The Nexus Best Of 2012: Top Writers Of The Year

Columns, Features, Roundtables, Top Story

2012 is in the books, welcome to the New Year! To celebrate the turn of another calendar year, we here at the Nexus are prepared to bring to you a regular installment over the next several weeks, as we intend to talk to you about what we felt were the best parts of the year before. There were a lot of things that happened, good and bad, great books, writers, artists…they deserve some recognition.

So first up, we’ve got a collection of lists from our staff to let you know who we felt were the best writers in 2012. Hope you enjoy!

First up is Nexus Co-editor, John Babos, starting things off right.

  1. Geoff Johns & Brian Bendis (Tie) – Readers expect greatness from Johns at DC and Bendis at Marvel. And they deliver. The only reason these two are not at the top of the list is because I wanted to focus on writers that surprised me in 2012 with their contribution to the medium. In some ways Johns and Bendis transcend this list with offerings like Aquaman and All-New X-Men respectively. However, no “best of” list would be complete without these predictable greats.
  1. Mike Costa & Chuck Dixon (Tie) – Mike Costa’s Cobra from IDW and Dixon’s other G.I. Joe offerings have really made the G.I. Joe corner of IDW a must-read sub-universe. Cobra Civil War and the crowning of a new Cobra Commander had major repercussions in 2012. We saw the actions of a more ruthless Commander in the Cobra Command arc and the rest of 2012 was marked with relevant, action-packed storytelling that has made this G.I. Joe 1980s TV cartoon fan also a fan of ‘Joe comics. I never read ‘Joe comics regularly before 2011/12. Thank you Costa and Dixon!

  1. Scott Lobdell – The man you love to love and love to hate. Lobdell has done impressive work with Red Hood and the Outlaws, Teen Titans and Superboy in 2012. He built to the Culling teen-heroes event from the latter two, but his Red Hood work probably took the most risks and reaped the most rewards. His Jason Todd / Red Hood is so multi-layered yet fun. Lobdell graduated from Superboy to Superman and is shaking things up there and making it a must read too.
  1. Duane Swierczynski – Like with Jimmy and Justin (continue reading ;) ), I was shocked to learn I was reading more than one book by Duane. His Birds of Prey has been an action-packed drama that has me not missing Gail Simone on the title. In addition, his work on Valiant Comics’ Bloodshot has probably been some of the best comic books on stands in 2012. Like other Valiant titles, it blends genres so successfully into a heady yet engaging and inviting yarn. Duane is also writing a new Judge Dredd series for IDW. He’s all over the place!

  1. Fred Van Lente – From Marvel’s Hulking Hercules to Valiant’s Boorish Armstrong. Valiant Comics’ Archer and Armstrong is a multi-genre romp that includes drama, action, humor, history, politics and so much more. It is a complex and accessible saga that is a joy to read monthly. Van Lente will also be working on a relaunch G.I. Joe core series for IDW, and I can’t wait to see what he does with the characters still reeling from the aftermath of IDW’s successful Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command arcs.
  1. Justin Jordan – I admittedly haven’t yet read Jordan’s fan-favorite darling of a series from Image Comics featuring Luther Strode. However, Jordan’s work on the DC New 52 Team 7 and Deathstroke have been impressive as has his Shadowman relaunch for Valiant Comics. I think 2013 may be Jordan’s break-out year.

  1. Kyle Higgins & Peter J. Tomasi (Tie) – Higgins’ Nightwing, a.k.a. Dick Grayson, is the best interpretation I have seen for a “Robin” since Chuck Dixon did the very first Robin mini-series featuring Tim Drake in the 1990s. His Grayson is very relatable and flawed / conflicted in ways the Batman isn’t. While many saw Dick Grayson returning to Nightwing after a stint as Batman as a demotion, Higgins has made Nightwing a character and a book that is important to the DC universe and a must-read. Peter J. Tomasi is doing some amazing work with the father-son dynamic in Batman and Robin. His recent ex-Robins arc was great and really gave each ex-Robin different personalities including in contrast to the current one. I think Tomasi writes the best Damian Wayne bar none including Grant Morrison. In addition, his Green Lantern Corps really brings the drama and humanity in a series that could be overwhelmed by the sci-fi. Excellent output by PJT.

