by Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall, and Jarrod Jones. These are the ongoings, minis, and OGNs that saved us, made things better, and represented the best comics could be in 2022.

Pink Lemonade (Oni Press). As far as reality-stripping, metacommentative riots of comic fiction go, Pink Lemonade is a unique, phosphorescent bop. Nick Cagnetti’s labor of love is candy for the eyes, a sugar-frosted fusion of Dan Clowes and Ben Marra and bitchin’ 90s comics, and a finger-in-the-eye for corporate product-as-art as it has existed for the last two generations. Give me all of this because I love it so; Pink Lemonade boasts a heroine whose upbeat attitude and curiosity for her whole raison d’être recalls Mike Allred’s Madman while zooming down an entirely new course of superhero comics that could only belong to Cagnetti. 2022 saw a small avalanche of creator-owned cape comics crowd the shelves for a shot at relevance but Pink Lemonade flew over all of it, Knievel-style, propelled by the vision and evident artistic glee that came from a singular voice that still has so much excellent stuff yet to show us. — JJ

Little Monarchs (Holiday House). An exquisitely crafted piece of climate fiction, not about saving humanity or a measure of how much we have to lose, but about a family surviving. A scientist. A kid. Follow the butterflies or die. Case sees survival as the preservation of culture, not merely staying alive. What’s life without a favorite song? Yet it is survival. A book about our world: as long as we are around, we are in danger. The art is magnificent watercolor, a loving depiction of the natural world, and a hearty vehicle for bold character work. Folks with enough life in them to fall for. I cried reading this quite a bit. Flora and fauna are life-accurate, so is the devastating finality of loss, and so are the wings on which hope flies. Heart. That said, full of experimental content in traditional form, Case turns from comics to diary entries and documentary materials, and I was intellectually enchanted by my immersion into its world. It’s a marvelous little journal you get to peek into. You can see how much Case loves the planet and how badly he wants us to have a place in its future. — AOK

Eight Billion Genies (Image Comics). Between the conjoined visions of writer Charles Soule and artist Ryan Browne, in both concept and execution, Eight Billion Genies is raw, unleashed, creative nirvana. Each installment explores eventualities and rabbit holes entirely possible given a world where everyone gets one wish that, when utilized instantly, sometimes insanely, becomes reality. All the accompanying baggage and results, be they pleasant or catastrophic, personal or globally impactful, are mined for their narrative. To this mixture, Browne adds design and color palettes stretched across a canvas scape of surrealistic whimsy. Scripting and aesthetics extract motherlodes of insight regarding humanity, desires, and gratification that echo the folly and fortitude of our species. And more, it never fails to impress. A concept this pure could easily lapse into a trope-worn tapestry as the storyline unfolds. Yet, Soule & Browne constantly take the reader to destinations and outcomes through character decisions that are fitting. Appropriate. Often unexpected. Meanwhile, the creative team orchestrates reality simultaneously torn asunder and rebuilt in the wake of humanity’s collective imagination made manifest. — CH

Fantastic Four: Full Circle (Abrams Books). It’s a strange thing to consider: a passion project from one of comics’ most mannered workhorses that foists Marvel’s First Family into a Swingin’ Sixties throwback yarn might also be the future of superhero comics. Reverence for what came before, a break from regularly scheduled neverending battles, an artist going for broke taking the form to its visual breaking point, why can’t we have stuff like this every year? The vortex of endless events that mean nothing and reboots that purposely serve even less have done nothing particularly good for modern-day superhero stuff, but a break from the Marvel norm—not to mention, the publisher itself—cooked up what is inarguably one of the most visually memorable Fantastic Four sagas since King Kirby conjured yet another Tuesday onto the pages for our unworthy eyes. The pencil-and-ink, Day-Glo aesthetic Ross pulled together for Full Circle gave us not only the most chaotically gnarly Annihilus yet, it showed us that the FF still has the juice to traverse even more challenging borders of creativity. Just cut the bonds that hold creatives back and hold tight; things get crazy. And crazy good. — JJ

Last Chance to Find Duke (Peow Studio). To document the rare jazz cricket takes toil and sweat, but it also takes paperwork, politics. You’re lucky if you pursue an interesting creature, as trending naturalists are the only ones that get funded, but unlucky to have to deal with the pressure of mandatory success. The study of the natural world attracts individuals who flourish in isolation but have a deep connection to people, both as a whole (trying to preserve the world for future generations) and in the friendships they form (infrequent but concrete). The look of Shang Zhang’s Last Chance to Find Duke is like a log the protagonist scientist would carry: a sketchbook-level of lines, work, and textures, making marks that aren’t simple so much as essential. The energy of the moment is present on every page. Yet Zhang’s art also has the most calculated, subtle duotone I’ve seen in comics. Just enough color to lend depth to the imagery without adding any other tone or presence to the book. The allure of the natural world draws you into it, and Zhang makes that depth resonate in his forest. Intimate art, tiny print run, Miyazaki-core, everything fun, (bitter)sweet, and bespoke about the small press is right here. — AOK

The Ghost in You: A Reckless Book (Image Comics). In this fourth chapter of the Reckless saga, writer Ed Brubaker and illustrator Sean Phillips leave troubleshooter-for-hire Ethan Reckless out of town, and so a client’s unusual case is taken on by Ethan’s assistant, Anna Keller. It’s a neo-noir mystery set in 1989 and involves client Lorna Valentine who fears she’s inherited a haunted house in the Hollywood Hills. It’s been dubbed the Murder Mansion after a bloody history extending back to the 1920s. The fact that Valentine was once better known as a b-movie Scream Queen and later as cheesy horror hostess Evilina compels Anna to help even if it means going ghost-hunting alone. Because, when a childhood idol asks, it’s hard saying no. What Anna uncovers is creepy, a little kooky, but in the end as dire and deadly a case as Reckless Investigations has ever faced. It’s crafted expansion of a supporting character’s background by placing Anna in the foreground as the protagonist in the most compelling Reckless mystery plot yet. Some may be disappointed that Ethan doesn’t play a large part in his own book this volume, but most won’t miss him when diving into the Hollywood Murder Mansion, and into Anna’s compelling backstory. — CH

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow (DC). The best Super-anything of 2022 didn’t kick up dust in Metropolis or even Warworld but barreled through the stars in a dusty final frontier yarn that is unquestionably the finest attempt at telling a story about Kara Zor-El, the Supergirl of Krypton. Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow is something special; it’s a dazzling character re-defining tale that charts new boundaries and finds all sorts of ways to cross them. Tom King, Bilquis Evely, Mat Lopes, and Clayton Cowles, what a team. The salty energy of a certain late-career John Wayne Western, the poignancy of growing up (both for an adolescent and, significantly, for an adult), the hurt and hate and isolation of our lives projected across the vastness of space where vengeance and justice grapple for our hearts, damn. Damn, damn, damn. Every once in a while, a superhero project comes along and changes the game entirely. I don’t presume to know how it happens, but I know it when I see it.. — JJ

What were your favorite comics of 2022? Let us know in the comments section below.


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