full of exaggerated characters and situations that provide a plenty of laughs while further exploring the chemistry between these college students. Whether it’s apartment hunting or, in the most recent issue, movie making to win a competition, the relationship between the strong personalities of Daisy, Esther and Susan drive each issue.  And the obstacles that confront these girls in college are both real and relatable, providing an excellent environment to create, what I like to call, comfort food in comic book form.



28. Jonathan Hickman

Death continues looking for his son as East of West journeys forward towards apocalypse and diplomacy again proves ineffective. As a friend of mine at the comic book store says, East of West is a must-pull, and there aren’t many of those currently around. This is a series that Hickman never quits on, expanding on an desolate world with mind-blowing characters and a intricately weaved plot. Even after 26 issues, East of West is still one of the best series on shelves.



27. Max Landis

Max Landis ends his incredible Superman: American Alien not with a bang, but a whimper. The last issue is probably the weakest in the series as Superman now has his costume and is battling Lobo (yes, Lobo). Throughout the series there’s been a constant theme of identity and self-discovery and the last issue is no exception. There’s a lot of touching moments here but it’s also fun to see Superman show his strength as well now. He's a lot different now than the boy who was trying to learn how to fly in the first issue and Landis effectively drew a character arc that both first time readers and avid subscibers will hold dear. It’s a triumph for Landis, who has made an incredible debut in comic books with one of its most beloved characters.



26. Skottie Young

While comic books get optioned all the time for movies and television shows there may be no comic I’d like to see more hit the screen than Skottie Young’s I Hate Fairyland. The second arc picks up where the first arc left off, with Gertrude as queen and a gladiator match with, you guessed it, organs everywhere coming out. This comic has everything you’ve come to expect in I Hate Fairyland: lots of blood, Gertrude in full crazy mode, and an attack on bottles that talk. It’s one of the most dark yet enjoyable comics available but please, please, please don’t give it to your kids.



25. Chip Zdarsky

Sometime, Howard, it’s difficult to go home. Chip takes Howard back to Beverly as the comic deals with their previous relationship and Beverly’s insistence that she’s looking for a quieter life in Maine. It’s touching and somewhat surprisingly funny at times, proving that there’s more to Chip than off-the-wall humor. He brings that same soft side to Jughead, who in his second arc has a pretty touching moment with Archie on a hike. It may another side of Mr. Zdarsky but it’s a welcome addition to characters that are building a strong emotional connection with their audience amidst all their adventures.



24. Warren Ellis

While Karnac ventures on to learn more about a kid who just annoyingly provides more questions than answers, Injection ends its second arc with some of the best exposition in the comics series as well as some major plot. The last issue was a little gratuitous with its sex but 10 focuses on Vivek Headland as the case is reaching the eventual conclusion with ramifications on the characters in the next story arc to come. Probably the most incredible in this issue is how brilliantly the work of Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire (my favorite colorist working today) complements the story. This is one of the most beautifully drawn books today and Ellis has made a satisfying conclusion to the second arc with a hint of more to look forward to.



23. Brian Michael Bendis

While I’m not completely sold on Bendis’s new Civil War II, it has definitely kept me coming back for more. The topic at hand is the new Inhuman Ulysses, who has the ability to see the future (though it seems he sees apocalyptic events a lot more than the sees anything else), and whether or not heroes should act on these visions is what is dividing Iron Man with Captain Marvel. So, basically it’s Marvel meets Philip K. Dick but, strangely, whenever the heroes attack first, it seems like they get their butt kicked a little more than if they'd waited. Bendis himself doesn’t pull any punches with this story and it seems anyone can get the axe each week, which makes the story even more compelling. While  it’s not  yet the acheivement of Millar’s Civil War, it’s good enough to keep coming back. Expect Bendis to go up or disappear altogether from this list by depending upon where this series goes.



22. Mark Millar 

As Jupiter’s Legacy 2 is finally scheduled to hit shelves at the end of June with a promise that it will keep to a monthly structure (Frank Quitely, I’m looking at you), Millarworld fans must be excited with the incredible space opera Empress. Teleporting through worlds, night club waitresses turned queens, and a bodyguard that would put Kevin Costner to shame (too old of a joke?), Empress seems to have everything going for it as this is a very exciting comic. Millar has a flair for the dramatic and it’s nice to see him do a space “on-the-run” story that seems to have a lot of bite to it.



