James' Favorite Comics of 2022 (Superheroes and Horror)

Here's Part 1 of my favorite comics of 2022. This year it made sense for me to divide my picks into a few different categories, and 2 different posts. So, make sure to check out Part 2). As always, these aren't the BEST comics (I have no idea what *best* means when evaluating something as subjective as art), just my personal favorites (listed in a few categories). I hope you find something you enjoy!

Books of the Year (Superhero)

Human Target by Tom King and Greg Smallwood, published by DC Comics/Black Label
Human Target is a must-read and one of my favorite comics of the year. I knew very little about the character of the Human Target, and that wasn't a problem for me, and it won't be a problem for you either. People hire him to impersonate them if they think someone is trying to kill them. And then he catches them, in some cases by "dying". That's it. But now the Human Target actually is dying, and he has 12 days to figure out who is responsible. That's the premise, and it's a terrific one. But also, this is among the most gorgeous comics you'll read. Seriously, Greg Smallwood has outdone himself. He conjures a world that is ostensibly set in the modern day but evokes the stylish 1960's. It's bright, lively work, with incredible style and panache and skill as a storyteller. I was such a huge fan of his work in the Moon Knight series he did with Jeff Lemire and Jordie Bellaire (read me going on and on about it here). He has a clean line, and immaculate character work, and his panel payout is incredibly interesting and innovative. You should also read his work in this Marvel series of stories. That Marvel series feels like it might have been something of the inspiration for the new Human Target series. You should pick up the hardcover collection of the first 6 issues and then catch up with issues 7, 8 and 9. You're going to love it.

Fantastic Four Full Circle by Alex Ross and Josh Johnson, published by Abrams ComicsArts/Marvel Comics
Alex Ross is justifiably well-known for his incredible comic cover art. But I first came to know him for his sequential work in the remarkable Kingdom Come and Marvels. Every page of each of these books was and is a delight. So I'm thrilled that Ross has decided to return to sequential storytelling with Fantastic Four: Full Circle, where he takes on both writing and art duties (with color assist from Josh Johnson). I'm thrilled to say that Ross' work has never been better or more interesting than in Fantastic Four: Full Circle. Ross colors this book differently than the painted style for which he is justifiably well known. He uses a flatter inking style which works incredibly well in telling this story which evokes classic Lee-Kirby FF. The colors are astounding, particularly in some of the spreads that look like they should be lit with blacklight and be in a 1970's dorm room. Ross has cited the work of modern artists such as Alexis Ziritt as inspiration, and it's wonderful to see even someone as accomplished as Ross drawing from the work of up-and-coming artists. The detail is incredible, and the story is a lot of fun. This was as much fun as I've had reading a superhero comic all year. And it is a complete feast for the eyes.

Favorite Superhero Comics

Action Comics by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Shawn Aldridge, Riccardo Federici, Adriana Melo, Lee Loughridge, and more, published by DC Comics
Action Comics told a really remarkable story this year, called Warworld. Superman and members of The Authority (in a more modern iteration) came to Warworld to help free the people living there, ruled over by the despot Mongul. Superman expected them to be greeted as liberators, but that's not the reception they faced. Things were a lot more complicated than they realized. Once imprisoned there, Superman and others are forced to continually engage in gladiatorial combat. And Superman's powers are mostly gone while he's there. This story is so compelling, and I love the different location and the difficult circumstances that everyone is dealing with. We get to see Superman inspire through example in a different way, and it's a very rousing Spartacus sort of story.  I'd highly recommend picking up all of Johnson's work on Action Comics, as well as the miniseries Superman and the Authority, which serves as a prequel to this story.

AXE Judgment Day By Kieron Gillen, Valerio Schiti and Marte Gracia, published by Marvel Comics
AXE: Judgment Day is one of my favorite superhero events in a long time (written by Kieron Gillen and art by Valerio Schiti - a terrific team). It's been a story that brought together different groups of heroes/characters (Avengers, X-Men, Eternals) in a meaningful and organic way, and the stakes have been clear (there's a celestial who has decided to judge the Earth and if it and its people fail judgment, then everyone dies). There have been a lot of fun team-ups amongst different groups of characters that wouldn't normally interact, and the stakes for regular people in the world have also felt pretty clear. There were also a number of strong tie-in books relating to the main series. 

