Best of 2016: Best Writers

best-writer-2016

In such a collaborative medium as comics, it can be difficult to say where a writer’s influence on the story ends, but there’s no question on where it begins: words on the page. Whether they thrill, elate, chill, or deflate, the best writers create characters, settings, and situations we want to return to, again and again. These are our top 10 writers of 2016.

10. Chip Zdarsky

(Howard the Duck, Jughead)

It’s been a pleasure to watch Chip Zdarsky evolve from “that guy with the funny talking duck book” to “that guy whose funny talking duck book made me cry.” We suppose that transformation truly began at the tail-end of 2015 with Howard the Duck 2, but 2016 found Zdarsky striking a powerful balance between humor and pathos, exploring Howard’s life and relationships with surprising honesty and delivering a fully earned, emotionally resonant finale — all while never letting up on the wonderfully absurd premises, meta-commentary, and scathing Spider-Man burns that had already come to define his work. Zdarsky carried those same skills over to Jughead, whose final arc juxtaposed a zany Mantle-family reunion with Jughead’s very real fear of being abandoned by his best friend. If Zdarsky’s work grew this much in 2016, we can’t wait to see what he does next year.

9. Ryan Q. North

(Jughead, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl)

Mainstream comics come with a lot of constraints — page dimensions, publication schedules, regular interference from crossover events — so creators need to be inventive to make each issue feel fresh. Fortunately, Ryan North has been revelling in restrictive constraints since he launched Dinosaur Comics back in 2003. Figuring out how to keep the same six panels interesting week after week left North with a keen sense of not only how to pace a joke, but how to fit those jokes in unexpected places. That’s most obviously reflected in the running commentary North keeps at the bottom of each page of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but the truly remarkable thing is that all of that snark doesn’t undermine the series’ massive heart, which grew ever larger in 2016. We may have come to Squirrel Girl for the laughs, we stayed for its infectious charm.

8. Jason Aaron

(Doctor Strange, Mighty Thor, Star Wars, Unworthy Thor)

Perhaps no writer on this list stoked our imaginations more in 2016 than Jason Aaron. He continues to push, expand, and redefine the various worlds of his series, be it by creating new friends and foes for the Star Wars universe, expanding the breadth of The Mighty Thor not only to new realms, but into the far past as well, taking The Unworthy Thor to the far reaches of space, or throwing out Doctor Strange’s magical rulebook altogether. You never know what you’ll see next in an Aaron book, and that’s thrilling, but despite all that wonderful weirdness, Aaron never loses sight of the simple, grounded motivations that drive his characters, whether it be Jane Foster’s fight against her cancer, the Odinson’s more personal struggle with his own identity, Doctor Strange’s attempts to essentially start his magical career over, or the Rebel Alliance’s never ending battle against tyranny and oppression. The spirit of adventure is alive and well in Aaron’s writing.

7. Greg Rucka

(Black Magick, Lazarus, Wonder Woman)

It’s tempting to pigeonhole Greg Rucka as the writer of badass women (at least, in 2016), but the word “pigeonhole” doesn’t do justice to just how widely ranging those badass women are. In Lazarus, Forever battled enemies foreign and familiar, and Sonja Bittner got in some truly badass moments as well. Black Magick found Rowan Black on the defensive, preparing for either old enemies with new tactics, or totally unknown newcomers. But nothing exemplifies the diversity of Rucka’s style this year better than Wonder Woman, which followed Diana at two very different points in her life. “Year One” detailed her optimism as she first left Themyscira, while “Lies” chronicled her more jaded attempts to return. Even when he’s writing the same woman, he finds multitudes. Even with all of these big differences, it’s really in the subtleties that Rucka truly distinguish these characters — a word or two, or even a beat of silence is all he needs to make them come alive.

