This article is part of our 2022 Rewind. Follow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from this very strange year. In this entry, we assemble the best comic books of 2022
Few lists stress me out as much as best comics of the year lists, especially when the year was populated with so many damn good comics. If there’s any continuation of a theme this year from last year, we remain in a new golden age for the medium. Comic book distribution is not quite what it used to be, but it is better than it’s been since our pandemic problems began. As a result, publishers from every corner were able to bring more books into our lives, and the quality was crackerjack overall.
Comics that would have made my top ten list any other year somehow didn’t crack my fifteen this year or my twenty. I’m leaving off some bonafide insta-classics, and that’s freaking me out a little. Ducks by Kate Beaton – not on the list! The Nice House on the Lake – not on the list! Saga? Nope. It‘s Lonely at the Center of the Earth? Uh-uh. A Righteous Thirst for Vengeance? I Hate This Place? Step by Bloody Step? The Night Eaters? Little Monarchs? The Ghost Cage? Public Domain? Slash Them All? Drome? Blood Stained Teeth? The Thing: The Next Best Thing? Not a single Scott Snyder title, not even Canary?
At least we can count on one of the Reckless trades to be here. Uh, sorry. But it is eating me up inside. However, go ahead and consider the titles above my honorable mentions, and read every dang one of them.
The fifteen comics below are my faves, and they’ve slid up and down this ranking more times than I can count. Currently, this is where they sit, but tomorrow, they could be in a completely different order. It’s a very Brad list, so don’t take it personally. I’m a weirdo. You will find the RZA represented and a housecat with some serious troubles. Some of these titles will hopefully be represented on your own Best Of list. Others you may not have heard about yet. Please seek them out; you might be surprised.
The Keeper began as a screenplay by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes. When the studio passed on the project, the treatment found its way to Abrams ComicArts and their Megascope imprint, which cranked out numerous bangers in 2022. Adapted by artist Marco Finnegan, the comic behaves like the spookiest of young adult thrillers.
After her parents perish in a car crash, Aisha moves into her grandmother’s hoveled Detroit apartment. The old woman doesn’t last long herself, but with her final breath, she conjures a dark entity to protect her kin. The Keeper is a chilling modern horror with a compelling young lead and an illustrative style emphasizing its characters’ keen internal lives. It would have made a killer movie, but I’m thankful to have the narrative preserved and heightened in sequential form.
As the back of the book states, “Buster has only one job: keep the house safe.” Unfortunately for him, and most fortunately for us, the scaredy cat is attacked by a horde of evil spirits. Housecat Trouble by Mason Dickerson is a bubbly and joyful artistic expression. The all-ages comic should please every reader who comes into contact with it as it celebrates the domesticated and the feral critters under our feet.
Random House Graphic packs the tiny saga in a precious, digest-sized hardback. It’s a book I first read at a lightning pace, but during the year, I kept it within reach. Whenever I needed a boost, Housecat Trouble was there for me, and I eagerly anticipate its sequel in the new year.
From our point of view, Cliff Chiang had a real winner of a year. Paper Girls, his collaboration with Brian K. Vaughan, saw a grand adaptation on Amazon. We were denied a second season, but we should salute what we got, which was just a wildly inventive adventure epic that rejected easy nostalgia in favor of pushing riotous narrative twists. And his comic Catwoman: Lonely City did for Selina Kyle what The Dark Knight Returns did for Batman. And, oh yeah, the whole damn thing was written, drawn, colored, and lettered by Cliff Chiang. When dealing with the big two, Marvel and DC Comics, rarely are we gifted such a singular expression from an artist. When we do receive such a magnificent present, everyone should take notice.
After a handful of pages, Everyday Hero Machine Boy reduced me to a weepy mess. It’s the Up of comics. Creators Tri Vuong and Irma Kniivila redirect their enthusiasm for Ultraman and Kamen Rider into a tight, family-centered, and loving action comic. The titular hero crashlands on our little planet with almost no understanding of where he is or how powerful he is. A fateful encounter with Karate Grandpa delivers some immediate hard lessons. Machine Boy settles in; develops Earthling obsessions with spaghetti and a particular pop group. He wants to be all he can be, and his enthusiastic curiosity makes champions of his readers. You’re on the kid’s side from the jump, and you won’t want to leave him when the final pages arrive.
Having established himself as the essential ingredient in comics like B.P.R.D. and Harrow County, Tyler Crook strikes out on his own with The Lonesome Hunters. And it’s another rare jewel, where Crook writes, illustrates, colors, and letters. An old, isolated monster hunter is pulled back into combat when a young girl instigates a confrontation with malevolent, supernatural forces. Together, they take on ancient, cataclysmic magic, slowly filling the lonesome void within them. These four issues offer enough to enjoy in a single sitting but suggest a vast universe of diabolical happenings that deserves a half dozen trade paperbacks or more. Buy the first collection when it arrives in February. We need Dark Horse Comics to give us more from Lonesome Hunters.
