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

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Sep 29, 2016

As the summer comes to an end we say goodbye to some great story arcs with The Wicked + The Divine, Patsy Walker aka Hellcat, SupermanDetective Comics and, of course, X-O Manowar while welcoming Doom Patrol, Deadly Class and Supergirl back into the pull. Fall is always an exciting time in comics as the publicity of the summer dies down and some excellent issues start getting published. This power report we highlight writers with series on DC, Marvel, Image, AfterShock, Black Mask, Boom Studios and Valiant as we continue to see that excellent comic series are really coming from multiple companies, and it's definitely not the time to limit yourself to the big two. So let's get to it ... and remember, agree or disagree, let me hear what you have to say in the comments!

30. Greg Rucka

With the new Wonder Woman film coming, there’s no better writer you could have to bring Wonder Woman (w/Liam Sharp) back to your pull list than Greg Rucka. In this series the odd numbered issues focus on her current story while the even numbered stories re-tell the origin story. The element of language and understanding between characters, plus the entrance of Barbara Ann Minerva, who later becomes Cheetah, provides a little charm to this story that could otherwise feel a little dated. Diana has oftenly been portrayed as a cold figure in the DC Universe, with writers focusing on her warrior status more than her compassion, but this has been a wonderfully humanizing version of Diana and a lovely, irresistible new version of the Wonder Woman story.


29. Jason Aaron

If there are still holdouts to the new Thor (w/ Russel Dauterman), it’s time to give this incredible series another shot, because you’re missing out on one of the best titles Marvel has to offer. With S.H.I.E.L.D. now trying to prove that Jane Foster is Thor and her sickness creeping more and more into the storyline, there’s a lot to worry about in this story arc, and it’ll be interesting to see how Aaron pulls everything together. Dario Agger is an interesting choice for a villain, but for me the mystery element is the most compelling part of this story, and the cancer aspect to the story is so powerful that I'm both curious and nervous to how this story arc will end. Issue 10 ended with a cliffhanger that is one of Aaron’s best, and for those of you who passed on this series, it's time to give it another chance.


28. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

There’s an SNL joke that a Black Widow movie would undoubtedly be a romantic comedy and, with her role in the latest Avengers movie, having a strange calming ability on the Hulk, it certainly seems that her spy skills are not being explored as much as they should be. Enter Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, who use Black Widow’s incredible covert status and the secrets of her past to create a compelling story full of white-knuckle action. With the entrance of Tony Stark into the conclusion of this story arc is a nice way to close, what is one of the most fun series of the summer.


27. Gerald Way

It’s clear that we could now call the DC Rebirth series a success. Perhaps the most interesting series out of the relaunch has been Doom Patrol, a series that is hard to think about without conjuring up excellent Grant Morrison version in the 1980’s. Thankfully Way (w/Nick Derington) calms nerves of fans by producing a brilliant debut, delivering a fun, if sometimes somewhat jumbled, version of the story that long-time fans and first time readers will both enjoy. The story follows Casey Brinke and Sam Reyonds, EMTs by trade, who witness Robot Man get hit by a truck after escaping, well, a gyro (pronounced yee-ro, rhymes with hero, for all you east coasters). One of the best aspects of Doom Patrol is the outlandishness of the storyline (as well as the acceptance of kind of ridiculous thing by the characters) and how ridiculously fun that could be. It's a series that's different than all others and, if the debut is any indication to the rest of the series, DC has another hit on its hands.


26. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

 In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (w/Robert Hack) goes for more of a psycological horror but Afterlife with Archie is a straight up horror tale with a little sexy spice added and, while it still exists in the Riverdale Universe, this is basically a one-shot issue that provides a good portal for those thinking about holding their breath and diving headfirst into the creepy realm of Sacasa’s world. In the tenth issue of the series, Roberto dives into the mythos of Josie and the Pussycats with an interview with the lead singer, Josie who is now a vampire. She discusses how they got the band together and trapping a journalist into becoming lunch. Sacasa (w/Francesco Francavilla) does an excellent job in providing the scares as well as setting the creepy vibe and this is one of the best, and most beautiful, horror comics on the shelves.


