Top 5 Comic Books of 2022
This last year in comics has been absolutely explosive. Indies continue to launch faster than anyone can read them, DC expands their Black Label line even further, and Marvel grows their interconnected universe like no one else in the business. The shared universe gimmick is quickly becoming even more widespread, with series like Jeff Lemire's Black Orchard Mythos, Kyle Higgins’ Massive-Verse line of titles, and James Tynion IV's Slaughterverse. Substack burst into the scene in a big way, with creators like Tynion, King, Zdarsky and Cates all bringing exclusives to print. It's been a big year.
If I wanted to, I could make this list twenty-two items, but I'm sure you have stuff to do and grapes to eat as I do, so for the third year in a row, I'll limit it to just FIVE (seven).
*every book on this list must have started, ended or been published in 2022*
5 - Aquaman: Andromeda
Writer: Ram V
Artist: Christian Ward
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
If you had told me last year that Aquaman would have a title in my top 5 this year, I'd have told you to lay off the vape, that stuff is bad for you and it's messing with your head, son.
Andromeda is a 3 magazine-sized issue series from DC Black Label that blew me away three times over. Heavily inspired by Jules Verne's 20,000 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea with a hint of Lovecraftian horror, beautifully depicted in Christian Ward's incredible designs, colors, and iconic style.
The crew aboard the Andromeda ventures into the deepest point of the ocean, unknowingly pursued by the Aquaman and Black Manta, each with their own agenda regarding what lies at the bottom. We'll developed characters by Ram V, you grow to know and understand them over the course of these three issues as they explore what it means to be a myth, a man, and a man what it to be a savior, or not.
This book kept me up at night, lost in my own thoughts, lost in the currents beneath the surface, lost at the bottom of the sea. It stands as one of the best Black Label has to offer, one of Ram V's best, and my favorite Aquaman story yet.
4 - Do A Powerbomb
Writer/Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
Colorist: Mike Spicer
I'm beginning to think that any Daniel Warren Johnson book each year is gonna end up on this list, but who can blame me when they're this good? Do A Powerbomb is a book about wrestling, written after Johnson spent a lot of time watching wrestling late at night after looking for his newborn.
Intergalactic wrestling tournaments hosted by the devil, high jumps, big hits, orangutans, tag teams, necromancy, the Big Man himself, fast-paced and put together by one of the most electric artists in independent comics today.
What better way to deal with grief than wrestling? I only wish I knew more about the art to appreciate this book even more. I can't wait to see Johnson's next outing.
3 - Batman
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Batman is a lot of things. Yes, he's grim and gritty and serious and The Night and Vengeance and all that, but he is also a father, a brother, a son, a friend, a hero to the helpless, he fights clay monsters and crocodiles and shirtless men in the desert with swords, he plans contingencies for anyone and everyone, and he shot Darkseid with a time bullet.
It's this Batman that Chip Zdarsky brings to the table, one that was rather unexpected after his tenure on Daredevil and his stint earlier this year on Batman: The Knight, which were both grounded takes on those characters. His take draws a lot from Morrison and Waid, which is always fun for a character like Batman with such a storied history, to see elements brought back fifteen or thirty years later, old ideas reinterpreted and remixed in a new way.
The Batman has a plan for everyone, but who stops the Batman when he goes too far? Zdarsky begins his run on issue #125 with FAILSAFE, a story about Batman's contingency for himself. An explosive arc, with the Gotham-centrism of Batman following a lead as the scope expands to include the Bat-Family, the Justice League, and Batman's globe-trotting becomes a bit more literal. This is Batman at his best, Batman at his wits’ end, on his back foot, on the run from himself.
Jorge Jimenez's art is outstanding, having recently done the bulk of Tynion's Batman run two years ago, but the difference is monumental. That run required a more cyberpunk aesthetic which worked well with his more Eastern sensibilities, but here he mixes it up with here with some more weight and grit to his designs. It is a superhero comic, and Jimenez brings the full force of what that entails, with fights and explosions and shock and awe. Tomeu Morey compliments him well, bringing excellent color work and really lighting up every page.
The Failsafe arc concluded just a few weeks ago in an explosive fashion, and due to the holidays, we got our hands on latest issue beginning the following arc, and it looks like Batman will continue to be DC Comics distilled. Zdarsky is locked in for a dozen more issues at least, and I hope it continues in a similar fashion to his long run on Daredevil. I could read this Batman for five years. I could read it for ten.
2 - AXE Judgement Day
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Valerie Schiti
Colors: Marte Gracia
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Marvel Comics events are a bit of a hit or miss. For every spectacular Civil War or Secret Wars, you get a Civil War II or an Absolute Carnage, events devoid of consequence or meaning. More often than that, they're just fine, your War of the Realms or Secret Empire, a few solid moments culminating a lackluster run with mostly irrelevant tie-in. This is the reality of many Marvel events, the need to expand a story, often needlessly, to sell you tie-in, at the expense of tight storytelling for the "feeling" of a big interconnected universe.