6. Brian K. Vaughan

(Barrier, Paper Girls, Saga)

A perennial on our best writers lists, it’s easy to take Brian K. Vaughan for granted. Whether it’s crafting nuanced characters, hooking us with a perfect cliffhanger, or steadily building rich worlds for his stories to inhabit, Vaughan can deliver. And that’s just the surface-level — delve a little deeper and you’ll find Vaughan spent 2016 refining the themes of all of his series, from the tight and punchy Paper Girls to the sprawling Saga. Of course, Vaughan being Vaughan, there were some unexpected twists complicating those themes, resurrecting old characters — or, in the case of Paper Girls, cloning some young ones. Point is: Vaughan pulls it all off with such nonchalance that we can sometimes forget just how impressive it truly is.

5. Chelsea Cain

(Civil War II: Choosing Sides, Mockingbird)

When novelists switch over to writing comics, it can often take them a while to adjust to the new medium. Not so for Chelsea Cain, who burst into the comics scene this year like she’d been writing them her entire life. Cain kicked off the very first issue of her very first ongoing series with a “puzzlebox” concept that just dared the audience to keep up with her, and never slowed down from there; the episodic-yet-interconnected nature of Mockingbird’s first arc, the use of Bobbi’s perspective to make us question what’s “really” happening, even the extras (such as paper dolls) included in the back of each issue display an understanding of (and love for) the medium of comics that even veteran creators sometimes struggle to reach. Cain’s excellent Jessica Jones story over in Civil War II: Choosing Sides, meanwhile, proves that Mockingbird was no fluke. Let’s hope Cain comes back to write more comics soon; it’ll be our loss if Mockingbird is the last we see of Chelsea Cain at Marvel.

4. Dennis Hopeless

(All-New X-Men, Spider-Woman)

We know it’s cliche to refer to a series as an “emotional rollercoaster,” but after the year that Spider-Woman just had, we’re lacking a better turn of phrase. Whether it was the stratospheric high of childbirth (albeit under the most stressful conditions) or the gutting low of Jessica losing a dear friend, Dennis Hopeless made it sing. In between, Hopeless paints a rich continuum of love, hurt, laughter, disappointment — the whole spectrum of feelings and moments we might call “life.” But, man, has it been a trying year for Jess. Becoming a parent might be enough stress for some, but this year put Jess through battling an alternate-universe male counterpart, falling out with her best friend, and losing her friend/sidekick/nanny, just to name a few. Hopeless didn’t pull any punches — there were some genuinely tough moments this year — but they come across with such compassion that we never always want to come back for another ride.

3. Charles Soule

(All-New Inhumans, Daredevil, Death of X, IvX, Obi-Wan and Anakin, Poe Dameron, Uncanny Inhumans)

Even as he’s limited the number of projects he’s working on at one time, Charles Soule will always be the guy who was writing seven monthlies at once. It’s an impressive reputation, but in emphasizing the quantity of his work, we neglect the consistent quality of everything he touches. Indeed, while the volume of Soule’s writing continues to be remarkable, it’s the depth of his stories that makes Soule one of our favorites this year. Whether he was detailing political gamesmanship in Uncanny Inhumans, meditating on the roles of artist and critic in Daredevil, or celebrating characters old (Obi-Wan and Anakin) and new (Poe Dameron) in his Star Wars work, Soule’s seemingly inexhaustible imagination found new angles on all of his series. Soule also found fertile ground in his collaborations with Jeff Lemire, detailing the current state of Mutant/Inhuman relations in series like Death of X and IvX. The former brought a fitting end to one of X-Men’s most indelible characters, and the latter promises even more tragedy for both parties.

2. Tom King

(Batman, Omega Men, The Vision, Sheriff of Babylon)

We may not have read the entirety of King’s now-legendary “Trilogy of Best Intentions,” but the shadow of his accomplishments at DC, Marvel and Vertigo (for Omega Men, The Vision and Sheriff of Babylon respectively) cast a thematically rich shadow over the rest of the industry. It also landed him a gig writing Batman, which found him taking the character in bold new directions, pushing the notion of hyper-competency to its very limit. For us, King’s greatest triumph this year was drawing The Vision to an emotional, unsettling close, and forcing us to question the nature of humanity along the way. The result is a beautifully idiosyncratic series so dense with themes and symbolism, we’re still unpacking it to this day.