25. James Tynion IV

While The Backstagers and The Woods have always been an excellent pull week after week, the Tynion’s Rise of the Batmen Detective Comics story arc (w/Eddy Barrows) has been legendary. The battle of the Bat-Family and Colony became an excellent way to highlight Tim Drake, Red Robin, to an audience that might not know him as Tynion and Barrows create a wonderful, at times heartbreaking, story that puts him in the spotlight of the Bat-family. It’s not surprising that DC is trying to capitalize on Batman by introducing a lot of different series, simultaneously, but it is amazing that they have currently been consistently stellar across the board. This is definitely one of the best and, if you're a fan of the bat, a must read. If you didn't get the floppies, make sure to grab the trade when this comes out.


24. Bryan Lee O’Malley

Snotgirl does an excellent job of satiring the fashion industry, the interning world, and social media culture that has an emphasis on external beauty. One of the most impressive parts of Snotgirl though is how much is in each issue. Murder, drugs and stalking getting mixed in with superficiality, online profiles and the societal pressure around looking cute creates a world that’s both compelling and frustrating at times. I’m hoping that Bryan Lee O’Malley and artist Leslie Hung's comic finds an audience because, for the time we live in, this is incredibly unique view in its representation of characters and world it creates.


23. Magdalene Visaggio

Kim & Kim continues to be disarmingly fun as the duo fight in the most unconventional and hilarious ways (one Kim has a guitar while the other has a machine gun). In the latest issue, Visaggion and artist Eva Cabrera explore the world of necromancy and, well, the sandworms that can result from that. There’s a lot of ridiculousness here but Visaggio a nd Cabrera pull it all together really well, keeping the story focused on the two main characters, their chemistry, and the absurdity in the situation. This has been one of the glowing bright spots in the Black Mask catalogue and a fun addition to the monthly pull.


22. Joelle Jones

When I first saw Lady Killer on the shelf, I immediately thought of John Water’s cult classic Serial Mom. Instead of adding the campy qualities of the John Waters film, this comic is supplanted with…well a lot of blood. There’s a brilliantly fun quality though seeing the housewife/assassin shift back and forth with such charming bravado. There’s no fear here as Joelle Jones is clearly having fun with Josie Schuller. If you’re not afraid of a little red in your issue, pull this one immediately.

21. Kate Leth

There’re certain crews in fiction that currently have a place in my heart. The Broad City kids that always make me laugh, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl crew tweets with Nancy Whitehead, Mew and Tippy-Toe and the Patsy Walker crew of She-Hulk, Jubilee, Ian, and Tom. Kate Leth (w/Brittany Williams) does an incredible job of allowing the reader in as part of the group with interactions that are both personal and entertaining in a you-had-to-be-there kind of way. The latest Patsy Walker aka Hellcat has her literally sent to hell by her ex-boyfriend after he gets House of Cards’d by her frenemy Hedy Wolfe. It’s a great issue ending the second story arc and a prime example of how Patsy Walker is one of the great Marvel series currently being published. Sometimes, as a reader, you’re not looking for big fights and explosions. Sometimes you want to read about characters you care about in situations that are entertaining and fun. And for that, there’s no better comic than this one.


20. Greg Pak

Ever since Copperhead stopped, I’ve been missing the wild west/fantasy genre in my comics. Sure, there’s the incredible East of West but, outside of that comic, there’s not much available right now. Enter Kingsway West, Greg Pak and Mirko Colak's Totally Awesome new supernatural alternate America where history did a hard left during the wild west after a substance called the ultra-valuage Red Gold was discovered. Pak (w/ Colak) creates a world that has Native Americans fight against China and Mexico and dragons (yes...dragons). Currently on its second issue, there's a lot going on in this new series but with veteran writer Greg Pak at the helm, this is one of the most exciting debuts this fall.


19. Robert Kirkman

Will somebody please give Negan a gun! Finally after all this time, the war with the Whisperers is on and Kirkman (w/Charlie Adlard), like he always does, devises a brilliant method of warfare in which the Whispers use their unique abilities to attack in numbers without being detected by the zombies. Each Walking Dead war issue has some of Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's best work as he's consistently delivered on all that he promises with the impending danger slowly approaches Rick and his society. Again though, as through much of the latest issues, Kirkman and Adlard gives Negan the spotlight and he, appropriately, shines. Whatever happens at the end of this arc, Negan is showing to be a continual draw to this series and a delight to read each week.


