Den of Geek
From slice-of-life autobiographical work, to ambitious original works of fantasy and science fiction, to DC and Marvel superhero favorites, these are our picks of the best comics 2022 had to offer.
Every year we talk about what a challenging year the real world had, and how great the comics were in response, so this year we thought we’d try something different. The comics were lousy! Just kidding, the comics were great, but it’s certainly something to pair this slate of comics with the tiny glimmers of hope the real world started to let peek through in 2022.
And this is a truly great slate of books, too. We’ve got standard superhero fare, which seems to get bigger, weirder, and better every year. We’ve got the deeply personal, slice of life books full of self reflection and quiet moments, done in the brilliant way only the finest cartoonists can do. We’ve got high energy books that are the product of a singular vision, that could only be made by the right person telling the perfect story for them at a key point in their comics career; and we’ve got the big huge event books that are the culmination of years of work by hundreds of creators across an entire publisher. This was a damn good year for comics, and these are the best of the bunch.
Daniel Warren Johnson has created a lively, cosmic mythology based around professional wrestling. The fact that there isn’t more frequent crossover between the wrestling and comics worlds is, frankly, baffling, given the general similarities, and the potential for dynamic and even more ridiculous storytelling on the page than in the ring. Thankfully, there’s Do A Powerbomb to scratch this itch for us (which if you need more of, by the way, check out J. Gonzo’s Kirby-esque lucha libre comic La Mano del Destino, but that’s another conversation).
To say too much about Do A Powerbomb would run the risk of ruining its surprises, but we can safely say that what looks like it’s going to begin as a slice-of-life drama about fictional wrestlers swiftly becomes something much bigger, with a cosmic mythology all its own. It’s a delightful seven issue complete story, one that will thrill even those who only remember wrestling as something they watched in the distant past. It’s big, loud, action-packed, with near operatic emotional highs and lows…just like the “real” thing. – Mike Cecchini
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The current run of The Flash is on track to being remembered as one of the character’s best. But it has also felt like a vindicating one because Wally West has once again taken up the mantle of the Scarlet Speedster, following years of being wiped from existence during DC’s New 52 period, and then turned into an accidental murderer in Heroes in Crisis. But Wally is back in full (speed) force thanks to a fun (and funny) book from writer Jeremy Adams, and artists Fernando Pasarin, Amancay Nahuelpan, and company.
There has been the search for his mentor Barry Allen, facing trouble in Gemworld with Justice League Dark, a pocket dream dimension, and the excellent Wrestling Across the Multiverse and its headliner Omega-Bam-Man. Along with top-notch superhero adventure, the book excels with its supporting cast of The Flash Family, and we get to spend some time with the “other” Kid Flash, Wallace/”Ace” West. – Aaron Sagers
This is a book that just gets me, you know? Count Crowley has emerged as one of my favorite titles because it taps into my baked-in creature feature love of Universal Monsters, the joyful experience of seeing Monster Squad when I was actually a child growing up in the ’80s, the nostalgia of watching Stranger Things take on monsters in the 1980s, and my real-world experiences as an adult who has worked in a divisive media landscape and witnessed monsters wearing suits, and outsiders cast as monsters. OK, I know that’s a lot (and a lot of the word “monster” in one sentence) and it doesn’t even tap into the gruesome, blood-splattering fun of Count Crowley.