  1. Adam Glass – Despite having so much stacked against him, like a thin Amanda Waller, a poor excuse for a Deadshot mask, a skimpy Harley Quinn, rotating artists, no house ads or editorial / advertising hype, Adam Glass has done the impossible: made the Suicide Squad a bonafide New 52 success. With collected edition sales showing solid numbers and his series gaining readership, there is no doubt that Glass is a key reason for the success for the Squad. In fact his contributions to Death of the Family have been remarked as some of the best comics of the cross-over. Glass’s Suicide Squad is a must read. His take is a worthy successor to John Ostrander classic Squad run.
  1. Scott Snyder – I was debating about putting Scott lower in the list like I did with Geoff Johns and Brian Michael Bendis if only because all three will likely make it on everyone every where’s Top 2012 Writers list. However, the reason he places so high is due to the build to Court of Owls. Many scratched their heads about why Snyder was opening his Batman series with a new villain group as opposed to something or someone established like Johns did with Darkseid in the Justice League. Snyder made us care about and fear Owls, really humanized Batman, and fans responded. His next work will be a Superman project with artist Jim Lee in 2013. Batman and Superman monthly from Snyder? DC is doubling down on writing talent for sure.
  1. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray – I was surprised how many of Jimmy and Justin’s books I was reading in 2012. Certainly All-Star Western is a great look at the past of the DC New 52’s Gotham City and their series of mini-series starring Freedom Fighters (yet to band to together in the New 52) characters has been spot-on. I just picked up their Monolith hardcover online and hope to read it and review it upon receipt.

Honorable mentions – James Robinson, Gail Simone and Grant Morrison probably make it on many Top 10 Writers lists for 2012. I enjoyed their work this year and if this was a Top 13 list they’d be on it. They should be doing more regular work for DC Comics or even more creator-owned work for companies like Image Comics.

Skitch had a busy weekend with the wife and kids, celebrating Christmas and New Years, but he managed to send over his top five!

  1. Scott Snyder – While I did think The Night of the Owls fell a little short of expectations, I still enjoy his work on Batman and Swamp Thing quite a bit.  If nothing else, he has made Batman engaging again, which is something I never thought I would see again.
  1. Geoff Johns –It can’t be easy to juggle three of DC’s top books, but Johns does it month after month on Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Justice League.  Johns’ didn’t have any real mind-blowing moments this year, but solid writing and storytelling still deserves to be mentioned.
  1. Mark Waid –While Hulk is off to a slightly slow start under Waid, Waid belongs on this list for  Daredevil along with how well he brought Incorruptible and Irredeemable to a close, not to mention the
    great work he’s been doing with his digital comic initiatives over at Thrillbent.  Waid has long been a living legend in the comic industry and 2012 is one of the best years he’s had.
  1. Dan Slott –Amazing Spider-Man #700 was one hell of a hard book to land successfully, and Slott pulled it off.  I don’t think anyone could have brought Amazing to such a strong close as Slott, who month after month proves himself to deserve to be mentioned with the best Spider-Man writers ever.
  1. Matt Fraction – If all Fraction had done was Hawkeye, it might be enough to get him on top of this list, but add in his terrific start on Fantastic Four and FF, and Matt Fraction is a ringer.  His stories are a lot of fun, with deep characterizations and great twists and turns.  I am a new Fraction fan, but he definitely stood head and shoulders above everyone else this year.

Hell of a list, right? Next up we’ve got our own Nexus rookie of the year, Joe Smith.