21. Sean Lewis

While I marveled at the premise of Sean Lewis’s religious war Saints, I’m flat out amazed at its execution. Saints is not only an incredibly smart and well-researched exploration of religion in America but it’s one hell of an exciting epic. Lewis previously worked as a commentator on This American Life but his first entry into comics demonstrates that he has a multitude of talents at his disposal. The series -- which combines a ultra-fanatic religious sect that worships the Angel Michael, a Satanic death metal group that conjure up a demon dog, and a host of different teenage saints that all have power associated with the sainthood (St. Sebastian shoots arrows for instance) -- is an incredibly smart and exciting tale that just ended its 9 issue run in brilliant fashion and is easily my favorite miniseries that Image has published this year. The hardcover comes out in September and, if you can’t wait that long, I recommended going to your comic store and demanding older issues now. This comic is definitely worth it.



20. Robert Kirkman

Finally, an act of war we’ve been waiting quite a while for as the tension between the Whispers and Alexandria continue to thicken. At the heart of this has been the idea of manipulation and the effect that Negan has on the upcoming events. Rick has completely turned into a politician, looking instead to manipulate the group’s feelings rather than be completely truthful and Negan is, well we don’t really know what exactly Negan has up his sleeve yet but, the conversation between Alpha and Negan definitely highlights the last issue. It’s interesting, as we all wait for Negan to return in the new Walking Dead season, that Kirkman has made him such a major character in this impending conflict.



19. G. Willow Wilson

After Ms. Marvel ends her identity crisis of fighting multiple versions of herself by the deus ex machina of pushing the Captain Marvel button, we have the start of an enjoyable crossover between Kamala and Miles Morales in a science fair pitting Brooklyn against New Jersey. Ms. Marvel issues that focus more on Kamala than Ms. Marvel seem to be where this series shines lately as it ventures toward the silly (who doesn’t love a floating shark?). It’s a fun addition and a creative entry into the whole Civil War which is currently encompassing the Marvel Universe.



18. Benjamin Percy

Teaming up with Black Canary, Green Arrow is the star of the greatest comic in DC's Rebirth series. The comic has sold over 90,000 issues and is a bonafide hit for DC. The reason why this comic books succeed so well with a somewhat minor character could be summed up in one word: chemistry. Percy perfectly plays Dinah and Oliver off each other with entertaining and somewhat lovingly corny dialogue. Also the fight scenes are on point as the chemistry between Percy and Schmidt work wonderfully together as the goateed Green Arrow has a kind of Errol Flynn bravado to him. There are certain comics that everyone should pick up regardless of if they’re fans of the character, and this Green Arrow breaks barriers to be one of the finest comics of the month.



17. Matt Fraction

Sex Criminals is finally getting back to the heart of their story: Jon and Suzie. This last issue works extremely well by including all the aspects of the previous Sex Criminals story arcs with the heart of the story that made fans love Sex Criminals in the first place: the complexity of Jon and Suzie’s relationship. Fraction and Zdarsky are brilliant in this last installment including meta elements, dick jokes, and sexual anxiety, while still advancing the plot to a well-done cliffhanger. It’s a reminder of Fraction’s incredible skill at weaving multiple storylines and a reminder of how Sex Criminals is still one of the best ongoing series on shelves.



16. Joshua Williamson

Williamson’s Flash Rebirth provides an interesting take on the Barry Allen character as a detective/scientist who works with Batman and gets nightmarish visions. There’s a lot in the first issue as Wally West also makes an appearance but Williamson, it seems, is setting up The Flash for a compelling detective story that involves a lot of characters and locations. In addition to the Flash, Williamson brings another story to the always entertaining Birthright, which has been a consistently excellent story since its debut.



15. Jason Aaron

There’s no comic that fans have been waiting longer for than Southern Bastards. The last issue of Southern Bastards came out in January and the one before was November. So dust off those previous issues to remind yourself why Craw County and its racist, football loving inhabitants are still one of the best series Image publishes. Aaron, I guess, has been spending his time with Star Wars and Doctor Strange, which have been good, not great, runs that seemed more promising when they started compared with how they continued. Yet his Southern Bastards is the shining light of Aaron’s repertoire and exciting to see again.