Created by actor/writer David Dastmalchian with art by Lukas Ketner, the first volume of the early 1980s-set comic debuted in 2019, as Reluctant Monster Hunter, and revolved around Jerri Bartman, an alcoholic reporter with promise who gets bumped down to the minor leagues of local broadcasting, and is then forced into the job of schlocky late-night horror host Count Crowley. Except she soon learns that supernatural forces are not relegated to the B-movies she presents, and instead, she becomes the latest in a legacy of “Appointed” monster hunters. The second four-issue volume, published by Dark Horse, picks up the tale immediately as Jerri realizes not every monster needs to be destroyed — despite what her curmudgeonly, misogynistic mentor Vincent Frights says — and as a cabal of corporate vampires take note of her monster hunting. Crowley delivers on good old-fashioned horror comic gore, and it’s fun as hell as it takes a reader’s knowledge of werewolves, bloodsuckers, and zombies — and what kills them — and upends expectations. But it’s also a clever and relevant read because Jerri’s still struggling with her own demons of alcoholism as the evil media monsters in suits are sewing the seeds of “fake news” to their own advantage at the nascency of 24-hour news. I’ve dug this comic so much that my interview with Dastmalchian is my favorite for Den of Geek this year, and my favorite episode of the Talking Strange paranormal pop culture podcast (available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube).
Hopefully Dastmalchian and Ketner return for a third volume of Crowley, but as an added trick and treat, I’d also recommend the one-off Dark Horse crossover Criminal Macabre/Count Crowley: From The Pit They Came, written by Dastmalchian and Steve Niles, with art by Ketner. – AS
Retellings of Greek myths never go out of style, and the critically acclaimed Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe is an excellent addition to this canon. Launched on Webtoon in 2018, the ongoing online version of the comic has 224 episodes available; readers who prefer print have access to three full volumes of the comic, with more on the way in 2023. Smythe reinvents the story of Hades and Persephone, couching it in a modern setting that’s peopled with beautifully stylistic candy-colored Greek gods.
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Smythe both reimagines the gods and leans into their mythological qualities, making them as absolutely messy and petty as they are in the traditional stories, while also giving them—especially Hades and Persephone—the emotional depth of human characters who deserve empathy. Smythe’s Persephone has more agency than is traditional, which grants the story the ability to make commentary on modern sexual politics and violence. – Alana Joli Abbott
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This year Tor Nightfire released the imprint’s first graphic novel and it set a high bar. Where Black Stars Rise is a nightmarish Eldritch horror that stuns and shocks at every turn. Nadia Shammas and Marie Enger craft something that bubbles with existential dread as a young therapist tries to find out what’s happened to her seemingly disturbed and recently missing patient.
Reimagining the lore and world of Robert Chamber’s The King in Yellow this is a rare cosmic horror story that feels contemporary and original. Like the best genre storytelling this is a tale about something greater than the terrifying figure at its center and the creative team craft a thoughtful and incisive story about mental health and diaspora. – Rosie Knight
Kieron Gillen has probably had better professional years than this – he’s been nominated for Eisners and Hugos, written probably the keystone book for MCU Phase 5 in Young Avengers, and hasn’t missed with a creator owned book in…ever? But it’s hard to look at what Gillen managed to do with Eternals, Immortal X-Men, and their culmination, AXE: Judgment Day and not be very impressed.
Immortal X-Men is the flagship X-book, about the Quiet Council that governs the mutant nation-state of Krakoa. The book is in progress on spotlighting each of the twelve members of the mutant ruling council (it’s through nine of them as we write), and so far we’ve had no fewer than five essential, character defining issues: Exodus, Sebastian Shaw, Mystique, Destiny, and Mister Sinister. Among all of the plot chaos – kaiju attacks, extinction events, galas and the like – the fact that the story is passionately dedicated to doing deep character work is a brilliant touch, executed perfectly. Even in a line that has Simon Spurrier and Al Ewing trying to constantly one-up each other on Legion of X and X-Men Red; with X-Terminators being the dumbest, funniest X-Men comic ever made; with Vita Ayala and Rod Reis turning in one of the greatest runs of mutant comics ever on New Mutants, Immortal X-Men stands out.
When writer Jonathan Hickman left the X-Men comics line that he helped revolutionize, the best a nervous X-Fanbase was hoping for was for the momentum to be kept up. Nobody could have expected that, led by Kieron Gillen, Lukas Werneck, and David Curiel, the X-books would end up being the best they’ve ever been. – Jim Dandeneau
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Anthologies can be tricky, but Juni Ba has crafted one of the very best in Monkey Meat. A dense, idea-rich work of complete standalone stories that enrich one another in sequence, the book is a brutally fun and funny satire of capitalist enterprises, and the people caught amidst them.
