Thursday, December 22, 2022

My Favorite Comics of 2022

Back when Joup was up, I used to always do a "Favorite Comics" list at the end of every year. I got away from that for some time until last year I decided to resurrect the practice. 

And let me get this out of the way at the top: The two Reckless HC GNs that came out this year would be at the top of this list, however, since Reckless just destroys the curve, and since I included it in last year's favorites list, I'm placing it in a class by itself. 

The same caveat applies to Michael Walsh and company's ongoing Horror Anthology The Silver Coin. I love this series so much, it would just be unfair to place it in the Top Ten again this year because, at this rate, it would hold a perpetual spot. So let's just say these two stand alone in their exemplary storytelling.

With that out of the way then, let's get to that list.

My Favorite Comic Books of 2022:

10) Shaolin Cowboy: Cruel to Be Kin:

Completely. F*cking. Insane. Geoff Darrow returns to his magnum opus and fills every centimeter of every page with some of the best damn art I have ever seen. The story is even crazier than the previous iteration, and the political satire is top-notch. This book was the most fun, and the longest amount of time I spent staring at any comic's pages this year.

9) Pentagram of Horror:

From out of nowhere, Marco Fontanili drops five of the most gorgeous Horror Comics I have ever had the pleasure of holding in my hands. Another top-notch Anthology, Pentagram of Horror knocks it out of the part with its originality both conceptually and artistically. Nothing else out there looks like this, and the range of Horror moves from Black Rites in the Woods to Techno-Paranoia.

8) What's the Furthest Place from Here:

Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss's it's the end of the world and we don't know it story is as unique as the other books we've seen these guys do, whether together or apart. The whole damn thing is one big 'Gottasee,' and any details we learn about the larger world usually just open up wonderful new questions. Plus, I don't think I've seen a book that possesses this much Punk Rock spirit since Teenagers From Mars!

7) That Texas Blood:

Michael Condon and Jacob Phillips' era-spanning Weird Fiction Crime Comic started in 2020 with just a very mild sprinkling of "The Weird," but over the past year, the book has REALLY leaned into that more. Think Season One of True Detective or the Fargo series on FX. There's no telling what era each new story will be in, and even less way to anticipate what kind of darkness will haunt its pages.

6) Hulk:

Nothing about this comic should work. On paper, Banner turning the Hulk into a spaceship and flying him off into the farthest reaches of the cosmos doesn't even move a needle with me - unless it's the "sounds dumb" needle. But with Hulk, Donny Cates and Ryan Ottley bring comics back to the late 70s/early 80s when writers like Bill Mantlo took enormous swings. Every issue of this book is an enormous swing, and what's more, each one connects. The shame here is, apparently Cates has now exited this book, with Ottley finishing the current "Hulk Planet" storyline over the next few months, and then passing the torch and leaving himself. 

5) Spider-Punk:

For this page alone, Cody Ziglar & Justin Mason's Spider-Punk series lands on this list! I'm still not over the absolute joy of seeing a Michael Graves-era Misfits-inspired TaskMaster show up! Beyond that, overall, I really enjoyed this quick, five-issue series, and look forward to seeing Hobart Brown and his friends return. 

4) Sandman Universe - Nightmare Country:

I know last year I gushed about Joe Hill's Sandman/Locke And Key series, saying how it was the closest thing to having a new Sandman series. Well, apparently DC took that as some kind of challenge because this year we get James Tynion IV on Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country and this... shit man, this actually is the Sandman series. Not like a modern take, but it feels just like I'm reading old Sandman issues, and it's awesome. Awesome not just because of nostalgia, but because the story centers on the Corinthian, but Tynion does that wonderful trick where the main characters are not the lead characters, just like Neil Gaiman used to write the original series. I'd say main human protagonist  Madison Flynn definitely shares some storytellers' DNA with Rose Walker, and Misters Agony and Ecstasy definitely bring the 80s Clive Barker vibes. All in all, a very welcome addition to Gaiman's mythos, more so than any of the other Sandman Universe books I've taken a chance on and largely nixed.

3) Do A Powerbomb!:

Daniel Warren Johnson body slams the medium AGAIN with his beautiful, heart-rending tale of... inter-dimensional professional wrestling? Yeah, I was surprised A.F. too, but despite my absolute non-interest in the sport, I LOVED this book. It broke my heart multiple times, and despite a weird turn in the penultimate chapter, the final issue recovered nicely. 

2) Deadly Class: A Fond Farewell:

The final storyline of Rick Remender and Wes Craig's Deadly Class was harrowing, confusing, brutal and poignant. Beautiful and cathartic and just wonderful in every way a comic book should be. A fitting end for characters I've loved since the book launched 8 years ago.

1) Immortal X-Men:

No other comic book made me think about it for WEEKS afterward like Immortal X-Men #1, and almost every issue of the series has held up to that initial promise. Those who feared Hickman's departure from the World of X would lead to a Krakoan decline were wrong - everything Kieron Gillen and Lucas Wernek is doing only adds to and increases the mystery and grandeur of Hickman's blueprint. NOTE: X-Men: Red is also fantastic, however, I didn't want to have two X-Books on this list, so consider it guilty of greatness by way of the larger, X-tapestry.

Honorable Mentions:

Honorable mentions go to Strange, the series that placed Clea Strange as the MCU's Sorceror Supreme. This one has just been delightful surprise after delightful surprise, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every issue. 

The Elseworlds/One-Possible-Future TMNT: The Last Ronin mini-series follows the single surviving Turtle (still not gonna spoil which one it is!) as they attempt to avenge their siblings' deaths in a techno-dystopian future that calls to mind Frank Miller's classic Ronin (see what they did there?) Begun in 2021, I purposely left Last Ronin off my 2021 iteration of this list because I knew it would finish this year. This one definitely evoked those old-school, Black-and-White Explosion 80s comics I cut my teeth on in my youth, and I enjoyed it immensely because of that.

Finally, I did not include Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's opening entries into their new Bone Orchard Mythos because we're still very early in, and I guarantee this will be in my top of 2023. Thus far, with one Graphic Novel and 4 issues of the first mini-series, this one is nothing short of impressive. Sorrentino's art continues to rank as some of the creepiest Horror Art I've ever seen, and when realizing Lemire's otherworldly scripts, we just get such a hyper-stylized approach that I can do nothing but raise the horns and howl.

What a fantastic year for comics! I will say, it surprises me that so much Marvel has snuck in, but that's an appetite for nostalgia and comfort the last few years instilled in me, and Marvel's top-tier creators continue to reinvent their stable of characters in ways that DC surely must envy. Sorry DC, but putting "Metal" in front of the title of every book just doesn't cut it.

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