With the right combination of story, colors, and art, comic books can transport readers into a fragmented reality, alternate history, or even into the afterlife in a matter of moments. Just by turning a page, you can join the X-Men as they hunt down vampires, or step into a world where everyone is given a wish, or even peek into a future ruled by robots. With so many new comic books being released every week, especially from indie labels, it was difficult to whittle down a list of my favorites from 2022.
Although I chose 10 to highlight (see below), I read and loved many more comics and graphic novels this year including the ongoing Department of Truth (Image), Fantastic Four: Full Circle (Marvel), Black Adam (DC), Carnage (Marvel), Ducks (Drawn and Quarterly), Nice House on the Lake (DC Black Label), Aquaman: Andromeda (DC) both X-Men and X-Men Red (Marvel), New Masters (Image), Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow (DC), Blood Stained Teeth (Image), Monkey Meat (Image) and The Silver Coin (Image), to name a few.
That said, the following list includes some of the best writers and artists currently working in comic books right now, producing stories that transport you with ease into a new world (save one). Here are our picks for the Best Comics of 2022.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Creators: Ryan North, writer; Iban Coello, art; Jesus Aburtov, colors
Created more than 60 years ago by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, superheroes Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, and Sue and Johnny Storm have gone on hundreds of adventures since they were introduced in the pages of Fantastic Four #1. More than just the First Family of Marvel Comics, the Fantastic Four set the tone for comic books in the Silver Age, introducing extended stories and continuity for its heroes. So, when Ryan North was thinking about how he wanted to approach the newest volume of the series and honor the past at the same time, he decided to reintroduce Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Thing, and the Human Torch separately.
“I think if I just started writing, the voices of the characters might not have been where they should be,” North told Paste Books. ”[By giving each member their own issue], we’re able to catch up with each of the characters, but the secret reason is that I’m able to spend a whole month thinking about them each. I think that way I’m putting my best foot forward for the readers and myself.”
The first issue of the new Fantastic Four series, released in November, focuses on Ben and his new wife Alicia as they try to navigate a temporal loop in a small town. In issue #2, Reed and Sue find themselves wrapped up in a mystery seeded decades prior by Dr. Doom himself. Fractured, the team must also grapple with an enormous smoking crater where the Baxter Building once stood in New York City – a new disaster caused by Reed himself.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Creators: Leah Williams, writer; Carlos Gomez, artist; Brian Valenza, colors
One of the most fun Big Two comic books to come out in a long time, X-terminators started as a pitch by writer Leah Williams, who posed the important question: ‘What if we gave Dazzler an absolute dump truck ass.” After getting the green light from Marvel and head X-Men writer Jonathan Hickman, the grindhouse-inspired series made its debut in August.
Starring Dazzler, Boom Boom, Jubilee, and X-23, X-Terminators has a mature rating and is full of double entendres, blood, boob-punches and sexy ladies. With Williams at the helm and Carlos Gomez providing the linework, this book is not only funny, exciting and violent, it’s also gorgeous-looking. In an interview with AIPT, Williams said she wanted to shine a spotlight on Alison Blaire, a.k.a. Dazzler, and said the X-ladies will reveal more and more skin as the things get more violent, taking cues from classic grindhouse films. In the first few pages alone, readers get a glimpse of the future as Dazzler skates through pools of blood and vampire bits. Bubblegum popping in her mouth, we get a close up of Dazzler’s 70s roller disco outfit, PRAXIS written clearly across her behind.
Not All Robots
Publisher: AWA Upshot
Creators: Mark Russell, writer; Mike Deodato, artist
In the not-so-far future, robots have taken on most of the jobs once held by humans. The world still holds on to remnants of society, now housed in bubble-encased cities, though much of America has been destroyed by pollution and war. In the year 2056, an uneasy coexistence has emerged between the newly intelligent robots and the ten billion humans living on Earth and in Not All Robots, writer Mark Russell aims the spotlight on the patriarchal, bread-winning robot Razorball and the Walters, a human family who he’s charged with “caring for.”