Throughout 2022, DC Comics dominated the YA space. Rarely did I let one of their young adult books slip by without a perusal, and they frequently delivered the goods for this not-at-all young adult. Galaxy: The Prettiest Star is the best of the bunch. A trans allegory, the comic follows Taylor Barzelay, trying to make it through the day while trapped in a shell she can’t recognize. She’s the Galaxy Crowned, an alien princess from the planet Cyandii, hiding on Earth, a refugee of an intergalactic war. She’s encouraged to release her inner superhero after striking up a friendship and a possible romance.
Writer Jadzia Axelrod exceptionally taps into high school anxieties while artist Jess Taylor (with Cris Peter) produces a jaw-droppingly beautiful book featuring the year’s best color work. Galaxy: The Prettiest Star introduces an outstandingly compelling new hero to the DC Comics universe. I’m giddy about where she pops up next and what team-ups await.
Probably no one appreciates or understands kung fu movies as much as RZA. The genre flows through his veins, keeping him alive as much as any other bodily fluid. He’s internalized flicks like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Five Deadly Venoms, and he regurgitated them onto the screen with The Man with the Iron Fists and its sequel.
In Bobby Digital and the Pit of Snakes, the Wu-Tang Clan leader attempts another recycling. However, this time he (alongside his collaborators Vasilis Lolos and Ryan O’Sullivan) uses the tropes to redirect their power inward. The graphic novel from Z2 Comics is RZA trying to figure himself out, reckoning with his celebrity while also dishing out the most utterly gnarly and punishing action sequences. Illustrated equally righteously by Lolos, the comic is a stunning kung-fu quest populated with all the appropriate bursts of blood and beasts. When Bobby Digital and the Pit of Snakes concludes, the final victory is a philosophical one offering peace to its hero, its writer, and its reader.
That Texas Blood continues to be the most addictive ongoing series on the stands. The third volume (issues 14 through 19) from Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips drops us into Ambrose County in January 1992. A winter storm lumbers through town, the Red Queen Killer with it. Sheriff Joe Bob Coates already has his hands full with an upcoming election, which keeps getting nastier by the second as it tears up old wounds involving the killing of his old boss.
Condon and Phillips intensify their scares, layering on some slasher movie tricks while never allowing the plot to overtake their character relationships. Reading the book on a monthly basis created an agonizing dread as we waited for RQK to pounce. Re-reading these issues back to back revealed a terrifying murder blitz with Joe Bob racing to get just one step ahead of the assailant.
In December, That Texas Blood #20 brought much-needed respite with its Christmas Special, a sweet Mummy-filled story within a story, highlighting why the Sheriff lays his life on the line every issue. If you’re a new reader, snatch up the third volume and work backward. The comic rewards a long memory but refuses to alienate those that join a dozen issues or so into the run.
For years, we’ve heard tales of Alex Ross’ desire to reinterpret the Fantastic Four. Having caught glimpses of the proposal over time, I was satisfied that it sure would have been something, but it wasn’t meant to be. Then, along comes Abrams ComicArts and their new partnership with Marvel Comics. They rolled out the red carpet for Ross, providing a treasury-sized format and some damn fine quality paper.
Fantastic Four: Full Circle recalls the classic sixties era, celebrating Jack Kirby’s enormous imagination and Stan Lee’s rambling earnestness. The comic ties directly into a few classic Fantastic Four comics (most notably, “This Man…This Monster!”), but does not trip over its fanboy aims. Full Circle acts as a love letter to the characters that birthed the author and a blueprint for creators who follow after him.
Oh, and it’s also Alex Ross pushing himself like he’s never done before, forgoing his painterly approach for razor-sharp pencils and inks. Plus, hot damn, those pop art colors, which, again, tie into the era he’s evoking while maintaining a mystifying modernism. This book could only look this good today.
Friday: Book Two picks up immediately where the last volume left off. If you haven’t read it, stop. Go do so. I don’t want to spoil the twists of Ed Brubaker and Marcos Martin’s stellar first chapter.
Lancelot Jones, Friday’s BFF, is dead. Burned to a crisp in their old mystery headquarters. Book Two opens with Friday in despair, unable to pull herself from bed until an incompetent police force forces her to do so. Brubaker and Martin preserve the boisterous Encyclopedia Brown spirit of Book One, but the stakes are elevated, and the threat profoundly more strange than anticipated.
Martin’s art cuts deep, flawlessly communicating his heroine’s agony and righteous strength. Brubaker does his thing, finding heartbreaking humanity in his characters while plunging them through a pulp setting. In a year where we’re all seemingly united in collective grief, Friday offers a path to follow, where investigation could reveal existential relief.
In Bone, Jeff Smith gave the world one of its great comics. Some creators might have snapped their pencils after accomplishing such a task. Smith has already cranked out a few exceptional follow-ups, and Tuki could prove to be an expansive mythology equal to Bone. With the second chapter, Fight for Family, we’re only just getting started with this world and these characters, but the ideas explored inside propose a quest saga eagerly hunting for answers to those big questions. Who are we? Where are we going?