Batman Killing Time by Tom King, David Marquez, and Alejandro Sanchez, published by DC Comics
I really enjoyed Batman: Killing Time. First off, it's a Batman story written by Tom King. That will always get my attention. Secondly, it is (I believe) the debut DC artwork from David Marquez. And third, as opposed to King's long, intricate run on Batman proper (which I absolutely loved), this is just  a fast-paced action movie type crime story. And this comic totally delivered. The story is still built like a puzzle, with a lot of time jumps back and forth, but it absolutely feels like it moves swiftly, and has a lot of fun and energy to the story. Marquez is great drawing Batman and various members of Batman's rogues gallery (primarily Catwoman and The Riddler). And the action was exciting and fast-paced. So, given all of that, I'm excited to pick up the collected edition of this series. I think you’ll love it too.

Batman One Bad Day the Riddler, by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, published by DC Comics
Thus far I've really been enjoying these Batman "One Bad Day" stories. The Two-Face one was entertaining, the Mr. Freeze one was delightful (and featured art by the amazing Matteo Scalera!), but the Riddler one was one of the best comics I've read all year. All of these issues have been brilliantly written by Tom King, and the Riddler story is illustrated by his frequent partner Mitch Gerads. And this is just a next-level comic. King is a clever guy and I think probably really enjoys writing a clever character. Here's a character who's not just one step ahead of Batman, but a hundred steps ahead of him. This issue shows the depths to which the Riddler will go, and the heights to which a good writer can take him. He's not a goofy character in the right hands, he's really terrifying. And Gerads does an INCREDIBLE job in this issue. It's weird and scratchy and has a cold horror-like feel to it. It's great work on a really special issue.  

Batman/Superman: World's Finest by Mark Waid, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain, published by DC Comics
World's Finest is a SUCH a fun comic. It's a terrific fusion of classic and modern, in a number of different ways. It's a classic story in the sense that this story has a timeless quality to it. The story isn't bogged down in current continuity, which means the story will never feel dated or tied to a specific moment in time. And writer Mark Waid has a perfect handle on the voices of these classic versions of the iconic characters. That being said, the book never feels hokey or corny; Waid has the voices down, but in a very modern way. The modern feel of the book is really brought to life by the incredible art team of line artist Dan Mora and color artist Tamra Bonvillain. Dan Mora is one of the very best artists in comics. His comics have so much dynamism and life and energy to them. And his line work is complemented perfectly by the amazing, bright colors of Tamra Bonvillain. They are a must-read combo on a comic. They've been doing amazing work on Once & Future, and I'm so glad they've brought their work to DC. They have such fun, classic-yet-modern feeling versions of these iconic characters. This book is a real joy to read every issue. 

Catwoman: Lonely City by Cliff Chiang, published by DC Comics/Black Label
I adored this series. Catwoman: Lonely City takes place ten years in the future of the DC universe, and Catwoman has come out of jail to a very changed world, but she's going to pull off one more heist. It's a fun setup, but that doesn't even really do the series justice. This is Cliff Chiang's first foray into comics writing but you wouldn't know it. He doesn't overwrite the series, and really does let the art tell the story. Which is great for Cliff Chiang, the artist! Because Chiang's work here is extraordinary. It really feels like it's never been better (which is absurd considering how amazing his prior work is) - he's at the top of his visual storytelling game, and the whole book is so gorgeous. This is such a fun, poignant, and action-packed read, any comics reader would love it.

Immortal X-Men by Kieron Gillen and Lucas Werneck, published by Marvel Comics
I loved the Hickman era of the X-Men book, starting with House of X/Powers of X and ending with Inferno. Hickman did palace intrigue really well, and there was a lot of secrets and intrigue involved in the mutants of Krakoa. Once he left, there was a hole that needed to be filled. Enter Kieron Gillen, who does clever people and palace intrigue better than just about anyone. So, this book really represented for me a return to the heights of the Hickman X-Men. There's all sorts of internal Krakoan politics and scheming; it's fantastic. And eventually this book ties into AXE: Judgment day, which is fin since Gillen is also writing that book. o this comic tied in there seamlessly, and actually provided some of the best issues of the entire story. Werneck's art is really strong in this series, it's consistent with the high bar set by R.B. Silva, Pepe Larraz and others. Any X-fan should read this comic. 

Moon Knight #9 by Jed MacKay and Alessandro Cappuccio, published by Marvel Comics
Hey, you might have heard, there was a Moon Knight show coming this year. If you're looking to read a Moon Knight comic, the current run is as good of a place to start as any. This is a superhero with a very weird, complicated history, so honestly you might as well just dive in. He's a vigilante, but he also has various personas. There is an element of Dissociative Identity Disorder, but it's more complicated than that. He serves an Egyptian God who saved his life and is now his patron. The current story (by Jed MacKay) is set in New York, where Moon Knight (also sometimes Mr. Knight, when he's wearing a suit) has set up his mission, to protect travelers during the night. This current run has been a real blast so far. The art from Alessandro Cappuccio is terrific, and the story has added new characters while finding a way to fit them into the mythology of the character. There are vampires, and different factions, and maybe a different avatar of Khonshu? It's a very fun, action-packed, fast-paced read.

