Well, that’s another twelve months in the (comic) books, and it’s been another year packed with exciting, inventive and engaging comic book releases, just the way we like it!
Every year we read hundreds (if not thousands) of comics as part of the Big Comic Page, so trying to filter them down into a handy bite-sized year-end list is always something of a challenge. And year after year, I always seem to manage to leave someone out. So with that in mind, I’m going to follow this year’s “best of” with a list of cracking books that didn’t quite make my own personal cut, but which may very well make yours.
Big thanks as always to every single publisher, creator and enthusiastic fan who has helped get a comic book in front of our collective eyeballs over the last twelve months. You guys rock.
So with the caveat that no, I haven’t read every comic released this year and yes, this is heavily subjective based on my own personal preferences, here are my Top 10 Comics of 2022, in no particular order…
MINDSET (VAULT COMICS)
(Zack Kaplan, John Pearson, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou)
A series from Vault Comics that I’m perfectly happy to call “absolutely essential reading”, Mindset tells the story of Ben Sharp, a Silicon Valley graduate who manages to crack the source code for mind control and who, despite his desire to use his discovery to try and make the world a better place, ends up unraveling his own life and the life of his close friends in the process.
Coming from the collective comic book minds of Zack Kaplan, John Pearson and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, Mindset is an absolute masterclass in wringing every last drop of potential out of their premise. The way they build tension throughout the course of pretty much every issue is fantastic, as is the way they switch up the flow midway through the series by injecting a whole new level to the “unreliable narrator” trope. Oh, and as you might expect, Pearson’s artwork is nothing short of amazing from start to finish.
A series that hasn’t quite finished yet, but which has been pretty much an automatic lock for my year-end Top 10 list from the moment I picked up the first issue.
IT’S LONELY AT THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (IMAGE COMICS)
A relatively late addition to this year’s Top 10 by virtue of its November release, It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth sees Zoe Thorogood – the supremely talented cartoonist behind the remarkable “The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott” at Avery Hill Publishing – taking an honest and moving look at six months her own life during late 2021.
This cleverly written and beautifully illustrated autobiographical graphic novel deals with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and long-distance relationships and is packed with neat visual flourishes, black humour and self-referential and fourth-wall breaking narrative devices aplenty.
Another fantastic release from a supremely talented young creator, and one that you really owe it to yourself to pick up.
THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE (DC COMICS)
(James Tynion IV, Alvaro Martinez Bueno, Jordie Bellaire, AndWorld Design)
This makes it two years in a row in my “best of” list for this stunning DC Comics series, which sees a group of loose acquaintances invited to a picturesque Lake House by a mutual friend, only to discover that the world outside has been completely destroyed by alien(?) invaders and they have been chosen to live on in this version of “paradise” without ever wanting for anything.
A slow-burning 12-part series that is due to wrap up before the end of the year, this one grabbed me right away with its strong central premise and fascinating cast of characters. And, over the course of the issues that have been released 2022, creators James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez Bueno have taken great pleasure in gradually unraveling their mystery, adding fresh new wrinkles to the Lake House and its inhabitants and steering the reader through this gripping maze of human drama.
A stunning creator-owned addition to DC’s Black Label imprint, and a series I honestly can’t recommend highly enough.
BRIAR (BOOM! STUDIOS)
(Christopher Cantwell, German Garcia, Matheus Lopes, AndWorld Design)
REVIEW: “A triumph of world-building, scene-setting and dark fantasy excess, Briar takes the familiar and makes it unfamiliar, twisting the safe ‘happily every after’ world into something dark and deadly.”
Another year, another BOOM! Studios creator-owned series in my “best of” list. Yes, only two issues have been published so far of Cantwell and Garcia’s dark, post-apocalyptic reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, but in that time we’ve already become fully engrossed in the plight of young Briar Rose and her exploration of the twisted, violent world she has awoken in.
The world that Cantwell and Garcia have created here is truly fascinating, filled with violent creatures and darkly comic dialogue, and while we’ve barely scratched the surface of the mystery that surrounds our young princess and the part she may be about to play in the destruction of the world, there was absolutely no way I was leaving it off my year-end list.
Step by Bloody Step (Image Comics)
(Si Spurrier, Matias Bergara, Matheus Lopes, Emma Price, Jim Campbell)
It’s always great to see creators exploiting the comic book medium to its absolute maximum potential, and that’s exactly what Si Spurrier and Matias Bergara, the creative team behind Coda at BOOM! Studios (which made my “best of” list back in 2018 and 2019), have done with Step By Bloody Step, a completely wordless fantasy series which sees a young girl being escorted by a hulking protector through a dangerous and stunning environment.
