2013 in Review: Best Writer

By | December 19th, 2013
Posted in Columns | 5 Comments

One thing we’ve been highlighting throughout 2013 in Review was how diverse and incredible the year was in comics. More comics are getting votes in our year in review build-up than ever before, and it’s endlessly interesting to see how it pans out as we put the numbers together.

Writers, in many ways, drive that diversity we’re talking about. It’s not just a world of cosmic battles and evil winning any more – it’s a world of men and women bonding over the Quiet (aka Cumworld), of dynamic new takes on the apocalypse, and of superspies on the journey of their lives. We’re all the better for it, and the following writers (along with many, many others) helped make this such a special year in comics.

10. Greg Rucka

Why He Ranks (Drew Bradley): Rucka began 2013 with the strong final chapters of both the second volume of “Stumptown” and his amazing run on “Punisher”. Then, for a few months, he seemed to vanish. Then he came out swinging in the summer with his new Image book “Lazarus”. Aside from the amazing story that takes up most of the book, the back matter displays Rucka’s full commitment to worldbuilding by sharing his fictional timeline for the series (no “making it up as we go along” here) and some of his research into current scientific breakthroughs. By cramming this worthwhile extra content into his book, Rucka manages to sneak his way into our best writer list with his name on only a handful of books this year.

9. Scott Snyder

Why He Ranks (Brandon Burpee): Scott Snyder has been on fire the last few years. This year had to have been a banner year for the man, not only in fans eyes but his own. He’s a professed Batman fan who is getting to redefine the character’s origin and entire history for a new era of DC Comics. That alone makes for a good year. You can’t forget his work on American Vampire and The Wake though. These titles have also been fan favorites through this year even with American Vampire taking a bit of a rest.

If you still aren’t sure of this man’s talent level, just look at the artists he has worked with this year. Names like Greg Capullo, Sean Murphy and Rafael Albuquerque to name just a few. It’s always a sure sign that a writer is talented when some of the best artists in the industry share a credit on your book. This man is not lacking talented artists who’d like to bring his words to your eyes.

I guess in short, 2013 has been a good year to be Scott Snyder.

8. John Arcudi

Why He Ranks (Mike Romeo): John Arcudi has an interesting blend of strengths as a writer. He’s able to give readers subtle, yet deep, peeks into the inner workings of his characters and their motivations, while simultaneously setting up incredibly long form narratives. This is, of course, best evidenced in his BPRD work. John will present readers with huge changes to the world, paying off past stories and setting up years of future narrative, then immediately push in for very focused and personal reactions from the characters at the heart of the story. It’s a delicate balance that he makes work like few others can. Besides BPRD and its satellite titles, this year John has also seen the release of The Creep in hardcover, contributed to the new volume of Batman Black and White stories, and penned the first issue of True West from Monkeybrain. If you’re not reading his stuff, then you’re missing out on some of the best comics being published today. You should fix that.

7. Matt Kindt

Why He Ranks (Drew Bradley): For the second year in a row, Matt Kindt ranks in our top 10. Last year, he qualified pretty much exclusively on his “MIND MGMT” work. Not only did he continue to knock that book out of the park on a monthly basis, he also made headlines with his OGN “Red Handed”. On top of that, he also wrote two ongoings for DC, three miniseries for Marvel, and launched “Unity”, the latest book from Valiant. While none of these quite measure up to his creator owned work, it does prove that Kindt can maintain quality under pressure.

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6. Ales Kot

Why He Ranks (David Henderson): Ales Kot is simply one of the most versatile writers I have ever seen. His debuts with “Wild Children” and “Change” pegged him as the ‘new Grant Morrison’ with a penchant for weird and ambiguous meta-storylines, but his work since then has already broke him out of that mold. “ZERO” is a series that has, in only three issues, shown a versatility in Kot’s character writing and plotting so much so that while each issue feels like a unique story, it still congeals to a whole series seamlessly. Any other writer who had the courage to try a series built like “Change” would not have been able to pull it off like Kot has. 2013 was a big year for Kot as he took the comics industry by storm with that versatility in his writing and certainly enraptured us here with the strength of his stories. Here’s to 2014 being even bigger.

5. Kelly Sue DeConnick

Why She Ranks (David Henderson): I have no idea how Kelly Sue DeConnick does it. I have no idea how she juggles characters that feel wholly unique and differentiated from each other through dialogue and actions with plots that always seem to convey emotion and meaning while never being bogged down by convolution to create series that, even at their most emotional, always feel fun. I have no idea how she managed to not only revolutionise a character with a 45 year history, but how she did so in such a way that she spawned a worldwide celebration of that character, her legacy and what she stands for in comics. I don’t know how she did it.