  1. Peter Hogan – He put out a huge surprise book for me this year in Resident Alien.  This was a very well written comic.  The premise was simple, but well executed.  The story was so subtly told and I’m really anticipating the second volume.  I’m not familiar with any of his previous work, but I’ll definitely check it out in the future based on his work in Resident Alien.
  1. Geoff Johns – Well over a year later and I’m still reading and loving Aquaman.  That pretty much automatically puts him in my list.  He actually made Aquaman badass.  I enjoyed the conclusion of the first Justice League arc, the Graves arc was a misstep for me, but overall I’ve been enjoying this book.  Also, his fresh take on Shazam has been working for me as well.  Green Lantern continues to motor along and be one of my top books every month.

  1. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning – I have liked their cosmic work in the past.  This year they released their creator-owned series, The Hypernaturals through Boom! Studios and it has been a fantastic read.  They’ve set up some great storylines and they’ve done a great job of setting up such an eerie atmosphere in this series as well.  I’ve really enjoyed their work as they’ve released one of my favorite books this year in The Hypernaturals.  Their work on New Mutants may not be critically acclaimed, but I did appreciate the different take that they attempted with this title.
  1. Mark Waid – He’s continued to make Daredevil an awesome book to read.  When this book gets double shipped once in a while I actually don’t mind it.  He blends action, serious content, humour, mystery, and so on together so well.  I thought Daredevil was a book beyond redemption yet he managed to take this comic back while not doing away with the doom and gloom of the past decade.  I’d love to see what he could do with a book like Superman.

  1. Robert Venditti – He’s been crafting a long story in X-O Manowar, which has resulted in good comics throughout this series without one filler issue.  He had a very important job with Valiant and that was bringing in readers old and new with their first release of the year.  That’s a lot of pressure because if he didn’t bring his A-game, people possibly could’ve turned the other way in droves.  Fortunately he did a great job and this book was on my pull-list after the second issue.
  1. Scott Snyder – He’s taken Batman and really made it into a hit.  It’s been a consistent 6 figure seller (in today’s market that’s a big deal) and he must be given credit because he really stepped up to the plate.  His first arc was a year-long one, which introduced new elements to Batman’s history without making it feel forced (I definitely can’t say that with all of the past attempts to do so).  I’ve personally seen Batman bring in new readers that went specifically to the LCS’s to grab it this year.  He’s been doing some fantastic work this year and I’m excited to see what he’s going to bring in Superman: Man of Steel (the rumoured title thus far) in 2013.
  1. Joshua Dysart – Harbinger has been my biggest surprise title this year.  This title is steadily getting better and can bring heavy action sequences and character-driven stories equally well.  Prior to Harbinger, I had never read any of Dysart’s work and had only heard of him as the writer for BPRD and Swamp Thing (but never bothered to check them out).  The last two issues of Harbinger (focusing on Kris and then Flamingo) cemented him as my favorite writer this year.  He hasn’t rushed anything and has shown a lot of patience with this book.  I care about the characters in this book just as much as characters I’ve been reading about for years from other publishers and I have no prior attachment to them from the old Valiant universe.  I trust that Dysart will continue killing it in 2013.

And last, but most certainly not least, my top ten writers of the year.

  1. James Robinson – Talk about a comeback story. Coming into 2012, I knew to expect Earth 2 out of the veteran scribe, but I didn’t know that I’d enjoy it at all. His JLA was piss poor, Cry for Justice was a horrific mess, and he no longer seemed like half the man who once wrote Starman. I was ready to chalk up Robinson in the same boat as many creators I once loved who the times seemed to have moved past, but then Earth 2 hit stands…and he made it very VERY clear that he still more than had what it takes to keep a monthly book going that is must read. He’s successfully reinvented the JSA’s characters and world, and it truly is one of DC’s few absolute must reads. It’s great to see the old James back.
  1. Rick Remender – I loved Uncanny X-Force, but found Secret Avengers to be relatively hit or miss…though that was in large part due to the constant crossover syndrome it developed during AVX. Still, Rick blew me away with Uncanny X-Force, and so far so good with both Uncanny Avengers and Captain America. 2012 was a damn good year for Marvel’s soon to be top guy, and 2013 should be even bigger as he goes forward with Marvel’s proclaimed flagship book under his control, as well as the Sentinel of Liberty.