14. Ta-Nehisi Coates

Black Panther has certainly lived up to the hype as Ta-Nehisi has turned his attention away from Black Panther the superhero and to Wakanda as a state of civil unrest with T’Challa as its leader. There’s a lot going on in these first two issues and the scope at which Coates has set up the story is impressive, as T’Challa’s role as king is being immediately put to the test. There’s also a great history of Wakanda being told as Coates wants the reader to understand the traditions in this society that sometimes get overshadowed by their amazing technology. While at times the plot of the story slows to focus more on the dialogue between characters, the dialogue is rich and well written. There is a lot of potential here and already it has started out on a grand scale.



13.  Brian K Vaughan

Time travel proves to be extra fun when you get to see and criticize yourself as a grown up. Paper Girls turns out to be one of the most enjoyable and utterly delightful series to date as the girls go back in time to try to find their friend. Also the end of the latest story arc of Saga is, yet again, incredible with a twist that nobody saw coming. It’s astounding how Vaughan has never had a lull in the story of Saga, always keeping the characters fresh and expanding on the beautiful and brilliant universe he has created that has been going on for 36 issues since 2012. It’s continually been the best comic series for years and always the series I give to people looking to get into creator-owned comics.



12. Ryan North

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl constantly surprises me. Just when I thought the crossover with Howard the Duck was proving that Ryan North’s playful Squirrel Girl has maybe overplayed her humor she returns with a hilarious choose your own adventure issue and a delightful dating issue. North, who has previously done a choose your own adventure with Hamlet, also released a choose your own adventure book entitled Romeo and/or Juliet this month in which we get the answer to the age old question "What if Romeo and Juliet teamed up to take over Verona with robot suits?" Inquiring minds want to know.



11. Greg Rucka

DC made an excellent decision to have Greg Rucka head up Woman Woman Rebirth. The character is soon going to get a lot more visibility with the film on the way (plus she might have been the only bright spot in the Batman vs Superman film) so an examination of the character itself is a rewarding approach at understanding her depth. This is remarkably different from Grant Morrison’s direction to the character in the recent Wonder Woman: Earth One, as Rucka instead looks at the character’s identity in an examination of herself, while she stares into the mirror with her Lasso of Truth tied around her wrist. It’s a brilliant exploration of truth and the lies we often tell ourselves and an intriguing way at exploring an important character in the DC canon.



10. Steve Orlando

Steve Orlando’s brilliant Midnighter continues to be one of the most engaging and fun comics DC publishes. This is a comic with teeth that it bares with a bloody smile. And now with the return of Apollo and the emergence of the Suicide Squad,it is one of the best series currently produced by DC. Also, with Orlando releasing Supergirl Rebirth in August, there’s a lot to be excited about at DC as the Rebirth series is finally getting fans to forget about the travesty that was Convergence.  



9. Matthew Rosenberg

If one could put their investments in comic book writers like stocks in the stock market, I’d take all my money out of my Twitter stock and put it in Matthew Rosenberg. Rosenberg originally turned heads in the incredible superpower rich We Can Never Go Home and then followed up with the intriguing 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank, where kids have to save their Dad by robbing a bank (just in time for Father’s Day!). Next up: a possible breakout issue of Civil War Kingpin, where Wilson Fisk is able to thrive amidst the president powers of Ulysses. Mark my words, Matthew Rosenberg stock is on the rise.


8. Nick Spencer

With Astounding Ant-Man becoming the Superior Foes of Ant-Man pretty quickly (and that is a compliment), the controversy around Steve Rogers Captain America, and great brilliance at Image with The Fix, Nick Spencer is a highlight of the pull list worldwide. No other comic book writer, with the possible exception of Ryan North, consistently puts smiles on the faces of comic book fans this often. Also with a special 50th edition of Morning Glories coming out next month, Nick Spencer is giving long-time fans a lot to look forward to.



7. Jeff Lemire

As Descender returns with a new story arc (and a nightmare-inducing cover), Jeff Lemire further demonstrates how incredible of a storyteller he is. The story arc looks into Tim-22, who seems to be a child version of Terminator 2 on the cover, and his backstory which tries to explain the dramatic conclusion of the 11th issue. It’s an rationalization of his actions as well as a exploration of the results that come from abuse, a frequent topic it seems between humans and robots in comics (see Alex and Ada). While on hiatus Lemire has been keeping himself busy with the astounding Moon Knight for Marvel and Bloodshot Reborn for Valiant, both of which are stunning series. Bloodshot pairs with Ninjak to find the Man in the White Tower while Moon Knight delves into a psychology within an asylum that is compelling and, quite frankly, pretty scary.



