This Years Finest 2016: The Ten Best Writers

For the year of 2016, these are the ten best writers selected by the Nothing But Comics team

Honorable Mentions: Kelly Sue Deconnick, Alex DeCampi, Brandon Graham, Steve Orlando, Ryan North, Marguerite Bennett, Joe Keatinge, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, John Arcudi, Marjorie Liu, David Lapham, Warren Ellis, Mathew Rosenberg, Rick Remender & Nick Spencer

_20160114_22254310. Jason Aaron of Thor, The Unworthy Thor, Star Wars, Dr. Strange, Southern Bastards & The Goddamned

Year after year, Jason Aaron remains one of the most consistent voices in comics, all the while writing several titles that span across genre. As a creator, Aaron remains fearless in all his titles no matter if it’s Marvel superhero’s, Star Wars, sports or biblical stories.  Aaron’s writing manages to instantly capture the precise tone of the character’s he’s writing with a  lived in naturalism while telling some of comics most inspired and exciting stories. No matter what it is, few comics writers are as enjoyable as often as Aaron is-Pat

_20160505_2108039. Kieron Gillen of Darth Vader, Dr. Aphra, The Wicked + The Divine, American Vampire Anthology #2, Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl, Cinema Purgatorio & Uber: Invasion

Gillen continues building on his and Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine with the result that the title only grows stronger with each passing year. This year, Gillen stepped up the adrenaline with the arc aptly named Rising Action. To his credit, though, instead of losing character beats among the thrills, he increased them. The final issue of the arc brought all the narrative threads to date to a (literally) explosive conclusion which left readers gasping for air. Not content to rest on this achievement, Gillen next scripted the 1831 Special, a poignant meditation on creativity and immortality. Still not content, he pushed boundaries even further with an issue formatted after a celebrity magazine. Once again, though, Gillen did not lose track of the heart beating beneath the artifice (& snark). Meanwhile, he brought his Darth Vader series to a successful conclusion, whilst also setting the stage for a new Dr Alpha title. Like the best of his Marvel work, Gillen’s Star Wars scripts blend with the preexisting universe whilst maintaining his own distinct voice. Such versatility makes Gillen one of the most fascinating writers working today- Creighton

blackhammer8. Jeff Lemire of Moon Knight, Old Man Logan, All-New Hawkeye, Extraordinary X-Men, Death of X, Inhumans vs X-Men, Thanos, Bloodshot: Reborn, Descender, Plutona, Black Hammer, AD: After Death & Secret Path

My Canadian boy Jeff Lemire goes full throttle in 2016. becoming an even bigger player for Marvel while spreading his creator owned love around to a few different publishers. At Marvel, Lemire worked his way through many beloved characters. He concluded his excellent run on Hawkeye while also trying his hand at The Extraordinary X-Men, Old Man Logan, Moon Knight and most recently Thanos. While Thanos, a tough character to handle had a compelling start, it is Moon Knight and Old Man Logan which lead the way as Lemire’s strongest Marvel work this year. It must be very difficult to follow up a groundbreaking run on a series and Lemire has now done it with both Hawkeye and Moon Knight, bringing something extremely different to both books; abandoning previous successes and drawing upon his own strengths to hook readers. He is also one of the main players in the Death of X/Inhumans vs X-Men event Marvel is currently running. With all this great Marvel comics, Lemire still found time to finish Plutona and start a new series at Dark Horse titled Black Hammer. Black Hammer is a series about retired superheros which, if you have read Jeff Lemire before, you know is a comic he was born to write. For more info about Black Hammer check out our 2016 top ten new series list. Lastly, Lemire continued his terrific work on Descender. Descender, a book which captured the attention and imagination of us all in 2015, has raised the stakes this year. A book that has risen to the top handful of Image comics out there with it’s perfectly crafted issues delivering intensity and emotion with every issue. This guy just keeps getting it done. 2016 another year of Lemire-Dean

_20160527_0116277. David Walker of Powerman & Iron Fist, Nighthawk, Occupy Avengers, Cyborg, Shaft: Imitation Of Life & Tarzan On Planet Of The Apes

David Walker came on board Marvel this year after an extended period writing DC Comics Cyborg and Dynamite’s Shaft title with a singular style that felt like a necessary shot in the arm of adrenaline for the publishers superhero titles.  Walker has an innate ability to write grounded pulp style comics with character’s that are equal parts entertaining and endearing. All the while, Walker has managed to inject a necessary antidote of political commentary across his books, sometimes subtle and other’s overt, but always in a way that felt natural to the book as a whole. In 2016, Walker established himself as a comics writer to watch out for and one of the superhero genre’s most unique talents-Pat

_20160527_0108476. G. Willow Wilson of Ms. Marvel & A-Force

three years in, Ms. Marvel remains one of the most compelling and entertaining books on the shelves. Key to this is Wilson’s clear-eye writing. She has truly invested heroine Ms Marvel with an endearing personality, locating the perfect balance between the twin teenage poles of pluck and dejection. At the same times, Kamala never fully gives in to despondency, always finding her hidden reserve. This played out especially during the recent Civil War II tie-ins, wherein Kamala learned the hard lesson that doing the right thing can still feel like defeat. Wilson used the outline of the event to comment on issues riling contemporary society without ever sounding preachy. Amidst all these life lessons, Wilson never loses her sense of humor. Her depiction of an uber -competitive science fair was one of the satirical highlights of the year. This fine combination of humor & hardship, questioning & striving, solidifies Wilson’s place as one of the best writers of the year-Creighton

_20160617_0129165. Greg Rucka of Wonder Woman, Lazarus, Stumptown & Black Magick

Greg Rucka is a writer who enjoys world building. Very few, if any, writers have taken that task as seriously as Mr. Rucka on Lazarus. The story is filled with science and technology; from the bleeding edge of the present, to the seemingly impossible of the future. He has so thoroughly mapped this world out, that there was even a special issue guide to the ins and outs of its socio-political history. Most issues are filled with back matter concerning real world science relevant to the story. It’s almost an overwhelming amount of information, but it is used to great effect and works to fully immerse us in the world of Forever and the Carlyle family.