As Razorball ominously spends his free time in the garage working on secret machines, the Walters family mirrors much of the techno-centric world around them. Brilliantly illustrated by veteran artist Mike Deodato, Not All Robots is meant as a satire and is loaded with many of the existential questions humans face today, like “who and what am I working for.” As the fragile peace between humans and robots starts to break down, Not All Robots sheds a light on a dark future that doesn’t seem that impossible in modern times.
Eight Billion Genies
Publisher: Image Comics
Creators: Charles Soule, writer; Ryan Browne, artist
If you got one wish, what would it be? A billion dollars? A pet dinosaur? Nuclear annihilation? That’s the premise behind Charles Soule and Ryan Browne’s hit comic book from Image, Eight Billion Genies. The eight-issue series began in May and is kicked off when, at exactly the same moment, everyone on earth gets a genie and one wish. In July, Amazon Studios picked up the rights to Eight Billion Genies.
The book centers on a group of people at the Lampwick Bar and Grill, a dive bar in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. When the genies suddenly arrive, the bartender quickly wishes for the bar and its inhabitants to remain safe from the now-chaotic world outside. In an instant, millions are killed, and millions more are given superpowers and riches beyond their dreams. Outside the Lampwick, the world must now contend with fantasies turned to realities as pet dinosaurs, enormous Kaiju, flying cars, unicorns, dragons and castles now crowd the sky.
Step by Bloody Step
Publisher: Image Studios
Creators: Si Spurrier, writer; Matheus Lopes, colors; Matias Bergara, artist
A four-issue miniseries, written by noted author Si Spurrier and brilliantly drawn by artists Matheus Lopes and Matias Bergara, Step by Bloody Step silently follows the adventures of a massive iron behemoth and the small child it protects as the two venture through a strange, alien-like world. The young girl has no memories of what’s come before and no language, only a hulking giant who acts as shelter and a knight in servitude.
Bergara’s art along with Lopes’ colors illuminate an exciting sci-fi world, inhabited by vicious monsters and lit by hauntingly gorgeous landscapes. Spurrier’s story slowly shows off the strange world as clues of what’s come before slowly trickle out. Even without words, the storytelling and world-building is excellent, a credit to the writer and artists. As the girl and her massive protector cross the wilds, they discover struggling civilizations and battle strange monsters in this mysterious adventure.
Publisher: Boom Studios
Creators: Stephanie Phillips, writer; Flaviano, artist: Rico Renzi, colors
Stepping over from her previous work at DC Comics on books like Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman, writer Stephanie Phillips delivered a memorable start to the afterlife-centric Grim. Instead of the traditional idea of a singular grim reaper, Grim reveals that there are actually multitudes of reapers harvesting human souls around the world. Jessica Harrow is just one of those reapers navigating an afterlife that seems much more bureaucratic than mystic.
Things start to go awry when the despondent agent of death “loses” her magical scythe and crosses over to the land of the living. In the world of Grim, reapers simply serve, they don’t ask questions and, as a rule, no one meets Death. When Harrow makes the jump into the living world, Death has no choice but to take matters into his own hands to “balance the ledger.” Illustrating Grim is artist Flaviano, who spent a lot of time working on the New Mutants at Marvel last year.
Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons
Publisher: DC Comics
Creators: Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer; Phil Jimenez, Gene Ha, Nicola Scott, artists;
In development for years by artist Phil Jimenez and writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons was finally released late last year with its second installment published in April of this year. The three-issue series, which concludes in a couple of weeks, marks a complete retelling and history of the Amazons starting with Queen Hera and the goddesses of Olympia. Simply put, this book is stunning and the combination of Jimenez’s line work alongside colors from Hi-Fi (Brian Miller and his wife Kristy) put it over the top in terms of quality.
DeConnick’s myth creation and deep dives into the DC Comics history of Wonder Woman provides for an enthralling read. In Wonder Woman Historia #2, artist Gene Ha has taken over the illustration duties as Hippolyta searches for the astonishing women who saved her life and gathers a tribe of her own. The final chapter, with artwork by Nicola Scott, is due on Dec. 27. According to Previews, the series culminates with an all-out war against the gods and the birth of “one of the greatest protectors the world has ever known.”