Issues can move from black and white manga aesthetics and battles to evocatively illustrated folk tales, and all throughout you find a work that could only ever be a comic. In a direct market saturated by material that feels like it skews to IP-creation for Hollywood, Monkey Meat emerges as a powerful tribute to the idiosyncratic power of the comics form. – Ritesh Babu
Even as Robin, Dick Grayson has always worked best as the bright, good-natured counterpoint to the Dark Knight. He’s at his best when charming his friends and baffling his foes, hurling through the air with an acrobat’s grin. Few artists have captured that grace and physicality like Bruno Redondo. Redondo has an eye for detail, but not in the seams in a costume or textures on a wall. Rather, Redondo’s clean linework, aided by additional pencils and inks from Geraldo Borges and Caio Filipe, highlights every point of articulation in Nightwing’s high-flying moves and heart-stealing smile.
Redondo is the perfect match for Tom Taylor, who continues to be secretly the best writer in cape comics right now. Taylor crafts Nightwing into a new and desperately needed type of superhero, one who not only fights those who use their power to abuse the weak, but also seeks true justice by using his massive inheritance from the recently deceased Alfred to create a safety-net for Blüdhaven’s lower classes. It’s that attitude that makes Nightwing one of the most beloved people in the DC Universe, a point Taylor makes by bringing in numerous guest stars. Every issue features appearances from Batgirl, the Titans, even a reality-altering imp called Nite-Mite, all illuminated by Adriano Lucas poppy colors and brought to life by Wes Abbott’s letters. – Joe George
Traditional Arthurian tales often end with the promise of an Arthur who will return, but Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora take that promise and turn it into a threat with Once & Future. When white supremacist cultists try to resurrect Arthur to take back England, they instead summon an undead version of the king, who unleashes monstrosities on the modern world. Retired monster fighter Brigitte, her adult grandson, Duncan, and Duncan’s girlfriend, Rose, take on the mantle of England’s defenders, fighting against Arthur and the undead knights of his round table.
Brigitte (in all her complicated morality and messy decisions—all suitable for an Arthurian tale) is a fantastic character—a kick-ass grandmother who is not only an action hero, but a mentor. Duncan and Rose both adjust quickly to the new, monstrous world, grasping how the power of stories now has a direct impact on their own lives. It’s a really fresh look, both in the story and in Mora’s brilliant art, at old, familiar tales (with added references to Shakespeare, Beowulf, Robin Hood, and more!) that leans into the horror genre—all while illuminating the real world horrors caused by a hatred of outsiders. – AJA
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It’s hard to sum up just how much fun Cody Ziglar, Justin Mason, Jim Charalampidis and Travis Lanham bring to Spider-Punk. The five issue mini-series is a bombastic and brilliant entry to the Spidey canon from the mind of She-Hulk writer Ziglar and his talented cohorts.
Following Hobie Brown, the titular Spider-Punk as he puts his heroic band (featuring fun and almost familiar multiversal variants of Marvel heroes) back together, this story is filled with unreal action, cool new iterations of characters and some of the best lettering this reviewer has seen all year (s/o Travis Lanham!). Imbued with the spirit of punk rock this is a love letter to Spider-Man, music, and the Black and brown punks who started it all. – RK
Batman gets blown out of the Watchtower, uses his grappling gun to steer, and uses his cape to parachute down from space and land on Earth safely. He immediately gets up, grabs Tim Drake, and kicks the shit out of a robot version of himself. I don’t think I need to give you more to explain why this is one of the best comics of the year, but I will.