But I do know that I am thankful that she did it. Kelly Sue spearheaded a movement that forced people to rethink how they view women in comics and forced even publishers to rethink how they portray women in their comics. Obviously things don’t change overnight, but it’s a start, right? And it’s a start that sparked because of “Captain Marvel” and because of Kelly Sue DeConnick. Which isn’t even to mention that she followed that up with “Ghost”, another revitalisation of a character so good it continued into an ongoing; “Avengers Assemble”, which is the most popular Avengers title among fans right now according to Marvel; and “Pretty Deadly”, which is already stunning at two issues in. She is one of comics’ strongest writers right now, with a sense of character and dialogue unlike any other and an ability to construct superhero stories that speak to the hearts of people with a strength that comes from believing in the importance of them as figures. That’s an important lesson superhero comics need to learn and Kelly Sue DeConnick is here to teach it.

4. Brian K. Vaughan

Why He Ranks (Vince Ostrowski): What did we say about Brian K. Vaughan last year? It probably fits pretty well here today. I think as long as Vaughan has an ongoing project hitting the shelves, he’ll probably end up on this list, won’t he? He’s just too damn consistent and clever not to. The second year proper of “Saga” has been just as strong as the first, if not even stronger. Though it’s shiny new luster may have worn off just a tiny bit in the public eye, what Vaughan and Staples are doing with the conventions of science fiction and fantasy cannot be overlooked. With “Saga”, they bend genders, relationships, identities, morals, codes of honor, et cetera. These two challenge everything we think we know with “Saga” and are still finding ways to shock us. Imagine that. In the year 2013, we were still surprised and shaken up by what we saw in a creator-owned comic book. Leave it to Vaughan to push those buttons.

With “The Private Eye”, Vaughan demonstrated the pure power that comes with his name in the year 2013. How many other creators could get away giving you a regularly released comic book for whatever you wanted to pay for it? Well, hopefully plenty could, at this point, but Vaughan paved the way for that to happen. We’re talking about a guy that openly avoids the internet when he can help it being at the forefront of digital comics distribution and self-publishing. Not only that, but “The Private Eye” just happened to be partially about the very idea of ownership, privacy, and the collapse of the information age. Heavy and relevant stuff.

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To conclude, was there another writer that broke the comics internet in half as many times as he did this year? Ladies and gentlemen, who else but Brian K. Vaughan?

3. Jason Aaron

Why He Ranks (Matthew Meylikhov): Within the beard hides a tremendous and unholy power, one only a few talented individuals are able to harness. Jason Aaron is one of those people.

Throughout the year, Aaron has offered up a cornucopia of different work, all of which has been rather astonishing on different levels. While there was no creator-owned work from him this year, Aaron showed that you can still take a creator-owned approach to for-hire comics and make them shine, mostly through characters that felt personable and relatable despite their other-worldly attributes. His Thor relaunch is one of the highlights of the Wave 1 Marvel NOW! releases, offering a wonderfully epic take on the Mighty Marvel hero, and with the truly underrated Thanos Rising mini, Aaron tapped into what makes evil tick in a way that not too many others have, showing a side of Thanos that we’d not necessarily seen before.

However, with his X-Men work, both in the tremendous Wolverine and the X-Men (which saw its best storyline this year in the culmination of the Hellfire Club arc) and the launch of Amazing X-Men, Aaron offered up some of the best X-Men in years, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that the merry mutants can be fun, touching, introspective and epic all at the same time. And even with one stint on the X-Men ending, one can only hope that he continues this sweet X-Train rolling for a long time over in Amazing and beyond.

2. Jonathan Hickman

Why He Ranks (Brian Salvatore): Hickman takes some of the most chaotic plots in all of comics and approaches them in a systematic and clean way. This year, “Infinity” engulfed the entire Marvel universe in an intergalactic war of unparalleled scope, and yet Hickman’s books read almost like histories of the event. “The Manhattan Projects” takes scientists and turns them into machine gun toting maniacs playing God on an universal scale. “East of West” takes a western and drops it in the middle of the apocalypse. No writer has a wider scope in their worldview, a more ambitious take on classic concepts, or a better eye for finding hope in despair (and vice versa) than Hickman.

1. Matt Fraction

Why He Ranks (Michelle White): “Sex Criminals”. “Satellite Sam”. “Hawkeye”. Those are three very different titles, all of which we’ve been praising since their first issues, and three very good reasons for Matt Fraction to top this list. But while they differ in terms of content and mood, what Fraction brings to all these titles is hard to miss. His ear for dialogue, feel for gradual character development, and – most importantly – well-tuned sense of fun make for some engaging reading indeed, and from Hawkeye’s capers, to Michael White’s predicament, to Jon and Suzie’s (substantially sexier) capers, there’s no shortage of engaging plotting here, either. Fraction’s willingness to experiment with the medium is really the icing on the cake; if you want to see the possibilities of words arranged on a page pushed to their outer limit, he’s your guy. He’s blotted out Queen lyrics, played around with technical jargon, and written from the perspective of a dog (in an issue our reviewers have singled out as one of the best of the year). And all the while, he’s crafted complex and thoughtful stories that capture our hearts and minds. This has been a big year for Fraction, and with “Sex Criminals” just starting up, “Satellite Sam” finding its stride, and “Hawkeye” still going strong, 2014 is looking to be even bigger.

//TAGS | 2013 in Review

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