1. Nick Spencer

(Astonishing Ant-Man, Captain America: Sam Wilson, Captain America: Steve Rogers, The Fix)

Master provocateur and satirist Nick Spencer has had a banner year. In a landscape where even the ballsiest of Marvel comics struggle to take stances stronger than “can’t we all just get along?”, he unleashed a pair of Captain America series that take every conceivable institution to task for their centuries of mis-managing and misshaping the American identity. Racism, sexism, the militarization of modern police forces, immigration — there’s almost no hot button issue that Spencer leaves unturned with Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers. That’d be a feat in and of itself, but Spencer’s stories are also arrestingly funny, action packed affairs. Remember, while Sam Wilson was dealing with racists who couldn’t accept him as Cap, he was almost momentarily turned into a werewolf. Plus, all this gabbing about the Captains America neglects his excellent crime stories in both Astonishing Ant-Man and The Fix. The latter of which taps a cynical vein of dry hilarity that is equal parts insightful and depressing. These series are all unflinching in their perspectives, which makes Spencer has brave as his heroes.   

Want more Best of 2016 lists? Check out our Best Covers and Best Issues lists!

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28 comments on “Best of 2016: Best Writers

  1. Who’d we miss this time? My ballot included Ed Brubaker (Kill or Be Killed has been fantastic thus far) and Brian Azzarello (ditto Moonshine), but I’m otherwise happy with this list? Any other glaring omissions?

    • This is something that only just hit me a day or two ago, long after we’d finalized these lists, but…I completely forgot to nominate Kieron Gillen.

      MAJOR OVERSIGHT on my part there :/

      Most of the writers I really thought deserved a spot on here got one otherwise. I could make an argument for Jeff Lemire. I know Patrick really wanted Sam Humphries on the list, and I could make an argument for that too (albeit, that sloppy first arc of Green Lanterns hurt).

      Best writers is always a tough one for me, not to narrow down, but to nominate at all. I have a hard time finding writers whose work I’m always consistently excited about over the course of a year; a lot of times they’ll write a few series I really like then one or two I just don’t get. Sometimes a writer’s ability to work on more series at once than an artist hurts them (only in this sense; it’s much better financially, obviously).

      Then again, sometimes it’s a big help too. I don’t think any of Soule’s series were necessarily fantastic enough on their own to make it onto any of these lists (although I enjoyed them all), but taken together as a body of work all coming from the same person, that’s more than enough to earn his spot on this best writer’s list.

      • Geez, yeah, Gillen had a good year. WicDiv was as good as ever (maybe even better), Darth Vader ended very strong, and that Doctor Aphra issue was fun. As with most categories, we could easily come up with a second lists worth of people that deserve to be on here.

      • I love Humphries’ Weirdworld with an unbridled passion, but I’m not sure I would nominate him for this list without another book of a similar quality. Is there anything else he has that you could argue deserves to be the best of the best, or is it just Weirdworld? Because I have generally been disappointed with Humphies outside of that book, and Green Lanterns doesn’t sound like it has been a great success

        • Yeah, my defense for Humphries (who didn’t make it up here) was Citizen Jack and Green Lanterns. GLs isn’t great, but he is telling fun, earth-centric stories with the new Green Lantern characters, and that’s worth a lot to me. But any argument to put him on a list like this has to be anchored in Weirdworld. The rest is nice, just not homerun quality stuff.

    • I think Scott Snyder deserves to be on there. The end of his Batman run was fantastic, with three different issues that were all good enough to be contenders for best issue of the year. At exceptional finale to what will be a classic run. And his All Star Batman seems to be possibly the only Rebirth book that isn’t a garbage fire for one reason or another.

      Gillen is an obvious missing person, for his fantastic stuff on Darth Vader and Wicked _ the Divine (I just read Rising Action and it was so good!).

      I’m a bit behind on Remender, but he seems to be thriving now that he is away from the Big 2. Deadly Class has had some fantastic stuff this year, and if Tokyo Ghost and Low continue the quality they had before, Remender is certainly a competitor.