At some point it should stop being surprising that Chip Zdarsky is one of the best superhero comics writers out there, but it hasn’t quite hit that level yet. Zdarsky is the first person to write the main Daredevil and Batman books at the same time, and so far (he’s only been on Batman for a handful of issues now) he’s killing it on both, while clearly distinguishing two characters who can bleed together around the edges. His Batman is everything – brainy but brutal, empathic and vicious, even a little funny. Pair that with Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey’s electric art and you’ve got the start of a classic Batman run. – JD
After capping the book’s first half with a heartbreaking cliffhanger in July 2018’s Issue 54, followed by a three and a half year hiatus, creator Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples kicked off Saga’s second half at the beginning of 2022. And it continues to earn a place as a critically acclaimed, fan-favorite comic that combines elements of fantasy and sci-fi, and as a tale of people just trying to survive amidst the backdrop of an unending war.
The new story arc picks up with a time jump and a 10-year-old Hazel in the spotlight, but there are also new faces joining the space opera. (Speaking of operatic, the Game of Thrones-meets-Star Wars comparisons fall short, because Saga remains so much more than that.) Along with Vaughan’s masterful storytelling, Staples’ art is stunningly epic. – AS
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Batman/Superman: World’s Finest (or, as we like to call it around here, “Dan Mora Takes You on the Coolest Tour of the DC Universe You Could Ever Hope For”) is practically a manifestation of what most people think of when they think of DC Comics. Conveniently set an indeterminate amount of years in the recent past, where Dick Grayson is still the only Robin, Superman’s identity is still secret, and everyone is wearing the most iconic versions of their costumes, it makes itself immediately accessible to even the most casual fans. In fact, even if your only knowledge of the DCU is whatever you’ve picked up by watching various movies and TV shows, you can dive right into World’s Finest with confidence, and get a full dose of all the expansive, charming, hopeful, and downright weird bits of the DCU that you love.
Few writers instinctively “get” the voice and heartbeat of not just individual characters, but the DCU as a whole, as Mark Waid, and he’s clearly delighting in having a playground where just about anyone can show up right now. But ultimately, it’s Dan Mora’s art (aided by Tamara Bonvillain’s colors) that just catapult World’s Finest so high on this list. Since virtually every issue features someone other than Superman, Batman, and Robin popping in to say hello or share an adventure, Mora is basically getting to try his hand at drawing the best possible versions of everyone’s favorites. Make these looks the style guide for the whole darn line! – MC
Earlier this year, we asked “How the hell has Kieron Gillen never written a summer event comic before?” Now that his first big crossover (with art partners Valerio Schitti and Marte Gracia) is in the books, we now want to grab Marvel Unlimited with both hands and shake it while yelling “WHAT TOOK SO F&#^^#% LONG???”
AXE: Judgment Day is the culmination of two stories: Gillen’s work with Esad Ribic in Eternals, redefining Jack Kirby’s extremely weird late period high concept book for the modern Marvel Universe; and his work with Lucas Werneck and David Curiel on another of our best comics of the year, Immortal X-Men, the flagship Krakoa book. The Eternals, programmed to “correct excess deviation” by the Celestials, decide that the mutants are excess deviation and need to be corrected. The Avengers get involved, and in their efforts to try and mediate, create a new god for the Eternals to try and fix their programming. It goes exceptionally poorly for everyone involved except for us, the readers: we’re treated to an incredible plot, stunning art, and character defining moments for everyone from Sersi to Captain America to Mister Sinister to Krakoa the Island That Walks Like A Man. This series was a masterpiece, one of the best superhero crossovers of all time and certainly one of the best comics of the year. – JD
Daredevil’s never really been an “event” kind of guy. Sure, he’ll get sucked into big events like the Infinity War or Inferno, where he’ll battle his doppelganger or a demon-possessed vacuum cleaner. Usually, even when he’s the center of an event like Shadowlands, the whole thing stays contained to Hell’s Kitchen. But with Devil’s Reign, writer Chip Zdarsky puts Matt Murdock against the Mayor of New York, and thus involves much of the Marvel Universe. The main story – drawn by Marco Checchetto, colored by Marcio Menyz, and lettered by Clayton Cowles – finds Mayor Wilson Fisk outlawing superheroes in New York as revenge against Daredevil, who used the Purple Man’s children to make the world forget his secret identity. By the end, Fisk has gone into hiding, Luke Cage has become the mayor, and the world believes Matt Murdock is dead.