6. Rick Remender

Within the past 3 weeks, literally more than 10 people I know have texted me to ask if I’m reading Deadly Class. Nobody writes action as good as Rick Remender and this rat hunt of the freshman class has been Remender at his finest. Each issue has at least one moment where the reader will shake their head, amazed at what has occurred. Remender is ruthless with his characters and, when the action steps up in a Remender comic, nobody is safe. Remender continues his hot streak with an excellent new story arc of Tokyo Ghost where Tokyo becomes a gigantic theme park for the 1%. Probably a good comic to get in print form over the digital version as Remender really lays into tech culture but the wonderful characters that are a hallmark to a Remender story are there and this one is not to be ignored.



5. Marjorie Liu

Umm did Marjorie Liu catapult to the top of my list by writing my favorite Star Wars issue ever? Han Solo #1 had to be the most difficult series in the Star Wars canon to write. No scruffy-lookin' Nerf herder is the more liked and admired in the galaxy than Solo, and Liu simply knocks it out of the park. She maintains Solo’s cavalier style while expanding on the character by adding depth in his conflicted relationship with Leia. Add this to the end of the first story arc of Monstress, a series that is as beautifully written as it is drawn by Sana Takeda and one of the most compellingly smart series Image is publishing, and you have a prime example of a veteran writer at the height of her craft. I literally read each Monstress issue twice to fully understand completely everything that is going on in the incredible world Liu has created. For those of you who haven’t picked up Monstress, the first trade paperback just went on sale this week. Make it first on your priority list.



4. Matt Kindt

Two of the most promising new comic series are Matt Kindt’s beautiful Dept H from Dark Horse and 4001 A.D. from Valiant Comics. Dept H is a gorgeous mystery deep within the dark of the ocean as a woman must find her father’s killer amongst a litany of characters. The art, also done by Kindt, really utilizes the unexplored isolation that accompanies the deep ocean and, as Kindt did so well in Mind MGMT, he combines the environment seamlessly with the character’s psychological state. In the Valiant Universe, Kindt is helming the latest crossover event continuing the events of “Rai” (though you don’t really need to know those events to understand what is going on). Valiant’s events have never been subtle and Kindt makes one hell of an entrance with, wait for it, a space dragon. Need I say anything more?



3. Kieron Gillen

As Laura returns as Persephone and the reader gets a better understanding of events leading to her disappearance, Gillen shows that he’s even more skilled of a manipulator than Ananke herself. These latest issues of The Wicked + The Divine makes up for all those previous issues that slowed down the action to include more and more backstories of characters. Now Persephone has a plan and the walls seem to be crumbling all around Ananke as Persephone is shown to be a worthy competitor. Whereas in the last story arc missing an issue might not have a major effect on the reader, the story has now picked up at such breakneck speed, every issue is the most eagerly awaited comic of the month.  



2. Charles Soule

Never in my life did I think I would ever see a poker Daredevil issue but this recent Man without Fear issue may have been my favorite comic of the month. Charles Soule is currently writing some of the best comics on the shelves today and some of the best stories of his entire career. From the increasingly impressive Daredevil to an Inhumans that seems to be the heart of the Bendis’s Civil War II dividing Iron Man and Captain Marvel, Soule, again, is holding the weight of the Marvel Universe on his shoulders. In addition to Marvel, his three issues of everyone’s favorite new Star Wars character, Poe Dameron, is a plain delight and one of the best in the recent Star Wars series. You can easily see how Soule got inspiration from 1970’s science fiction with Agent Terex acting much like a diabolical Bond villain, with the ability to get tricked maybe a LITTLE too easy at times. Each issue though is a romp as Poe definitely keeps the charms and charisma that Oscar Issac so lovingly portrayed in the recent movie.



1. Tom King

There is no better series from Marvel than The Vision and there’s no better series from Vertigo than The Sheriff of Babylon. First up, The Vision, Tom King’s haunting series explores relationships, suburban life, fear, rationalization, psychology and segregation in a way that always surprises the reader with how much King can expound upon from, some may say, a minor Avenger character. There’s really like nothing like a comic book that makes you think back to your philosophy courses in college and The Vision displays a beautiful exploration of the nature of humanity, destiny, and what we do to maintain what we keep precious. Alternatively, The Sheriff of Babylon is full of grit and politics with some of the most intense interrogation scenes ever put to ink. It’s, at times, a difficult, purely adult comic but an important one and incredibly clever in its storytelling. Next up for King is Batman, and this reviewer is very excited about what Tom may have in store for the Caped Crusader.