      And while I haven’t read as much Ellis this year as I would like, between Injection, the fantastic response to Karnak and the stuff I’ve seen of his James Bond book, Ellis continues to be one of the best around.

      Though it is hard to know who to remove. I haven’t read enough 2016 SOule to be able to say he doesn’t deserve to be there (though my attempts at reading him before were consistently disappointing, and between the start of IvX and the one issue of Uncanny Inhumans I have read, I have been consistently disappointed).

      Though I’m not sure if I agree that Spencer deserves the top spot. He certainly should be on the list, and he has had a big year. Ant Man and the second season of Morning Glories concluded, and the Fix begun. But his Captain America books feel like they haven’t entered their prime yet. Steve Rogers is playing a very long game, and while consistently a high quality is still setting things up. And Sam Wilson is a very inconsistent book. Whether it is werewolf stuff that distract from the story and creates an obnoxious barrage of Gruenwald references and jokes, Spencer bungling his attempt to create a superheroic parallel to the recording of police and accidentally having Sam Wilson do the most fascist thing of the year in a year where Steve Rogers is an actual fascist, the poor Pleasant Hill story or the fact that Spencer’s political comics never entirely feel cohesive (Sam Wilson spends a lot of time discussing strategy, before doing very nonstrategic things). I’d rather wait till next year to give Spencer the best writer award, when the Steve ROgers book moves past the set up, and Sam’s book hopefully irons out the kinks as Steve Rogers plotline becomes more prominent.

    • Yeah, Snyder felt like a real snub this time. Between the ending of Superheavy and the success of A.D. : After Death (which I still have to read), there is more than enough to get him on this list. Those last three Batman issues were so great, that they would all quite rightly be said to be in among the 10 best issues of the year. The only other writer this year who can say that is Tom King

        • Tom King ended the runs of 3 different honest to god masterpieces, each run with multiple issues that could be successfully argued as among the top 10 of the year. You could successfully make a case for a top 10 best issues list made up of entirely of Tom King.

          The fact that his Batman run is the most Rebirth book to ever Rebirth doesn’t change the fact that all of his other stuff this year has been exceptional. Hell, I don’t even know that you can say King doesn’t get Batman. He never had a problem when writing Batman’s brief appearances in Grayson. I’m honestly unsure whether it is King’s fault or Rebirth’s. Because Rebirth not getting the characters is honestly a consistent problem. Even writers who, this time last year, were praised for getting the characters are suffering the same problem.

          But even if this is the one thing that isn’t Rebirth’s fault, doesn’t matter. Between Omega Men, the Vision, Sheriff of Babylon and to a lesser degree Grayson, King’s Batman simply doesn’t matter

        • Scott Snyder in All Star Batman understands Batman and is writing a great Batman story currently. Some of rebirth is actually amazing though.

        • All Star Batman seems to be one of the few Rebirth stuff that isn’t a disaster, you are right. Appears to be good, even if there is nothing I’ve seen actively makes me want to read it. Doesn’t appear to be as good as his first run.

          But a couple of exceptions doesn’t change the fact that Rebirth is a disaster

        • This is a long and complex answer, adn you’ve probably got everyone groaning because I’m going to write about this again, but here goes nothing

          Firstly, Rebirth’s promises of Optimism and Legacy are blatant lies. The DC Universe is actually a less optimistic place after Rebirth. Thanks to the failure to create replacements for books like Starfire, Prez, Batgirl and Grayson, which were among the most optimistic books in the stand, the DC Universe is a less optimistic place. Supergirl seems to be the closest book to any of those, and Supergirl appears to have issues
          Meanwhile, there has actually been a reduction in the importance of Legacy. Previously, DC was using books like Batman and Robin Eternal as high profile places to gush about Legacy. Cassandra Cain, Harper Row and Dick Grayson were given a high profile space to be reintroduced, developed and focused on respectively. Meanwhile, books like We Are Robin, Catwoman and Teen Titans were developing brand new legacies, with a true third generation of the Batman family, a new Catwoman and a new Power Girl respectively. Meanwhile, despite Wally West’s high profile return, he has been shoved off into the corner, in the Titans book that no one is honestly talking about. Legacy is being ignored. So DC Rebirth fails to live up to its stated promises