Nightwing by Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, and Adriano Lucas, published by DC Comics
Nightwing has been a real breath of fresh air. Like when Waid, Martin, and Rivera came in and brought all sorts of life and energy to Daredevil about 10 years ago. The tory focuses on Nightwing and Dick Grayson in equal measure, as Dick goes to Bludhaven in an effort to both help out as a vigilante, and to use his newfound wealth to help make a difference in the city. With frequent help from Barbara Gordon, and a new dog friend! Redondo is an amazing artist; his style is super appealing and he's a remarkable visual storyteller. Redondo is a fun and innovative artist; he did one issue where every page is basically a continuous panel, as Dick Grayson is in pursuit and being chased. The book is an absolute delight..

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow by Tom King, Bilquis Evely, and Mat Lopes, published by DC Comics

I read lots of good comic books, and sometimes read excellent comic books, but it’s only occasionally that I read something that I would really describe as being extraordinary or special. Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow is one of those special, extraordinary comics and my favorite superhero comic of 2021 (it was arguably my favorite of 2022 as well but I like to shake it up and cite newer works). It’s a thoughtful, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, occasionally very funny comic, that’s brought to life with truly next level art and colors. This is some of my favorite work ever from writer Tom King (which is high praise because I love a lot of King’s work), and the combination of artist Bilquis Evely on art and Mat Lopes on colors is an absolute revelation. If you’re not reading this comic, you’re missing out on something really special (my full review here).

Superman Space Age #2 by Mark Russell, Mike Allred and Laura Allred, published by DC Comics
It's great when you're really looking forward to something and it is even better than you had hoped. I was very excited for Superman: Space Age and it has been even more beautiful and poignant and fun than I thought it would be. Writer Mark Russell is one of my favorite writers in comics. He's written some of the smartest, funniest, and most poignant comics I've read in recent years (The Flintstones, The Snagglepuss Chronicles, Billionaire Island). Mike and Laura Allred are (similarly) one of my favorite art teams in comics. I'm such a fan of the Allred's work (Silver Surfer, FF, Bowie, and many more books); I think that they capture the spirit and pop sensibility of the 60's, and Allred is a spiritual successor to Kirby in his style and spirit. And Superman is my favorite character (when done well)! So, this amazing team has combined together to create something really moving. It's grounded in a real-ish place in history, but also very much feels like the DC universe. It was fun and heartfelt and I can't wait for the concluding issue.

X-Men Red by Al Ewing and Stefano Caselli, published by Marvel Comics
A lot of the positive things I said above about Immortal X-Men also apply to X-Men Red. X-Men Red is sort of the Mars counterpart to Immortal X-Men. Where Immortal focuses on Krakoa, X-Men Red focuses on Mars, or Arakko as it is now known (at least to the mutants). In case you missed it, the mutants went ahead and terraformed Mars, and declared control over it, and used it as a place to resettle the mutants who came over when the portal to Arakko (the "sister" world to Krakoa) was open (during X of Swords, it was a whole thing). Suffice it to say, there are mutants now on Arakko, and they need people in charge of them. So this story focuses on those people, including Magneto and Storm. This is a very smartly written series, no surprise since it's written by Al Ewing who writes some of the very best comics out there. And the art from Stefano Caselli was really excellent, top-notch superhero storytelling. The tie-in issues here for AXE: Judgment Day were also particularly strong.

Favorite Horror Comics

Clementine Vol. 1 OGN by Tillie Walden, published by Image Comics

I liked The Walking Dead comic but wasn't particularly a huge fan, nor did I ever watch the TV show. However, it is a measure of how much I love Tillie Walden's work that I was incredibly excited for this comic, and I am happy to say that this book did not disappoint. Walden is a creator of incredible skill, talent, and compassion. Spinning is an incredible memoir of her years figure skating as a kid. Are You Listening is a remarkable story of a drive through a surreal very dark night. And On a Sunbeam is an absolute masterpiece - a story of young queer love in a heartbreakingly beautiful, sad, weird universe full of surprises. Clementine is a character that originated in The Walking Dead videogame, and is now going to be the focus of a series of graphic novels by Walden. She's a teen making her way through the world of zombies. I didn't know the character beforehand, but I came t care a lot about her throughout the course of this book. This is a really strong story. I'm almost not even sure whether to call it a horror book, but it's set in the world of TWD. Zombies and scarcity of resources and a post-industrial world are all a fact of life for all of the characters, and so I'd definitely call that a horror world. But like the best stories in TWD, this isn't a story about zombies at all, it's a story of people and how they cope with tragedy and loss and adversity. Walden continues to do remarkable work here, bringing her compassion and drama and humor and fear to every single page. I'm excited for more.  