  1. Christos Gage – Easily the most underrated guy at the Big Two, Gage spent 2012 quietly writing Avengers Academy, the best teen centered book out of the Big Two in years. He literally did the impossible there, as he took a book featuring primarily new original characters, with a supporting cast of obscure or cult favorite characters, and he made it last thirty-nine issues. In the current industry market….that’s unheard of. It’s impossible. He did it. He also co-wrote, and solo wrote, Spider-Man when Slott needed a break. Oh, and he did a little book called Angel and Faith, which features two of my three favorite Buffy characters, and I don’t just like it for the license. Gage is a very talented guy that everyone should be looking at with intent to give him a higher profile job, because he’d bring in the critical acclaim.
  1. Geoff Johns – Green Lantern has been a model of consistency as far as quality goes, never ever dipping in terms of the writing. The real kicker though is that since Simon Baz has taken over, the book has gotten exponentially better. It’s not often Geoff creates an original character, but the man sure as hell has a knack for it. Also out of him this year was a totally bad ass Aquaman that became a must read character, and a Justice League that…well, it meh’d. Graves was a terrible villain, Jim Lee’s issues were written to Lee’s strengths, and not Geoff’s, and it took a while for the book to really get going anywhere. The
    SHAZAM backup provided infinite faith, as it was the pacing we had grown accustomed to out of him over the years, not unlike his prior work with Gary Frank (Superman Secret Origin), or their other collaboration in 2012. Batman Earth One. Geoff may not have been the elite top tier best of the industry talent he is most years, but his contributions are more than notable.
  1. Tim Seeley – So last year around this time I realized that I was reading practically nothing outside of the big two, and it started to bother me. It had to change, I needed to go find more original things, broaden my horizons a bit. I had been a fan of Tim Seeley’s dating back to a mini he did for Marvel, Ant Man and The Wasp, featuring Eric O’Grady and Hank Pym. He also sketched a Booster Gold for me at Wizard World, nice guy. So when I got to looking around for new things to read, his name popped into my mind. I picked up some Hack/Slash…and then some more Hack/Slash…and then the rest of Hack/Slash. Cat Curio is one of my ten favorite women in comics right now. So when I saw that he and Mike Norton had a new book coming out, Revival? Total no brainer to check it out. Loved it. Seeley was pretty much my gateway into regularly reading books from Image (I’ve been reading Invincible for years with no urge to buy other books, so Kirkman sure as hell wasn’t), and that gets him major recognition from me.