While that might sound like the setup for a new status quo, Zdarsky, Checcetto, and Cowles (now with fill-in artist Rael De Latorre and color artist Matthew Wilson) put Daredevil back where’s he’s most comfortable: in a state of divine fear. Whether dealing with the elite Stormwyn family or a super-powered former law school buddy who sees himself as the architect of Daredevil’s life, Murdock continues to question his place in God’s plan. Checetto and De Latorre’s rough pencils capture the muddy nature of Murdock’s mission, when he’s battering criminals to prevent others from suffering more. But they really shine when Murdock finds moments of peace, when Wilson splashes soft reds and yellows across the page, making us, if not Matt Murdock, believe that God’s grace even extends to the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. – JG
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This was the most compelling and affecting book I read all year. Zoe Thorogood’s chronicle of a difficult period in her life, particularly her journey with suicidal depression is, despite its weighty subject matter, impossible to put down. It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth is an incisive, often harrowing read, but it’s also warm and funny, with Thorogood effortlessly switching gears between slice-of-life autobiographical cartooning and more surreal imagery to drive home her experiences.
I lack the artistic vocabulary to properly explain how it plays with the graphic novel format and the constraints and freedoms of comics in general, and Thorogood’s story is far too personal to do justice in an entry of this length. But some turns of phrase and illustrations ring will ring especially true for some readers, making them all the more powerful. Don’t be surprised if you read it in one sitting and revisit it again in the days and weeks after. – MC
How do you walk upon the terrain that Alan Moore once made his bones upon? How do you succeed in the seat by which he defined his entire career? Ram V, Mike Perkins, and Aditya Bidikar’s take on the Avatar of The Green in DC’s The Swamp Thing has a resoundingly clear answer. Do the most Moore thing possible–something completely, utterly new. Forging their own path, the team brings us Levi Kamei, an Indian immigrant who succeeds the role of Alec Holland, and the end result is a powerful exploration of ideas, memory, trauma, and complicity in a monstrous machine of capitalist industry. – RB
Generally speaking, Superman comics have been pretty good for the last few years. But the problem is, they’ve tended to keep falling back on “big ideas” that just kind of put band-aids on the fact that Supes is so ensconced in pop culture that, at least in his ongoing series, there’s a perception that there’s only so far you can take him. So we have the “Super-Dad” elements or “the secret identity is over” stuff, but it takes a while for these things to really sink in with general audiences, and it might not really change the way people see the character (however unfair that may be). But when you say something like “Superman is off in space fighting in gladiatorial arenas, occasionally getting his ass handed to him, and stoking a revolution against a galactic despot in the process until further notice,” it might change a few minds.
Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson (alongside artists like Adriana Melo, Miguel Mendonca, Francesco Francavilla, and others) has made Action Comics not only the first truly must-read regular Superman book in years, but the center of one of the best Superman stories since the famed “Death and Return” in the 1990s. The Warworld Saga began in 2021 and didn’t truly wrap up until the end of this year (making it one of the longest Superman epics I can remember), and despite taking Supes pretty far outside his usual comfort zone, spent every single issue zeroing in on what makes this character so enduring and relevant. There’s DNA from a Superman from virtually every era of the character in the way Johnson writes him, somehow blending the earnest naturalism of the post-Christopher Reeve modern era with the straight-talking, tough-as-nails “champion of the oppressed” of the 1930s and ’40s. All this plus intricate worldbuilding, making Mongul, Warworld, and these less explored areas of the DC Universe worthy of becoming household names one day. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to start reading Superman comics again, then Action Comics is the book for you. – MC
You might know Jamila Rowser as the publisher of the fantastic and award-winning Black Josei Press, or perhaps you recognize Robyn Smith’s stunning art from DC’s Nubia: Real One. Whether you’re already a fan of these two powerhouse comic book creators, you’ll fall in love with their gorgeous work in Wash Day Diaries, the slice of life comic we’ve all been waiting for.