Department of Truth by James Tynion IV, Martin Simmonds, Aditya Bidikar, Dylan Todd, Steve Foxe, and more

Department of Truth is a fantastic comic that I very much enjoyed and highly recommend to anyone looking for a dark, smart commentary on our current times. The central premise of Department of Truth is based around the idea that belief itself shapes reality. Not just in an abstract, philosophical sense of "your perception shapes your reality" but in an actual "what people collectively believe can change and warp reality itself" sense. This is a comic of shadowy figures and dark rooms, fitting when this is a story about the ways in which rumors and conspiracies can actually change reality. Martin Simmonds' work in this comic is perfectly suited to those ideas, and is an absolute revelation. Simmonds' absolutely staggering work is one of the fundamental elements in creating the absurd, conspiratorial feel of the story. Simmonds' art here is scratchy, angular, sometimes messy, and often downright weird. And all of that weirdness and perceived imprecision works perfectly in telling the story and setting the tone of these issues. The art here is so much about setting the tone. And what is the tone? It's like X-Files, but weirder, and more supernatural, and filtered through the fog of memory and the haze of confusion. Come enjoy the paranoid, unsettling, reality-is-unstable vibes of a very timely and engaging story.

The Nice House on the Lake by James Tynion IV, Alvaro Martinez Bueno, and Jordie Bellaire, published by DC Comics

This book is so good, and so terrifying, but not for the reasons you might think a book called "The Nice House on the Lake" is terrifying. You might picture some sort of Friday the 13th slasher-type story, and that could not be further from what this story is. I don't want to give away anything abut this story, except to say that it is fantastic, and James Tynion is firing on all cylinders right now with 3 different, excellent non-superhero books (this one, Something is Killing the Children, and Department of Truth) (links to my reviews here and here). He's got an incredible read on the zeitgeist, as his books feel incredibly timely and topical and relevant for all sorts of depressing reasons. The art from Alvaro Martinez Bueno is absolutely stunning. I didn't know his work before but now I will absolutely want to seek it out. Fans of horror and great storytelling and art, you really need to check this book out.

The Night Eaters vol. 1: She Eats at Night by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, published by Abrams ComicArts

The Night Eaters is the new graphic novel from writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda, the creators of Monstress. If you've never ready Monstress, I suggest you do that. It's remarkable, highly skilled storytelling. More to the point, Monstress is one of the most stunning-looking comics you will ever read. Takeda has an incredibly dense, lush, detailed style that each page is almost overwhelming sometimes. It's a profoundly beautiful book, even when the images on the pages are ugly or terrifying. I read in an article/preview that apparently Takeda is going with a somewhat simplified style in this new series. Rest assured, that will still be one of the most stunning comics you read. This team is very skillful at creating rich worlds full of terror and characters who fascinate and are compelling. There are a lot of moments of humor in the story, as two very American young adults are taught some tough and illuminating lessons by their Chinese mother. You do not want to miss this comic. 

The Bone Orchard Mythos: The Passageway and Ten Thousand Black Feathers, each by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and Dave Stewart, published by Image Comics
Speaking of Jeff Lemire, Dave Stewart, and Andrea Sorrentino, not only did they complete Primordial but they launched a whole new horror universe, called The Bone Orchard Mythos. I'm happy to report that the very first story in this series (the graphic novella The Passageway) was excellent and legitimately terrifying. The Passageway involved a trip to a remote island by a scientist that did not at all end up like the scientist probably hoped. Sorrentino and Stewart continue to get better and better as an artistic team. In Ten Thousand Black Feathers, a fantasy writer is back home and staying with the mother of her best friend who passed away. But there's a lot going on under the surface, as there are flashbacks and ghosts and terrifying visions. There's also more that seems to connect the fantasy world and the real world. Both The Passageway and Ten Thousand Black Feathers are highly engaging works in their own right, that also hint at a larger universe. Sorrentino and Stewart continue to do better and better, and weirder and more innovative work. As long as this trio keeps making comics, I'll buy them.