Publisher: DC Comics
Creators: G. Willow Wilson, writer; Marcio Takara, art; Arif Prianto, colors
Dr. Pamela Lillian Isley a.k.a. Poison Ivy has gone through many iterations since being introduced into DC Comics in 1966. Created by Robert Kangigher and Carmine Infantino, she started as just another foil in Batman’s rogues’ gallery. Over the past decades, Poison Ivy has become more complex, often walking the line between heroic and villainous. Most recently, appearing in Harley Quinn’s comic and TV show, she’s taken on the role of best friend and lover to Harleen Quinzel.
This year, acclaimed writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Marcio Takara took on the first Poison Iv self-titled book, which explores Ivy’s connection to the Green (see Swamp Thing) and her role as the protector of plant life. This book is absolutely incredible looking thanks to Takara’s line art, Arif Prianto’s colors, and the cover art of Jessica Wong. Then there’s the story. Willow is a veteran storyteller and has produced visionary work from Marvel, Image and DC. Her work on Poison Ivy sheds a new light on the character’s viciousness but also her intimate relationship with the Green around her.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Creators: Kieron Gillen, writer; Lucas Warneck, art; David Curiel, colors
Ever since Jonathan Hickman rebooted the X-Men with the House of X/Powers of X series a few years ago, Marvel’s mutants have flourished. They established a colony on Mars, achieved immortality, and expanded their Krakoan drug conglomerate around the world. As the heir successor to Hickman, writer Kieron Gillen has taken on duties penning the Immortal X-Men, which follows the exploits of the mutant ruling body, the Quiet Council and the exploits of the villainous Nathan Essex aka Mr. Sinister. Gillen also recently completed the massive crossover A.X.E. Judgment Day, which saw the Avengers, X-Men and Eternals battle to decide the fate of mutants across the world.
While many of the X-books, including the main title featuring Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz, have been excellent, Immortal X-Men offers a look behind the curtain of the mutant nation of Krakoa. Unfortunately, things are starting to unravel and mutant leaders are increasingly starting to work towards personal goals. With the upcoming crossover event Sins of Sinister coming in January, now is a great time to learn about what the clone enthusiast and former leader of the Marauders has been scheming on from the start.
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
Creators: Darryl Cunningham, artist and writer
History can be tough to piece together, especially when you’re trying to live through it. That’s why I appreciated Darryl Cunningham’s graphic novel and biography of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Incredibly well researched, Putin’s Russia provides an easy-to-follow timeline—not easy to recreate considering the knowledge of the Russian leader’s early history is sparse—and follows Putin from his early years, joining the KGB and his rise through the ranks of a rapidly shifting Soviet Union government.
The graphic novel focuses on Putin’s actions in stark terms throughout his burgeoning political career, from possibly siphoning off billions in food aid as an official in St. Petersburg to using terrorist attacks to consolidate power after he became president of Russia in 2000.
Cunningham’s insightful timeline connects world headlines throughout the years – from Russian jets tearing through battle-torn Syria to the infamous terrorist attack at the Beslan theatre and finally the annexation of Crimea – to the man now responsible for invading Ukraine. Released in late 2021 (just months before the invasion of Ukraine) Putin’s Russia seems eerily prescient upon reading now.
Catwoman: Lonely City
Creator: DC Black Label
Creators: Cliff Chiang, artist, writer and letterer
Although it technically began in late 2021, much of Catwoman: Lonely City was released this year to critical acclaim. In Lonely City, Catwoman has just been released from prison after 10 years following the deaths of Batman, The Joker, Nightwing, and Commissioner Jim Gordon. The story follows an older Selina Kyle as she tries to find out who the mysterious “Orpheus” is while navigating a Gotham City that has moved past the classic Batman players .
This Gotham City has morphed into a city in lockdown, patrolled by a militaristic, Batman-inspired police force. In an interview with DC Comics, Chiang spoke about how the series is a character study on some of the side players in Gotham and how they adapt to getting older and a changing city. Chiang also wanted to approach Gotham from a realistic viewpoint in the way its citizens (and villains) are subject to these changes.
Dana Forsythe is based in Boston and is a longtime reporter covering art, comic books and culture.