  1. Scott Snyder – For as much as I love Batman, I generally don’t enjoy reading Batman. Most of my runs on any of his books are scattered arcs and issues, coming and going as the books quality goes up and down. Snyder is second to Grant Morrison in the length of the time he’s kept me constantly reading his tales of the Bat. I haven’t tried out John Layman’s Detective Comics after giving up on Tony Daniel’s, I have no intention of ever going back to Dark Knight, and for some reason I can’t make myself care to read Batman and Robin by Peter Tomasi, who I like. Yet Scott Snyder has me hooked, and he has it done the right way. Despite all of his best ideas getting stretched out into crossovers and events, his issues have so far been far and away the best. His Gotham is a living and breathing creature, and his Joker is scary as hell. I really should read Swamp Thing and American Vampire.
  1. Bryan Q Miller – I can imagine that there are readers racking their brains trying to think up what Q has been doing this year, and possibly thinking to tell me that Batgirl trades don’t count. Well, I’m happy to say that my Batgirl fix has been partially relieved thanks to Q tackling Smallville three or four times a month. It’s a book where he goes ahead and does something that nobody at DC has done since Geoff Johns….writes a Superman that I want to keep reading about. Action Comics is wildly inconsistent, and Superman has had too much creative turnaround, but Smallville has twenty-five normal sized issues since APRIL of what is far and away the best Superman on the market. For only a dollar an issue! Hell, I can do it one better, for that same dollar you can read an Ollie infinitely better than the New 52 version, and an incredibly original take on Batman (if you can get past the Batgirl that is Barbara Gordon but you can tell was totally Steph when she was originally written)! Q is leading the digital revolution at DC, get on board and enjoy the ride!
  1. Dan Slott – 2011 ended with Spider-Island, but Slott didn’t use that as a reason to take 2012 easy. This year in Spider-Man we had Ends of the Earth, we had one of the most entertaining time travel stories of the year, a quality blatant movie tie in arc, Spidey’s awful sidekick, and finally, Ock. Dan Slott only writes Spider-Man, and that’s just fine as with the current output of the book, it needs a writer who going to be able to keep things fresh and constantly moving two or three, or sometimes four times a month. Dan has brought a solid and steady voice to one of the most prolific characters in the history of comics, and it’s the voice the character has long since deserved. Brand New Day was an exercise in diluting Spider-Man by providing way too much by way too many people, but Dan’s run has been a revelation. The character is fun, the stories are fun, everything just keeps building further upwards and it’s like a drug, once you start reading it, you just can’t stop. Even with the controversy surrounding the end of
    Amazing Spider-Man #700, many writers would legitimately lose some of their audience with such a ballsy move, but Slott isn’t in danger of losing anyone. Everyone wants to know what happens next.
  1. Mark Waid – Daredevil alone nets the great Mark Waid on this list, but the fact that he wrapped up Irredeemable and Incorruptible this year, and the way in which he did so? Irredeemable had one of the best endings I have ever read in comics, and is another reminder that one of the most prolific writers in modern comics is still deserving of the elusive run on the Man of Steel. It doesn’t seem like he has his eyes on DC any time soon, so we’ll have to settle with his awesome work at Marvel, and of his own design through Thrillbent. He did the absolute impossible with Daredevil, taking over a book that had been known as the ones where writers tried to ‘out dark’ whoever they took the reigns from, and changing the formula. Bendis outed Matt and put him in jail, Brubaker put him on the run from the law, drove his wife insane, and gave him ninjas, and then Andy Diggle…Andy Diggle made him into Parallax of the Hand. Daredevil was fundamentally broken, and there was no coming out of it, it seemed. Waid took it over in 2011, and for the last year and a half has completely reinvented the wheel with Matt Murdock, reminding fans that the concept of Daredevil should be fun and exciting, not trudging through the grim-dark sludge. Oh, hey, he also wrote the most readable part of AVX. The Infinite Comics issue. It was a great year for a guy who deserves to be recognized among comics elite.
  1. Jonathan Hickman – One of my favorite franchises ever is the Fantastic Four, and it’s one I’m quite critical of. I shun the bad writers, ignore the bad runs, and broadcast the good ones. I also am known to put the great ones up on pedestals, of which I currently have three. Mark Waid, who made me love the Fantastic Four, Jim Lee, who introduced me to an accessible version, and Jonathan Hickman, who brought them into the future and defined just what they should truly be. We opened the year with the return of Johnny Storm, with an epic scale war taking place on Earth to defend it from all sides. We had Doom take on MAD SPACE GODS without a hint of fear. Valeria’s scheming, Franklin’s universe, Johnny and Pete living together, Reed and T’Challa bound as blood brothers, the return of the Power Pack, and even the final fate of Ben Grimm (saddest story of the year, by far). It was a fantastic year for all things Fantastic. Now, let’s move on from there to talk about his Image work. I somehow managed to completely overlook Secret, but The Manhattan Projects is the kind of book that has me keep wanting more and more and more. I mean, crazy schitzo man-eating Oppenheimer, the dude with the giant robot arm, and the most epic super computer of all time….FDR! So strange, so awesome. But to top everything off, you know how Jon’s year ended? By starting a run on The Avengers, taking over for Brian Bendis as he moves himself into a top writers chair at the House of Ideas. An absolutely fantastic year. FANTASTIC.

Be sure to check back later in the week for our top artists!

A lifelong reader and self proclaimed continuity guru, Grey is the Editor in Chief of Comics Nexus. Known for his love of Booster Gold, Spider-Girl (the real one), Stephanie Brown, and The Boys. Don't miss The Gold Standard.