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Expanding on their beautiful collaboration Wash Day, this graphic novel from Chronicle Books collects that original short with four new stories centering around a group of Black women in the Bronx. Each of the close knit friendship group gets an interconnected tale here, each one told through the lens of hair care. A truly unique release this year, you’ll struggle to find a more joyful, beautifully drawn, and enjoyable comic this year. – RK
For years, Moon Knight exemplified the well-known meme, “Men will literally enlist their multiple personalities in service of an ancient Egyptian god before going to therapy.” But in the hands of writer Jed MacKay, that’s finally changed. Following the “Age of Khonshu” event in Jason Aaron’s Avengers, the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have ordered Moon Knight to see a therapist. While lesser writers would use Marc Spector’s therapy sessions as a shortcut to character depth, MacKay contrasts the hero’s conversations with his doctor to his nightly adventures, using on-the-couch confessions as a counterpoint to his brutal superheroing.
The result is a richly textured take on Moon Knight, one that finds him recognizing his many flaws and fighting for redemption. To keep things from getting too contemplative, MacKay is paired with artist Alessandro Cappuccio and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg. The duo gives a neon noir feel to Moon Knight’s adventures, with Rosenberg’s moody digital colors electrifying Cappuccio’s angular figures. Whether taking on new supervillain Zodiac or investigating the Vampire hierarchy, Moon Knight strikes the perfect balance of grounded character exploration and thrilling superhero action. – JG
Cut from the same cloth as the angry British sci-fi comics forged by Pat Mills, John Wagner, Alan Moore, and Warren Ellis, 20th Century Men by Deniz Camp and S. Morian is a brutal satire of how we got to where we are now. A carefully constructed alternate history, it follows the horrific impact of war, wherein imperialist American and Soviet forces fight for supremacy over Afghanistan. It’s a book preoccupied with monstrous ideas, how they’re forged into ideology, enshrined into horrific systems, and how that machinery then crushes people. It’s a work about imperialism, how we justify it, and how it eats away at and destroys people, including those profiting off it. A work about how we once had dreams that turned to ash, for actions have consequences.
Brought to life in gloriously breathtaking detail by Morian’s thunderous artwork, the book is a war story deeply obsessed with the human cost, the price of people that are fed into a machine that devours them whole. It’s angry, sad, reflective, and weirdly comforting in its grim horrific spectacle. Combine all of that with a rigorously worked out and deliberate deployment of form, with a creative team achieving prime synthesis, and you have something truly special in your hands. This is one for the ages, meant to last- a book meant to endure. – RB
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A thrilling period drama starring an Asian-American detective, The Good Asian follows Edison Hark in a noir mystery that unravels everything he thinks he knows about 1930’s San Francisco. Crafted with great attention to detail and absurd amounts of historical research, the book is an exploration of America, its poisonous White Hegemony, and how Asian identity stands in relation to that of a people who are perpetually othered but eternally exploited. Loaded with historical back-matter and research for each issue, a cavalcade of Asian artists to celebrate Asian-ness, the book reckons with the experience of the very first Americans to come of age under an immigration ban, exploring the ramifications of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which are felt to this very day, as it informed numerous American policies. The end result is something truly special, and one of the finest noir comics we’ve ever seen.