          Secondly, what Geoff Johns’ DC Rebirth actually promises, once you move past the inaccurate strawman it attacks and look at the subtext of DC Rebirth, is two things. FIrstly, death to new and original ideas, and a shift back to more generic stories and on being ‘iconic’. The prioritisation of white male characters and the push back against anyone who is female and/or PoC, usually done is a way that puts them ‘in their place’ (to be fair, while it doesn’t do a good job with LGBT characters, it doesn’t do a bad job of them. Though that is why we have books like Detective Comics!) and a dismissal of new and original ideas, and a shift back to more generic stories and on being ‘iconic’.
          Unlike Optimism and Legacy, these promises have been kept, leading to a situation where the black Wally West isn’t even allowed to be the ‘real’ Wally West, Black Canary is forced back into a relationship that almost two decades (at least) had been spent trying to get her out of so that she could be a more interesting character, and Jamie Reyes’ story is gutted and removed of many of its most interesting elements so that the Blue Beetle mythos can return to the earlier version that was used when the white men were leads. Meanwhile, many of those new legacies, like the We Are Robin crew, the new Catwoman and Power Girl, have disappeared. Duke Thomas is the only survivor of the purge of the nonwhite, nonmale legacies.

          Meanwhile, the shift away from original ideas and towards ‘iconic’ takes has not only meant that the great concepts that have both made Marvel successful and led to DC creating such great work as Snyder’s Batman, Valentine’s Catwoman, Prez and Omega Men are no longer being made for more ‘meat and potatoes’ comics. And, even worse, this shift towards iconic has lead to Iconography being place over Character, leaving the characters hollow and creating some awful storytelling. Let’s go through some of the line

          The Batbooks – Tom King’s Batman is an obvious example of everything goign wrong, despite the fact that they got a man who writes masterpieces in his sleeping writing it. So much of what you hear about TOm King is about his reverence to iconic moments, or his worship of iconic ideas like Batman’s overpreparedness (to the point where the writers of this site emphasis that in King’s bio above), but the result is awful.
          But it isn’t just Batman. Detective Comics was an obvious trainwreck from the start, that spectacularly crashed with the awful Victim Syndicate. The Victim Syndicate is awful for many reasons, in part due to relying on an awful, ‘iconic’ take of Batman from the cynical Watchmen days so that the villains can be ‘justified’ through the atrocious argument that Batman is responsible for the actions of his Rogue’s Gallery (something so elegantly destroyed in a Batman TAS episode in 1994!). But the Victim Syndicate was just where the train crashed. It was clear from the very beginning that the cast were both out of character in general, and inconsistent with the very status quos Tynion had established before, all in the service of some iconic ideal that cares more about backstory trivia than actual character. There’s a lot more to say here about how Detective COmics was always going to go wrong, but that would involve getting into examples and specifics, and there is one other thing I want to discuss. Alongside generally being out of character, Detective Comics then starts gutting Batwoman of many of her most important features, ‘putting her in her place’ by strip mining her story (just like Jamie Reyes) so that the Batbooks could be more white male focused. Batwoman went from a character defined by the fact that she was separate to Batman, with her own Batfamily and her own world that coexisted alongside Batman but was its own thing to yet another character subservient to Batman. Disempowered and stripped of her most interesting feature, so that she could be serving Batman where she ‘belonged’ yuck.
          Meanwhile, Nightwing, a book written by the guy known for writing Grayson – a book defined by how perfectly it understood Dick Grayson even as it took him out of his comfort zone, is now a book known for its uncharacteristic dourness and its struggle to get a handle on Nightwing. Between this and Detective Comics, this is the second book where the writer doesn’t appear to get the character, despite getting them perfect this time last year.
          And then Batgirl has turned from a book that was vibrant and energetic, a gamechanger to the entire industry, an essential book even when it wasn’t at its best, to a book that no one really talks about because it is… alright. The energy and passion is gone.
          And that’s ignoring the Monster Men crossover, that combined the problems of the three books and then just executed everything really, really badly.