18. Steve Orlando

If I had one word to describe the new Supergirl by Steve Orlando and Brian Ching it would definitely be charming. Unlike Superman, who has grown up in Kansas, Supergirl has the problem of acclimating to a different world as a teenager, missing the technologically superior land that she grew up in, while stuck in the prehistoric high school of Earth (her struggle with a classroom projector is particularly funny). At the heart of the issue though this story is about a teenage girl that has moved and sorely misses where she’s from and a perfect comic for anyone who has ever had to change schools growing up, as this issue will remind them of major hardships that they themselves had to go through. It’s an excellent start to a smile-inducing series from one of DC’s best writers and a major departure from Orlando's Midnighter that showcases the range of what he can do.


17. Ryan North

While computer science has always been a major part of Doreen Green’s life, there’s been no better Marvel comic that describes binary counting and different aspects of computer science than the last Unbeatable Squirrel Girl where she fights Doctor Octopus, Count Nefaria (Yes, Count Nefaria) and Nightmare in a dream-like state that shows Ryan North and Erica Henderson can basically make anything, even computer science, fun. Each obstacle Doreen faces, she overcomes with the help of computer science and, by the end of the issue, you'll find yourself binary finger counting like a pro. Next up, North takes the Jughead helm from his buddy Chip Zdarsky and heads to Riverdale. Here’s hoping there’s a computer science class there as well.


16. Peter J Tomasi, Patrick Gleason

Peter J Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have created a solid family drama in one of the most original ways. Superman’s fight against the Eradicator and Doomsday has definitely taken had an impact on the Kent family, but in the latest epilogue issue Tomasi and Gleason show the family relationship when there’s no eminent danger facing them. .And what does that mean… well cows, hometown fun and a nice night out. It’s a beautiful ending to an excellent Superman series.


15.  Peter Milligan

If there’s one new series I could convince you to pull this month after reading the debut issue, it would be Britannia. Peter Milligan (w/Juan Jose Ryp) has created a compelling story that is part detective series, part historical drama, and part Game of Thrones. Antonius Axia is Rome’s first detective, more hard-boiled than Sherlock Holmes, as he ventures off to search for answers when some things of a supernatural nature enter Rome. Valiant has been on a roll lately, using such writers as Jody Hill, Matt Kindt and Rafer Roberts to build out their universe in clever and entertaining ways and this might be their biggest hit of the summer/fall.


14. Jonathan Hickman

No comic book writer currently sets up a intricate web as good as Jonathan Hickman. Much like he did previously in The Manhattan Projects, Hickman (w/Tomm Coker) is taking a historical event, this time with the stock market crash, and creating magical, demonic element to the story to expand the mystery. That said, this book is severely dense and combines a presentation of an alternate language, letters with redacted comments, and a design that looks like it’s from House of Leaves to create something…well I’m not even sure what it is but, in a way, that's kinda the fun of it. This comic creates an atmosphere like some of the best Alan Moore books before it and, though you might not fully know what’s going on,  you’ll be happy you’re along for the ride.


13. Joshua Williamson

Williamson’s work on The Flash with Carmine Di Giandomenico has been a fun journey within the speed zone but his Image series, Birthright (w/Andrei Bressan) and Nailbiter (w/Mike Henderson) have been legendary. Finally with Lore seemingly not as strong in Mikey as he used to be and the entire Rhodes family becoming main components of the story, Josh Williamson and Andrei Bressan use the heart of the story, the strength of the bond of family, to bring everyone together in battle. On the murderous side of things with Nailbiter, family is also impacting the secret of the Buckaroo Butchers as the carrot at the end of the stick that has been hiding the town’s secret is finally known by Alice. Now, hopefully, the next arc, that starts in November, starts will a big reveal as we’ve already been waiting 25 issues for this secret and it’s enough to make killers out of us all.


12. Ed Brubaker

Kill or Be Killed is exactly what the title.explains: the story of a man who has to kill someone or will be killed himself. Instead of going through the usually storyline channels of the mafia or monetary woes forcing the protagonist into committing a heinous act, Brubaker (w/Sean Phillips) justifies the death by utilizing a demonic force (one that kinda looks like the demon in Citizen Jack so maybe he's doing double duty). This demon shows himself when Dylan tries to kill himself and instead survives the fall only to be blackmailed by the dark figure. It’s an interesting premise that utilizes the narrative voice quite a bit in, what I believe, may be an unreliable narrator but showcases Brubaker’s writing with gorgeous artwork from frequent collaborator Sean Phillips. Whenever Phillips and Brubaker get together, it’s a pull list must have but this one has the feeling of something that's extra special. While we’re still in the beginning, this is a series to keep an eye on.