This is not one of those events.
Judgement Day is an Event, capital E, the way the original Civil War, and it is 100% due to the plotting of Kieron Gillen, who was at the head of two of the three main teams at play. Gillen, who took one of the main titles of the X-line of books after Hickman in Immortal X-Men, ties into it his ongoing Eternals run, a run that had successfully revitalized the franchise.
Eternals are coded to kill Deviants, you see, and what is mutation if not deviation?
This very simple idea ties into it many of the ongoing threads of the Marvel Universe, such as the recent change in leadership in the Eternals, the reveal of the mutant resurrection, and the Avenger's dead Celestial that serves as their home base. With a war brewing between the two immortal races and the fallout that will ensue, they're forced into a solution that leads to the judgement of every single person on the planet. This judgement allows for the exploration of different characters and their motivations, as pivotal as Jean Grey, Tony Stark and Ajak, or as far from the conflict of a handful of people that Gillen manages to make you care for.
What are the consequences of isolationism? What are the sins of the Eternals? How do you avenge human nature? Is Earth even worthy of salvation? Gillen pulls all the stops out with help from Valerio Schiti and Marte Gracia, who reunite to bring some of the best and most expressive scenes in superhero comics to date. This series only works if you feel for the characters, feel their pain and anger and regret, see the bastards as they are and the heroes pushed to their limit. And it works. Even the tie-in are good! Magneto and the Arakko plotline is some of the most gripping scenes in recent comics.
Every event carries with it a promise; Everything will change. Too often though, nothing changes and the ride wasn't worth it. But this day of judgement, this was worth it. This is utilizing story threads to their potential, pacing, twists, action and drama. Judgement Day is what superhero events should aspire to be.
As is tradition, here’s a handful of books that almost made the cut for the best of the best, as well as a short follow up to last year.
Coda - Inferno
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Valerie Schiti, RB Silva, Stefano Caselli
Last year I left a coda about Inferno, as it was incomplete at the date of the publishing of the list and I didn't feel comfortable putting it in the top 5 almost finished. With its final) fourth and final issue releasing in January, I also don't feel comfortable placing it on the top 5 as it was more of an endcap to 2021, so I will make note of it here:
Inferno concludes Hickman's tenure as the Head of X (for now), a bold run of comic books that refreshed and repurposed much of the bland slog that X-Men had become in the 2010s into a line of sleek storytelling in a collaborative setting. Inferno brings to conclusion many of the threads started in House/Powers of X, while also stating strongly that the extent of his work here would not be the end of the Krakoan Age. Too often, creative changes disappear in serialized comic books the second a new writer takes the title, but Inferno is Hickman's last word, a word that says that Krakoa can live on without him, and if the work that Benjamin Percy, Leah Williams, Gerry Duggan, Al Ewing, Kieron Gillen and a dozen others have put out in the last year is any indication, it will. He built them walls and built them high, and locked them inside forever.
7 - Human Target
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Greg Smallwood
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Not gonna lie, half of my love of this book comes from Greg Smallwood and his art process threads on Twitter. Seeing an S-tier artist break down his influences and style in masterful descriptions and then looking through pages of his best work yet is incredible, and getting Tom King to script is a solid get as well. Well plotted and drawn all around.
6 - It's Lonely at The Centre of the Earth
Writer/Artist: Zoe Thorogood
Zoe Thorogood's latest graphic novel chronicles six months in her life as she navigates being a young person struggling with life. Beautifully and uniquely hers, her style handles some tough topics and some beautiful moments as we take a peek at her brain. It's clever, it's creative, it pushes boundaries and connects with you. I would describe it further but it really deserves to be experienced firsthand. I'm in love with everything about this book and I can't recommend it enough.
1 - The Nice House on the Lake
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Andworld Design
I talked about this book at length last year (and repeatedly since) as it was my pick for #1 of 2021. I could write pages worth of praise and analysis (and I have), but instead I'll show an excerpt of the moment, the day before Christmas Eve, when the shipment carrying the final issue arrived and I sent a picture to our staff group chat.
He was here not ten minutes later. He wasn't even scheduled that day.
The Nice House on the Lake is transcendent. A brilliant work of art with incredible character work and truly beautiful art. James, Alvaro, Jordie, firing on all cylinders, have crafted something that raised the bar so much higher. The extremely rare meal that leaves you both full and hungry for more.
[LE] Luis is the manager and senior writer at Limited Editions Comics and Collectibles. He manages the day to day operations of the shop, works on social media outreach, and writers articles some people have said are “pretty good.” He’s a life-long fan of comics, love hot dogs, bath and body works hand sanitizers, and people who try their best, but his true passion is writing bios for webpages.