          Superman books – Instead of an actual attempt to address the issues they were having with Superman and working out how to write him better (something they did with Starfire last year, a character in even worse condition, to great success), they kill him off and replace him with something that everyone will feel nostalgic for. They haven’t actually made any effort to fix Superman, just rely on the nostalgia because the marriage is back.
          Let’s ignore the SUperman book, whose major problem at the moment seems to be that it is a bit aimless, and focus on Action Comics. In Action Comics, Lois and Clark conspired to steal a dead woman’s identity and rob the family (a family that Lois cares greatly for) the chance to grieve or know what the hell happened to their daughter, out of selfishness. You should see Mark’s piece on that issue. Utterly sensational work from Mark (https://retcon-punch.com/2016/10/27/dc-round-up-comics-released-102616/). And let’s not forget the utter stupidity of this plan, which relies on no one noticing that Lois has aged probably around fifteen years, and is now married with a ten year child.
          Meanwhile, Supergirl’s seemingly successful start seems to seems now to be struggling to have any other identity other than ‘generic Last Man of Krypton story’

          Wonder Woman’s good quality is hurt by the fact that it seems to be the highest profile example of queerbaiting I can imagine. Rucka is famous for his writing of LGBT writing, which is why it is a shame that his Wonder Woman book is now exploiting the LGBT communities.

          Green Lantern has thrown out the most interesting story it has ever had. Tom King set up Omega Men with a dark cliffhanger, and the story will never get resolved. Probably the best Green Lantern story ever is going to have its cliffhanger ignored. Hell, I’m not looking forward to finding out how Rebirth is going to write Kyle Rayner, as I have a feeling that just like so many other characters, everything recent about him is going to be removed for no story reason. Despite the fact that, again, we are talking about the events of the comic that is one of the best Green Lantern stories ever. And that’s ignoring the fact that other really interesting plotlines, like Guy Gardner simultaneously having both a Green and a Red Lantern Ring and what the emotional spectrum means.

          And honestly, I could go on. I’ve completely ignored Justice League, and both that and Suicide Squad have problems. As do so many others. And the thing is, they are the same problems all the time. Interesting ideas thrown away. Disrespect for both characters and story in order to reduce them to ‘iconic’ wiki entries. Sexist, racist and homophobic story points, so that we can return to white men being the most important. Going backwards from where DC used to be, while pretending to go in the opposite direction. Ultimately, it is placing nostalgic recollections of the past over actual stories. It is literally everywhere in DC, and it is terrible. Regardless of the writer’s talent, regardless of the writer’s previous experience with the exact same character, every comic DC has features the same damn problems

          And this is a tragedy, as nothing used to excite me more than the knowledge that I was getting new issues of Batman, Catwoman, Prez and Omega Men in one month

        • Thank you for writing this. You make some great points. I do object to All Star Batman and Superman though. All Star Batman I did a review on, and the first arc is great. Superman is fixing a long time problem with Superman and giving him a great new status quo of being this small time father with new adventures with his kid. I won’t go on a whole thing about how this fixes a lot of problems with Superman, but the issues I have read have been good.

        • There’s a reason my big piece didn’t have a lot to say about All Star Batman or Superman. There is a lot more I could say about Rebirth and its problems, but very little about All Star Batman and Superman specifically. Because they seem to be doing a much better job than everyone else. In fact, while I forgot about it last night, Superman appears to feature the only other survivors of Rebirth’s Legacy Purge – Nobody.