11. Marguerite Bennett

If you're looking for a fun take on historical comics with a mix of superheroes, DC Bombshells (w/Elsa Charretier) is the story for you. It combines origin stories with an old school fun where your favorite heroes fight Nazis (I mean, who doesn't want to fight Nazis). In the last issue, DC Bombshells Annual, Batgirl, reimagined as a French woman named Barbara Gourdon, Frankie Charles, and the Suicide Squad, with a big emphasis on Killer Croc. This still is one of the most creative and delightfully amusing series as, fans of each character, will love the new incarnations and variations that this represents. Also, with AfterShock Comics, Marguerite (w/Rafael de Latorre) is publishing one of the most interesting books in the catalog with Animosity, the story of how animals suddenly start thinking and begin plotting revenge. It’s one of the most interesting premises and one to watch out for this fall. 


10. G. Willow Wilson

The best Civil War tie-in has undoubtedly been Ms. Marvel. Kamala Khan has always idolized Carol Danvers, so when Danvers approaches her to lead up a local task forced based on the premonitions by the Inhuman Ulysseus, she’s eager to work with her hero. Yet when Bruno gets badly hurt, Kamala is crushed and eager to find a way out or point out the flaws in the premonitions. The brilliant aspect of this is that Wilson (w/Takeshi Miyagwaya) takes the local aspect of Ms. Marvel’s position (she has always been focused on Jersey City more than saving New York or the world at large) and uses Bruno, who has always been a centerpiece to the Ms. Marvel story,  and not a minor character, as the motivation to make this change. This is a major part of Kamala’s growth, to fight against her hero and find what she truly believes, and Wilson’s writing in her Civil War tie-ins may be the only must read out of the bunch.


9. Kaare Andrews

Renato Jones, as Andrews himself says, isn’t a reflection on the political polarity that confronts the United States but more of a cathartic output of the frustration that Andrews is witnessing around him. He reminds the readers in the letters section that superheroes used to care about their jobs because, as heroes, they don’t make much money and characters like Peter Parker were defined by their financial struggle in addition to their conflicts with super villains. Yet in modern superhero writing, heroes seem to not have to deal as much with stretching their dollar and that component of the character has not only taken a back seat but seemingly has been kicked out of the car together. Renato Jones then is an awakening to the economic climate that lives in the 99%, and while it does sometimes focus on more stereotypical versions of money and power, with the latest issue looking at gold-digging wives in particular, its anger and examination of financial classes, both on the page and off, are apt. This is a passion piece by Andrews and it’s easily one of the best comics being published today.


8. Scott Snyder

With the long-awaited A.D. After Death (w/Jeff Lemire) scheduled for November and All-Star Batman (w/John Romita) becoming one of the most fun and absolutely beautiful series on the shelves, Snyder proves the reports of his exit from Batman have been greatly exaggerated. If The Vision wasn’t one of the best comics in years, I’d feel bad for current Batman helm Tom King since, even with so many Batman titles currently out, All-Star Batman, though only on its second issue, may be the best of the bunch. It’s a road trip in the Mad Max variety as Batman encounters foe after foe that pumps the action up without eliminating clever plot twists. It’s a smart Batman, but also it’s a steroid-filled action-packed Batman that has the potential to be one of the best series in years.


7. Rick Remender

Remender comics are in a league all on their own. They subscribe to the notion of Killing Your Darlings with nobody being safe, they have a philosophy all on their own, and, most likely, at one point the main character is going to go through a psychological dilemma (my favorite will always be Grant McKay's journey into himself). As Marcus leaves Deadly Class and Saya takes the spotlight, this comic (w/Wes Craig) looks to explore perhaps the character that's always stolen the show. In Black Science (w/Matteo Scalera), it's also nice to see the castaway Dimensionauts fight monsters of a more personal nature (though bugs that invade your brain are always fun as well). 


6. Kieron Gillen

Finally the destroyer in Wicked & The Divine made her presence known as the fight of the century ends in, well, an agreement to stop fighting and just see what’s going on. It’s amazing that all that manipulation gets foiled by a simple adult discussion but, when you get down to it, that’s all it took and Ananke, and her head, finally pays the price. But even as the Rising Action story arc ends, Gillen provides a beautiful one-shot Wicked + The Divine with the gods in the time of Romantic Poets with artist Stephanie Hans. Most of the previous arcs have dealt towards the ecstasy of being a god but, for this one-shot, Gillen focus on their demise and the week leading to their death. These are the same characters we know, Lucifer, Inanna, Morrigan, and Woden, but with different, unique personalities that are highlight Gillen’s storytelling skills. This is an excellent story for those who have already fallen in love with the series as well as a great portal for those who haven’t yet tried it.


