Each year, I consider and then quickly discard the idea of posting a Best Comics of the Year list. I’m just one guy, and I don’t read anywhere near the number of comics it’d take to make a truly comprehensive, accurate, and worthwhile best of list. Also, even if I felt comfortable sharing my opinion about which comics are the “best,” other sites do it a) faster and b) better.
However, each year a few people ask me what I enjoyed reading that year, and I do feel qualified to share my opinion on that. So this year, I’ve decided to list my favorite comics released in 2022. I’m not entirely current on all these books, but I read at least a few issues of all of them in 2022, and I’m planning to catch up as time and DC’s trade publication schedule (still terrible – if I had a worst of list, that’d be on it) permits. Without further ado, these are the five comics I think rocked in 2022.
While perhaps a bit too fan service-y at times, Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, and co.’s Nightwing continues to be my favorite straightforward superhero book on the stands. Taylor and his partners seem to understand that, after years of DC dicking Dick around, Nightwing fans just want some fun, lighthearted adventures in which the character’s core attributes of kindness, affability, and humor get to shine. In the issues I read this year, Nightwing teamed up with Jon Kent and Wally West to take down a ring of assassins and the KGBeast. The KGBeast issues included some of the aforementioned possibly-too-fan-service-y moments, but I’m not going to lie: I loved them. Seeing Wally West give the KGBeast a super-speed smackdown for trying to assassinate Nightwing (during Tom King’s up-and-down Batman run) was cathartic as heck, and the conversation Wally and Dick had about Dick’s love life was just as fun to read.
Since I’m not currently buying any other monthly comics, I stopped picking up single issues of Nightwing in May. I’d planned to start buying trades of the series as they released, but DC’s snail-paced trades program and the impending release of Nightwing 100 may compel me to catch up in single issues, provided I can track them down. I do love me a big jam session anniversary issue, and Nightwing 100 seems like it’ll be a heck of a good read.
I said it when the first issue released and I’ll say it again: I think Kaya stands a good chance of being a classic comic. Three issues in, this fantasy adventure series continues to impress. The story and its world have drawn me in, I care about nearly every character, and perhaps most notably, Wes Craig’s art continues to slap. If I had to describe the book’s visual style, I’d say it’s Bone by way of Jack Kirby. If that phrase doesn’t get you to check out Kaya, we clearly don’t have the same taste in comics.
The main reason I wanted to put Kaya on this list, however, is that it is an all-ages book, and there aren’t enough of those going in monthly comics. As a person who grew up on The Batman Adventures, I think it’s important that there are some monthly comics out there that parents can buy for and read with their kids. All-ages graphic novels are a big deal right now; there’s no worry that there aren’t enough comics for kids. But a book like Kaya is all too rare in the Direct Market. And as a kid who looked forward to getting each month’s issue of The Batman Adventures or Nightwing back in the ’90s, the fact that there’s a current monthly comic that might get kids excited to go to a comic shop, either alone or with their parents, is worth celebrating.
A.X.E.: Judgment Day
I already wrote at length about why I think A.X.E.: Judgment Day is the best Marvel Comics event since 2015. So I won’t go on about the series too much here. However, I think it is notable that months after Judgment Day‘s end, I’m still thinking about its narrative, its structure, and its consequences. Despite actually wrapping up quite cleanly, Judgment Day left a few threads dangling, and knowing Kieron Gillen, those threads will be picked up at some point in 2023. (One dangling thread, the fact that Mr. Sinister was never judged, is clearly going to have an effect on the X-Men books very soon.)
While I’m talking about Judgment Day again, it’s worth mentioning that the two most notable ongoing series that tied into it, Immortal X-Men and X-Men: Red, would likely be fighting for a spot on this list if Judgment Day hadn’t pushed them both out. Both are fantastic books, and each month, I hem and haw about which of them I should read first. Usually, X-Men: Red wins that battle. I love me some Al Ewing cosmic politics, and Sunspot’s rise to prominence on Arakko (and his pupil-come-of-age relationship with Magneto) has been one of my favorite sub-plots of 2022.
The Nice House on the Lake
The Nice House on the Lake is my current favorite James Tynion IV series, which is saying something, as Tynion IV is one of my current favorite writers. Nice House tells the story of twelve friends who gather at a cabin in the woods for a fun getaway, only to find out that the world is ending and they will be humanity’s last survivors. I don’t want to say much more about the series’s plot, as doing so would begin venturing into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say, exactly how and why these twelve people were chosen to survive is a major part of the series’s plot, as are their reactions to being “saved” from humanity’s end.
It’s these reactions, actually, as well as the unfolding of each character’s relationship with each other in both the past and present, that makes Nice House a powerhouse of a comic. Humans surviving the end of the world is a cliche premise, but these particular humans surviving in this particular way is not. The specific design and rules of this end-of-the-world scenario (Tynion IV loves establishing and then picking apart systems, which is a big part of why I love his work) push the twelve survivors in different directions that reveal their character, as well as that of the series’s “antagonist.” Backed up by Alvaro Martinez Bueno and Jordie Bellaire’s moody and expressive art, as well as some nice logo-based design work that helps you keep track of the series’s main protagonists, Tynion IV has created a horror story that I can’t wait to finish – again, when DC’s trades department sees fit to release the final volume.
Lavender Jack returned in September of this year, for what seems to be the pulp superhero strip’s final story. The episodes released since the series’s return have felt like a mad dash toward the finish line, full of dramatic confrontations and revelations that, if I’m being honest, make me feel like I need to go back and reread the preceding chapters to feel their full weight. But thankfully, all of Lavender Jack is available on Webtoon, so I can go back and start from the series’s beginning anytime.
Even with a few past plot points hazy in my mind, Lavender Jack‘s conclusion has been immensely satisfying so far. The big moments (Ducky outconverses Lady Bastrop! Jack battles Evil Jack! Ferrier explains it all!) have landed spectacularly, and have had me pumping my fist in the air or saying “Heck yeah!” (Thankfully, there’s no one else in my home office to see or hear me doing these things.) Every major character, protagonist and antagonist alike, has gotten at least one moment to shine, as they prepare to leave the stage and Dan Schkade and co. get ready to take their final bow. (Selfishly, I hope that ends up not actually being true. Lavender Jack seems like it has a bit more story in it, and I hope that after a period of rest and relaxation, the temptation to put witty one-liners in Jack and the rest of the Lavender League’s mouths proves too tempting to resist.)