          But I’m glad that my argument comes across as intelligent, regardless of whether or not you agree. I know I have a controversial opinion on Rebirth, but I’m glad I can express it as something others find as nuanced, instead of as the sort of insane ramblings

    • I don’t think Retcon Punch as a whole is as enthusiastic about All-Star Batman. It’s doing some interesting things, but is probably messier than it needs to be. A.D. After Death is also super cool and interesting, but I almost feel weird about writing about it on this site, when it’s like 75% novel.

      Snyder may be one of those writers that is very good, but didn’t feel quite as vital or important to us this year. He’s been on every other best writer list we’ve done, and he just wasn’t generating the same kind of excitement from us this year.

      • Thinking back on your All Star Batman pieces, yeah, I can see how you guys are struggling to get as enthusiastic as you did with Snyder’s other work. Also fits the fact that despite being one of the few books Rebirth books that haven’t exposed any glaring flaws, it also hasn’t really made me interested.

        Still believe that the combination of Batman 49, 50 and 51 means Snyder deserves a place. Hard for him to do much better without doing another thing of Batman 44 quality

  2. Actually, two more things to say, about specific writers on the list

    Firstly, don’t forget Aaron’s fantastic work on Southern Bastards. His work on Mighty Thor, Doctor Strange and Star Wars more than justifies his inclusion on this list, even with the black spot that is the disappointing Unworthy Thor. But Southern Bastards is just as important. If you want to see a great example of how Aaron’s continues to define his worlds, the third volume of Southern Bastards is a fantastic example. A fantastic series of one shots that give true complexity to Craw County and truly build a world, showing the many different sides to the world and creating a fantastic backdrop for the next arc, that I cant wait to be released on trade. The brutal world of Southern Bastards is so well done, that you truly get an idea of what motivated everyone. Even the seemingly most minor characters, like bankers, are made to feel important, and the ways that football and racism infuse everything truly makes the character sing. It is done so well that you understand why the characters make the choices they do. They feel so powerful because the setting is so well realised, we understand just how momentous the choices are. As great as his Marvel work is, Aaron is just as fantastic in the creator owned sphere

    Secondly, I think it is important to reiterate how great Chelsea Cain is. In fact, I think she deserves to be higher. I love Spiderwoman, but I don’t think Hopeless should be higher than Cain. Cain was perfect, taking to comics like a fish to water. She never let her experience as a novelist ignore the ways that comics were different, and instead truly embraced what made comics, comics, working with her art teams to make visual marvels. Meanwhile, she made structurally complex works while giving her work a delightful, energetic energy that so easily disguised her genius with pure entertainment. And there is a true genius to be able to do such structure without anyone noticing.
    And then she gets the entertaining stuff done so well, while doing such a great job with character, while presenting a character who is actively distorting the reader’s view of events through her own perspective. And then there was her Jessica Jones story.
    She is great

  3. 1. I don’t know if Jeff Lemire would crack this list, but he should certainly be mentioned for consideration.

    2. Subcategory: The writer who should be on this list if not for being the most screwed-over writer of 2016 is G. Willow Wilson. She continues to do wonderful things with Ms. Marvel that have paved the way for so many others, but her book was one of the top victims of Marvel events and crossovers this year, robbing it of its chance to shine.

    • Pretty happy Lemire isn’t on the list. Every time I’ve read his work, he seems to find the most boring path to take his interesting idea. And he seems to do this very weird things where he wants to be very reverent to another run, then gets everything wrong. I tried giving him another shot with Thanos, and it is the same bad stuff again. Shame, as the art of his books are always fantastic

      Love Willow in 2015, but she had a bad 2016. Ms Marvel is still a good book, but nowhere near as good as it was last year. It has struggled trying to work around the terrible choice to make Ms Marvel an Avenger (too much of what Ms Marvel work gets ruined if she is having brunch with Iron Man every Thursday) and the stories themselves haven’t come together. The HYDRA arc had dome clever stuff, but ultimately didn’t fully come together. Had two disconnected narrative threads, and too much of the ‘Ms Marvel is a traitor’ stuff is forced, relying on Ms Marvel not making any real attempt to distance herself from Hope Yards and on the crowd being arseholes for no reason. And it was only at the very end that the second arc managed to distance itself from the cliche idea at the very end. Meanwhile, the election special was godawful in its misinformation. Ignoring the one shot in Pakistan, Ms Marvel’s strongest stuff was actually the Civil War II stuff. Whether it was teh Road to Civil War II one shot that this site gave a best issue award to, or the actual Civil War II arc that went on an issue too long, but was the closest Ms Marvel got to the stuff that made the first volume so fantastic. I still like Ms Marvel, but it is not as good as it once was, and that isn’t Civil War II’s fault