It’s a book of a special novelistic quality, as it unfolds like a great 10-episode drama, and when all is said and done, it all hangs together and holds, like any great noir mystery should. Edison Hark is set to return eventually in another sequel, once again exploring the tumultuous history of America and what it means to be Asian within it, and we couldn’t be more glad. But until that return happens, The Good Asian exists to be read, reread, and relished as a complete noir graphic novel. It’s a book worth pouring over, because there is a lot put into it that rewards the reader for doing so. – RB
Ducks will, without you noticing it, make you very angry.
Kate Beaton is one of the best cartoonists alive, someone who made her name with Hark! A Vagrant, her wildly funny webcomic that spawned a children’s book, The Princess and the Pony, which was then turned into an Apple TV cartoon, Pinecone & Pony, which is why Ducks, her autobiographical comic about working in the Alberta oil sands for two years, sneaks up on you so well.
Ducks has flashes of her sense of humor and is overflowing with the humanity she has filled every other project with. But at its core, Ducks is a story about the horrors of an extractive industry, how much it extracts from the people working in it, and how those people are systemically driven into it. It’s a story about just how much Beaton had to pay to get rid of her student loans, about the collapse of rural communities everywhere, about isolation, loneliness, fleeting boom towns, sexual assault, and Canadian history. It’s an absolutely brilliant comic that shattered my soul while reading it. – JD
Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas launch readers into a gorgeously depicted, deeply fraught secondary fantasy world in this YA standalone graphic novel. The greatest honor in the Bayt-Sajji Empire is becoming a Knight, but the competition is fierce, and members of the Ornu minority have a disadvantage from the start. None of that matters to Aiza, who dreams of the glory that comes with Knighthood. She leaves her Ornu family, disguising her heritage to enlist in the tests; those who fail effectively become fodder for the army. As Aiza’s training continues, she begins to realize how the greater good she imagined isn’t reflected in the world she’s now seeing, and that the motives of her mentors are suspect.
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Despite the themes of corruption and oppression, Squire is suffused with a sense of hope, with the idea that if people work together and step up for what is right, they can make a difference. With that underlying, uplifting message, powerful writing, and gorgeous art, Squire was a perfect read for 2022. – AJA
The Human Target is the perfect Tom King subject. A weird DC property whose had a few series and even a couple live action shows, the Human Target – Christopher Chance, a guy who masquerades as a potential victim of wrongdoing to stop the perpetrators – offers King plenty of opportunity to explore existentialist themes, as he did in The Omega Men and Mister Miracle. Less germane to King’s heady style is Justice League International, the team of B-listers and C-listers that writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, usually teamed with artist Kevin Maguire, turned into a comedic classic.
And yet, King and artist Greg Smallwood give the JLI more respect and care than they’ve been afforded for years, even if they have a ghastly take on the infamous “one punch” with Guy Gardner.
The Human Target takes a hardboiled detective approach, with Chance learning that he has been poisoned while standing in for Lex Luthor, giving him only 12 days to find the killer. Smallwood’s mix of rough but expressive linework and moody washes lend a ’60s tone to Chance’s investigations, which point to one of the JLI as the killer. Like Maguire before him, Smallwood excels at facial expressions. Combined with King’s clean and pulpy narration and Clayton Cowles’s distinctive letters, The Human Target is simultaneously a cracking mystery, a satisfying genre piece, and a compelling character study. – JG
Honorable Mentions – The Bean 2: Into the Dark, Gordita: Built Like This, Chef’s Kiss, Crossover, Damn Them All, Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths, Detective Comics, Fox and Willow Vol. 2: To The Sea, Hellboy: The Bones of Giants, The Ice Cream Man, The Incal: Psychoverse, Junkyard Joe, Last Chance to Find Duke, Little Monarchs, Marvel’s Voices: Community, The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night, Night of the Ghoul, Northern Steele, Nubia & The Amazons, Realm of the Blue Mist: The Rema Chronicles, Silver Surfer: Rebirth, Star Wars: The High Republic, Step By Bloody Step, Strange, Thieves, TMNT: The Armageddon Game, Wingbearer, X-Terminators
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