Set two million BCE, when multiple human species existed alongside each other, the titular character reluctantly collects several oddballs around him. The mismatched group faces turmoil within and without, pushing toward a promised land of prosperity. Jeff Smith’s cartooning is god-tier good, appearing as effortless as precise. Using the five human species, the artist can replicate every kind of cartoon character, from dot-eyed newspaper strip escapees to more muscularly drawn heroic types. Smith promises at least six Tuki volumes, and I eagerly hold him to his word.
Tom King and Elsa Charretier made Love Everlasting‘s first five issues available for free on their Substack before Image Comics started cranking out the physical copies. The book appears to be a meta riff on fifties romance comics, but as the narrative escalates through its rapid-fire chapters, King and Charretier expose a darkly sinister engine.
Joan is trapped living one passionate affair after another, hopping genres along the way. The closer happiness appears within reach, a mystical figure arrives and fires a pistol in her face. On to the next life, the next doomed courtship. King seems demonically driven to have a good time deconstructing romance comics, a field that once ruled the industry but one that’s almost completely forgotten in 2022. Charretier avoids aping yesteryear, using clear, tidy lines to manifest Joan’s never-ending nightmare. The duo is expertly paired, serving a fiendishly curious adventure where happiness and misery embolden each other. With Love Everlasting, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but whatever the ultimate answer (the series won’t conclude until next year), the ride has been unforgettable.
Monkey Meat #1 arrived during the first week of the year, becoming the comic I used to judge every other comic that came after. Cartoonist Juni Ba brings ferocity and a visionary wit to this strategically interconnected anthology series. He plops the reader on Monkey Meat Island, a gorgeous landscape made horrendous by a ravenous and mysterious corporation. They made billions selling cans of meat across the globe, using their villainous wealth to concoct wicked experiments.
Each issue offers a peek into the organization, with characters slipping in and out of each other’s stories. The comic is as beautiful as it is angry. Think The Twilight Zone frothing with venom to match its bite. Ba gets it done in five issues, but it’s easy to see him returning to Monkey Meat Island throughout his career, picking whatever grotesquely human scab is bothering him at the moment.
Married couple Chris Samnee and Laura Samnee bring their little big quest to a close. For now. Twelve neat issues. Three easy-to-hold trade paperbacks (volume three, collecting the last leg of the journey, hits shelves next May).
Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters sticks the landing. Gloriously. As we neared the end, dread settled. I did (and do) not want the adventures of sisters Rainbow and Jonna to conclude. The Samnees put a pin in the mystery that launched the quest, but they thankfully make some imaginative space for their characters to thrive beyond the current plot.
Their comic is one of the easiest and speediest books I’ve ever devoured; a single issue can be downed in minutes. However, it’s also the comic I’ve re-read the most this year, and I did mandatory double passes on each issue the second I got them. Chris Samnee’s art flies, and it’s never bogged down with balloons or captions. And yet, every panel is swamped with story. Not a line is wasted; no emotion is skipped.
Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters wrecked me with how good it left me feeling. The comic is an invitation into Rainbow and Jonna’s family. With the last page turned, you’re part of their crew, stomping around their yard, the neighborhood, and under the hooves of scary, wonderous beasts. It’s a childhood fantasy of what summer vacation should be. One that never materialized in reality but you always had access to behind your eyelids.
Once again, Daniel Warren Johnson and his colorist partner in crime, Mike Spicer, top my Best Comics of the Year list. At this rate, I’d be surprised if these two created a comic that wouldn’t rank supreme. Johnson’s total command over movement and sinewy anatomy have my eyes in a headlock, but as I stated last year regarding Beta Ray Bill: Argent Star, his power as a storyteller eventually rests in his ability to twist the knife he secretly lodged in your heart pages back.
Do A Powerbomb! is not a wrestling comic. Or it is, but it’s also a Mortal Kombat comic or an Enter the Dragon comic. Lona Steelrose and Cobrasun are recruited into the DEATHLYFE tournament. If they can survive their bouts with alien and interdimensional combatants, the Necromancer running the show will resurrect a loved one of their choosing. They’re both fighting for Yua Steelrose, Lona’s mother and Cobrasun’s opponent, who died in the ring during their last match.
Issue one is a lot of cool with a little tragedy set-up. Issue two drops a bomb, and from that point, good luck removing the lump from your throat. Do a Powerbomb! has you screaming with every match, tears streaming down your face over excessive excitement or absolute panic for our champions. The last few issues introduce a nearly ridiculous obstacle, but Daniel Warren Johnson magically brings everything together with his final page. I have yet to avoid crying with a single book of his and Do a Powerbomb! probably produced my ugliest and most cathartic release. The comic is a one-for-the-ages masterpiece.
Related Topics: 2022 Rewind, Comics