5.  Tom King

While The Vision (w/Gabriel Hernandez Walta) rightly gets a lot of the credit for King’s rise to prominence, The Sheriff of Babylon (w/Mitch Gerads) is quietly becoming one of the best comics on the shelves. At the beginning of The Sheriff of Babylon there was a lot of getting acclimated to the environment, both the literal setting of Baghdad but also the highly political environment where power is frequently not in the hands that you believe it is. Expect this book to be in lists of the best of the 2016 as one of the most original and thrilling comics available. There’s currently nothing on the shelves like it.


4. Nick Spencer

The Fix (w/Steve Lieber) is absolutely hilarious in its portrait of Los Angeles as a messed-up world where even the mayor will draw a picture of a penis on his father’s portrait. Spencer continues to be one of the funniest and most enjoyable comic book writers working today, and The Fix, with a buddy-cop format that leans heavily on the ridiculous, is definitely the most entertaining comic being produced. Combine that with the latest Civil War tie-ins for Captain America Steve Rogers (w/Jesus Saiz) and Captain America Sam Wilson (w/Daniel Acu), and Spencer is at the top of his game. It’s always refreshing to read a Nick Spencer comic, because, of all the comics out there, he utilizes technology in a way that others do not. His latest Captain America Sam Wilson uses a hashtag of #takebacktheshield, showing how the public is using social media as a form of attacking Wilson and his rise. It’s refreshing to see technology used well in this form, and maybe, just maybe, someone in his comic could please give Captain Marvel or Spider-Woman a new phone so they could stop using what seems to be a Kyocera from 2002. Doesn't Cap maybe have an older iPhone lying around?


3. Jeff Lemire

Black Hammer (w/Dean Ormston) continues to impress as the latest issue focuses on Golden Gail and her status of being a prisoner not only in the small town that the heroes have to call their home but also in the body of a nine year old girl. Lemire, in his Image Comics work, has been examining the role of the hero in a dark, sometimes realistic, manner and there’s echoes of other comics here including Skottie Young's I Hate Fairyland’s Gertrude and Mark Waid and Wilfredo Torres's latest superhero comic Captain Kid where similar themes are explored. Yet with each Lemire comic there’s a depth and innocence that is distinctively attuned to his visions of personal growth combined with responsibility. He's one of the best writers in terms of both quantity and quality with Black Hammer having serious potential as a great comic this fall.


2. Brian K Vaughan

With the return of Saga (w/Fiona Staples) and the continuing cliffhanger-filled beauty that is Paper Girls (w/Cliff Chang)Brian K Vaughan vaults to the top of this list. Each series is easily a comic that everyone should be anxiously anticipating the release but the most surprising is that even while BKV has two of the biggest hits in comics right now he still is producing a new series with his website panelsyndicate. His latest debut is Barrier with Marcos Martin, a web comic, similar to how they did Private Eye in a name your price model, with the first issue available in December. Every BKV issue release day is a holiday, and with, now, three current releases in the month of September, this is a very festive month.


1. Robert Venditti

I admit that I got to Valiant later than others. When I was in high school I kept mainly to the big two and then ventured into Image cautiously as I grew older. It was only when Robert Venditti (w/Cary Nord) took over X-O Manowar that I finally picked it up and, at issue 50, ending his long-running tenure with the character, I stand in awe of what Venditti has done with the character and for the Valiant Universe rebirth as a whole. Aric’s fought and befriended Ninjak and the Eternal Warrior, been thrown through time and space, and been involved in some of the most explosive fight scenes in all of comics. In issue 50 (w/Joe Bennett) we learn a lot more about Torment, an incredible final adversary that delivers an apocalyptical situation as Aric is literally swallowed up by the creature. This is definitely a grand finale lives up to the hype. Robert Venditti has been on X-O Manowar since 2012, completing one of the longest interrupted runs by a single writer in modern comic writing and it’s incredible to look at the growth of the character, the series, and its impact on both the Valiant Universe and Valiant comics as well. It’s a worthwhile, if bittersweet, ending and I can’t recommend enough treating yourself to the entirety of the X-O Manowar series, a run that will undoubtedly be considered as a hallmark in the history of comics.

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