In addition to his amazing work on Lazarus with Michael Lark, Rucka has returned to Wonder Woman and crafted the best approach to the bi-weekly shipping schedule by weaving two alternating narratives. This has made it possible to tell an origin story of sorts, while simultaneously writing a contemporary adventure for Diana.

While Greg Rucka has proven himself very adept at crafting a narrative story built around fantastic and technologically wild worlds, it has been the characters that he writes, Like Forever Carlyle and Diana, that earn him a place on our list of 2016’s best writers. He understands how to have realistic people navigate the sensational circumstances of his comics without sacrificing too much of their relatable human qualities-Tyler

_20160428_0746034. Brian K. Vaughan of Saga, Paper Girls & The Walking Dead: The Alien

If Brian K Vaughan only wrote Saga that would be enough. It would be enough to get his name on this list year in and year out. Saga is now 40 issues in and still arguably the best comic around. When it comes to Saga there has been no valleys, only peaks and higher peaks. The drama continued in 2016 providing some of the most heart breaking and heart warming moments of the series so far. In my opinion, Saga is the most consistent comic from issue to issue and that level of consistency is of the highest quality. Saga is something very special, I can’t wait until it is finished and I can read it all over again. Oh right…Brian K Vaughan wrote some other stuff this year too. Paper Girls is another one of Image’s best comics. With the combination of 80’s nostalgia, teens and science fiction Vaughan has created a comic that can be compared to no other. With this years incredible success of Stranger Things, Paper Girls has become even more popular as a comic outlet for lovers of the show.  You never know where BKV is going with each issue of these comics and it has created a wonderful reading experience from week to week. 2016 marks the year of an extremely talented writer operating at the top of his field-Dean

kill-or-be-killed-2-stalking-sean-phillips3. Ed Brubaker of Kill or Be Killed, Velvet, The Fade Out & Criminal

In 2016, Ed Brubaker did what he does best with the strongest crime noir comics on the shelf. With artist Sean Phillips and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser, Brubaker closed out their Hollywood epic The Fade Out, brought back the classic Criminal title and did some of their best work yet on Kill or Be Killed. Brubaker’s writing is dark, complex and engrossing explorations of the criminal psyche that take a deep dive into their fascinating worlds. While it’s heavy reading, his comics are consistently some of the most rewarding titles in the medium. Even while the writer took a large role in HBO’s Westworld television series, he remained one of comics best and most important creative talents-Pat

From East of West #25 by Nick Dragotta & Frank Martin

2. Jonathan Hickman of The Black Monday Murders & East of West

Jonathan Hickman might be insane. The things that lurk in the imagination of this man are incredible,and often disturbing, but I must admit they are all completely captivating and I love every bit of it. From the gorgeous, apocalyptic genre mash-up of epic proportions that is East of West, to the occult-laden roasting of our ridiculously corrupt world financial market found in the pages of Black Monday Murders. If there is one thing you can always count on in a comic written by Jonathan Hickman, it is a brilliantly original concept executed to the nines. Hickman writes about things that on the surface seem utterly outlandish and strange, but he manages to combine them with a core of human emotions.

His characters often operate in the extremes of desire, angst, hope, melancholy, or malice; like the heightened drama of theater, Hickman uses these extremes to color the themes he is exploring obviously. His plots can be labyrinthian, but his character’s motives are more clear so we can follow along, awestruck by the ideas and developments, anxiously awaiting the next meticulously planned revelation-Tyler

Batman 3 siblings David Finch(crop)1. Tom King of Batman, The Omega Men, Grayson, The Vision & The Sheriff of Babylon

Omega Men; The Vision; Sheriff of Babylon; Batman. King covered a wide variety of genres this year: science fiction, war drama, superheroes and synthezoid family dynamics. What unites all these various story types? A deeply felt sense of humanity. All of these comics, boiled down to their essence, are narratives about the search for understanding, both within and beyond ourselves. King’s protagonists are perpetually chasing empathy as the key to not only the hearts of others but their own as well. King’s heroes, like the best of them, are defined by their concern for others. Kyle Rayner’s quest for a third way which avoids violence; Christopher’s belief against all odds that some good can come of America’s presence in Iraq; Batman’s refusal to accept that Selina Kyle’s virtues are dead. All of these characters operate in wars of one type or another, while still believing that human connections are possible. The Vision is so convinced of this idea’s vitality that he literally builds himself a family. For awhile it works, until, as so often happens, the best of intentions get weird then go south. Through all the fog of war and chaos of conflict, King keeps his focus trained on his characters’ hearts. There are plenty of grand themes coursing through King’s work: oppression, insurgency, family, religious faith, utilitarianism, revenge and the ever shifting ethics of violence. However, chief among these is the search for empathy, which in turn is what makes his writing so timely. After all, if there was one virtue most lacking from 2016, it was empathy. Such concern for, and commitment to, the lives of others is what makes King’s the most essential comics writing of the past year-Creighton

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