Spurrier shows that he doesn’t need dialogue to tell an effective story, which is doubly impressive when – in my opinion, at least – he’s one of the top 2 or 3 ‘dialogue guys’ in the business today. Not only that, but he once again empowers Bergara to unleash his unparalleled gift for mesmerising landscapes and quirky character and monster deigns throughout the course of this truly unique series.
The Swamp Thing (DC Comics)
(Ram V, Mike Perkins, Mike Spicer, Aditya Bidikar)
Another returning title from my 2021 list, and one which only wrapped up a couple of months ago, Ram V and Mike Perkins’ run on The Swamp Thing has completely and utterly revitalised my love for the iconic character. And, as anyone who knows me will readily attest to, I love me some Swampy, so this isn’t a comment I make lightly.
Fusing established ideas and lore with fresh new takes and a brand new Avatar of the Green, the series earned itself an extension from 10 to 16 issues based on how bloody good it was. And don’t even get me started on Perkins’ artwork. Horror and scale and detail and ethereal dynamism all wrapped up into one mouthwatering package. The Swamp Thing series that fans have deserved for quite some time now.
Do A Powerbomb! (Image Comics)
(Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer, Rus Wooton)
Mourning the death of her legendary mother, who tragically died in the ring, young Luna Steelrose finds herself taking part in an inter-dimensional tag team wrestling tournament in the hopes of bringing her back to life.
Yes, it’s a wrestling comic, and there’s absolutely no denying that Daniel Warren Johnson has managed to craft a bombastic love letter to the over-the-top world of pro ‘rassling. However, there’s so much more than just that going on here, as he also manages to inject some raw feelings and emotions into the proceedings, culminating in finale that’s almost guaranteed to leave a lump in your throat. Brilliant characters, unexpected twists and turns and some of the most bone-crunching, “this is awesome”-chanting artwork you’re likely to have laid your eyes on over the last 12 months.
Dark Spaces: Wildfire (IDW Publishing)
(Scott Snyder, Hayden Sherman, Ronda Pattison, Andworld Design)
IDW Publishing has been doing some fantastic things with their ‘IDW Original’ creator-owned imprint over the last twelve months, churning out the likes of Crashing and Trve Kvlt, both of which could have easily cracked my Top 10 if it weren’t for Dark Spaces: Wildfire from Scott Snyder and Hayden Sherman.
This tense and gripping series sees a group of women’s prison inmates taking a life-and-death risk in the hopes of giving themselves a second change by breaking into the vault of a remote luxury home in the midst of a raging forest fire. Packed with plenty of strong characterization from Snyder and lashings of Sherman’s inimitable visual flair, this is a gripping heist series in a unique setting that hooked me from the first couple of pages.
The Crimson Cage (AWA Studios)
(John Lees, Alex Cormack, Ashley Cormack, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou)
REVIEW: “Only John Lees could possibly have got me excited about a wrestling comic, but this first issue has me completely hooked. It’s thrilling, it’s tense, it’s horrific, and I genuinely couldn’t have asked for more.”
Hot on the heels of making our very own Mark’s “best of 2021” list based on just a single issue, AWA’s dark, violent wrestling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (yeah, you heard me) hit its stride and stuck the landing with brutal precision in 2022, making it an essential inclusion in this year’s list.
It’s safe to say that we’re massive fans of the Lees and Cormack pairing here at the Big Comic Page, and this five-part series saw them firing on all cylinders, marrying Lees’ well documented love of pro-wrestling with Cormack’s knack for brutal horror and incredibly expressive characters into something truly special. Another fantastic offering from the very definition of a “must read” creative partnership.
The Crimson Cage (AWA Studios)
(John Lees, Alex Cormack, Ashley Cormack, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou)
Rounding out out “best of” list for the year is Salamandre, an entirely self-created graphic novel from INJ Culbard that introduces us to young Kaspar, an aspiring artist who, in the wake of his father’s death, is forced to move to live with his grandfather in a country where art is outlawed by an oppressive, totalitarian regime.
Culbard has been a personal favourite for quite some time, from his work on The New Deadwardians and Wild’s End to his gripping Lovercraft adaptations, and this graphic novel showcases all of his greatest strengths, including smooth, precise linework and thoroughly expressive characters. It’s almost impossible not to become invested in Kaspar’s story, and the exploration of the power of creativity and imagination are both poignant and uplifting.
Eight Billion Genies from Charles Soule and Ryan Browne (Image Comics), Night of the Ghoul from Scott Snyder and Francesco Francavilla (Dark Horse Comics), Crashing from Matthew Klein and Morgan Beem (IDW Publishing), Clementine: Book One from Tillie Walden (Skybound), and Alice Ever After from Dan Panosian and Giorgio Spalletta (BOOM! Studios) are all truly fantastic in their own way, and well worth checking out.