      • Well, I think it’s CW2’s fault in the sense that there was no opportunity to get anything going because of it. One big reason, IMO, that the other stuff was sub-par was because there was no room to breath. No room to put together a 4-5 issue arc in which I’m sure Wilson would have brought her A-game.

        • Except there was room. Wilson had 6 issues to tell Ms Marvel stories before Civil War II. 7, actually, as her Road to Civil War II issue was less a tie in and more her doing something completely unrelated that riffed on the basic idea of Civil War II. She gave two disappointing 3 issue arcs, where she could have done a 4-5 issue arc and one or two one shots (which, election misinformation special aside, are usually something Wilson does well).

          Instead, things only appeared to get going WHEN Civil War II begun, and we started to get a well written, classic Ms Marvel plot written well with meaningful progression on the supporting cast (but even then, it was an issue too long).

          If you are going to blame anything, I’d blame the choice to make her one of Mark Waid’s Avengers. It did feel like Wilson was trying to work out how to deal with the fact that Ms Marvel is the sort of character who being an Avenger has to be important with the fact that being an Avenger this early hurts some of the key parts of Ms Marvel’s character (I don’t compliment Mark Waid often, but making her a Champion is a much better idea).

          But honestly, as a fan of Wilson and of Ms Marvel, I don’t think her disappointing year can easily be blamed on someone else. She had a bad start to the new volume, that’s fine, but I think with Civil War II and the Pakistan issue, she’s getting back in the swing of things.

      • Matt knows this already, but I’m bummed Lemire did not make the top ten. I was making a small list of some of my favorite comics going right now which also feature spectacular, genre-pushing art, and realized that I thought of three Lemire titles right off the bat.

        Descender is sprawling and ambitious; Old Man Logan is understated and thoughtful; Moon Knight is challenging and trying a fascinating narrative composition. Add to that illustrating A.D. for Snyder, and the well-reviewed Black Hammer (which, I confess, I haven’t read), and trying to pull the character of Thanos out of the Great Pit of Lampoon, and I do not know what more we could ask for from a writer in the span of a year.

        • Lemire is one of those writers who works so well with artists. Even as I have had story problems with Descender, Old Man Logan and Thanos, I have to admit that Lemire has a sensational ability to work to his artist’s strengths. He in one of those writers who, like King and Snyder, part of what makes them exciting is the fact that they work so well with their artists that we know that there is going to be great art. It is the big reason that I hate the fact that his writing always drives me nuts (I will repeat what I said in my Thanos 2 comment, I really wish you guys did a small piece on Thanos 2, as I wanted to see what you guys saw that I didn’t)

  4. Well, here’s to better things for Ms. Marvel in 2017. She has a lot of now-established characters to work with, and I hope there’s a return to more personal and organic stories in that settings. She should just put Champions out of her mind and not let that influence anything. Also, we really need Bruno back. Maybe mid-year?

    • Yeah, let’s hope for a better 2017. So let’s hope we get a great return to form.

      Though hopefully, I hope Bruno doesn’t return immediately. Never been a fan of the ‘friend who also wants to date’ trope, and considering how much Bruno was have gotten, I want to spend more time with Zoe and Nakia, especially considering everything that happened with Zoe lately.
      And the drama between Kamala and Bruno is the best stuff Bruno has gotten, so I hope that they don’t rush it and make his return truly impactful.

      But yeah, now that the new volume has set up a bunch of fantastic stuff, let’s hope that we get the return to form. With all the stuff currently established, Ms Marvel could have an incredible 2017

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