The best comics of 2022

Best comics of 2022
Best comics of 2022 (Image credit: Future)

It was a memorable year for comics. Amidst distributor shake-ups and the passing of several important comic creators, multiple adaptations were announced, Image Comics turned thirty, and the Big Two published events that promise to alter the landscape of their universes and the futures of their most popular characters.

And as all this was going on, creators came out in full force to fill shelves with titles that pushed the limits of the medium and got us all to think just a little bit differently. But which of these books stood out? If you had to pick just a few to represent comicdom's 2022 offerings, which ones would you choose?

Of course, that's a question with only subjective answers, but we at Newsarama did our best to compile a list of stand-outs from not only the DC/Marvel superhero titles, but across the spectrum of sequential art storytelling. Here's what we decided on.

Honorable Mention - TMNT: The Last Ronin (opens in new tab)

TMNT: The Last Ronin art

(Image credit: IDW Publishing)

Authors: Peter Laird, Tom Waltz, and Kevin Eastman, (writers); Eastman, Esau Escorza, Ben Bishop, and Isaac Escorza (artists); Ronda Pattison, Samuel Plata, Luis Antonio Delgado, Ryan Kinnaird (colorists); Shawn Lee (letterer)

Publisher: IDW

What is it?

Decades ago, even before the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became a Saturday Morning staple, creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird had an idea. They'd fast forward the TMNT universe into a grim future akin to The Dark Knight Returns. Now, IDW brings their vision of one surviving turtle taking on the future Foot Clan of NYC and avenging his fallen brothers.

The series began in 2020 but concluded in 2022 which is why we've given it an honorable mention designation.

Why should you read TMNT: The Last Ronin?

The Last Ronin is a culmination on so many levels. It's the future foreseen at the creation of the franchise, the last battle between the Oroku and Hamato clans, and the wrap-up of two years of pandemic-addled publication. It's a monumental effort just to attempt something like this, and the fact that it sticks such a resonating landing is even more impressive.

The Last Ronin is a piece of, and lesson on, TMNT history. So much of its tone and narrative harkens back to the franchise's gutsy and violent beginnings when the TMNT were a lot more 'ninja' and a little less 'teenage.' And as much as it is an end, in one sense, it will certainly be a factor in setting the tone for the TMNT comics to come.

Buy: Amazon (opens in new tab)

10. Iron Man: Books of Korvac (opens in new tab)

Iron Man: Books of Korvac art

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Authors: Christopher Cantwell, Kurt Busiek, and Gerry Duggan (writers); Cafu, Julius Ohta, Ibraim Roberson, Angel Unzueta, Lan Medina, Murewa Ayodele, Benjamin Dewey, Adedotun Akande, and Juan Frigeri (artists); Frank D’Armata and Bryan Valenza (colorists); Joe Caramanga (letterer)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

What is it?

Tony Stark has played many roles in his battle with the megalomaniac android Korvac: a refugee in a paradise ruled by Stilt-Man, an intruder in Galactus's WorldShip, and a witness to the very edges of reality. But in 2022, scribe Christopher Cantwell and a team of artists led by Cafu made Tony something else entirely: a god. The rise of the Cosmic Iron Man begins here.

Why should you read Iron Man: Books of Korvac?

Tony Stark is proof of the maxim that money can't buy everything. Using his fabulous wealth and even more impressive genius, Tony's been trying to save the Marvel Universe since his creation in 1963. Unfortunately, he has not gotten far. In fact, Tony has more than once tried too hard to save the world and ended up being a pseudo-villain.

Books of Korvac asks what it's like to constantly come up short as a savior. Tony's inability to accept that he can't save the world by himself is pushed to its absolute limit, with the near omnipotence of the Power Cosmic dropped in his lap. It's also a meditation on power and the idea that too much of it can corrupt even with the best of intentions.

Buy: Amazon (opens in new tab)

9. The Liminal Zone  (opens in new tab)

The Liminal Zone art

(Image credit: VIZ Signature)

Authors: Junji Ito (writer/artist), Eric Erbes (letterer)

Publisher: VIZ Signature

What is it?

Junji Ito returns to shelves with his latest collection of unique and challenging horror shorts. The otherworldly tales in The Liminal Zone include a horrifying tale of Japan's infamous suicide forest and a story about the curse of uncontrollable sobbing. From VIZ media, the master of sequential horror's inimitable style is back; make sure to read with the lights on. 

Why should you read The Liminal Zone?

Simply put, there is no one in sequential art like Junji Ito. His ability to bring horror to the page is unique in the history of the medium; with collections like Uzumaki and Tomie inspiring nightmares and racking up sales numbers years after their original publication dates. Just being a follow-up to Ito's previous work is reason enough to read The Liminal Zone.

But if that's not enough for you, the stories in The Liminal Zone also stand on their own merit. In particular, the Weeping Woman tale chills for the way it uses the physical aspect of uncontrollable sobbing. Like the best episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Liminal Zone is excellent not only for how it scares us but for how it makes us confront the weird.

Buy: Amazon (opens in new tab)

8. Isla to Island (opens in new tab)

Isla to Island art

(Image credit: Simon & Schuster)

Author: Alexis Castellanos (writer/artist) 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

What is it?

Isla to Island tells the story of Marisol, a woman growing up under the Castro dictatorship in Cuba. Despite the political danger, she loves her home, so her heart breaks when her parents send her to Brooklyn. Even more heartbreaking; she's going alone. Marisol's parents may believe she's safer, but can she find a home in an entirely different culture?

Why should you read Isla to Island?

History loses its meaning when boiled down to mere facts. It's hard to connect with statistics, feel for names and dates, or relate to a Wikipedia entry. Isla to Island is the answer to this conundrum, bringing 1950s New York and the immigrant experience to sparkling life in the conflicted but resilient character of Marisol. 

Even beyond its historic moment, Marisol's story is one uncommon to the medium. Creator Castellanos tells an almost entirely silent story, relying on imagery to take the weight of the narrative. It bears this burden with ease and, combined with how the author juxtaposes color and monochrome, makes for a rare and necessary reading experience.

Buy: Amazon (opens in new tab)

7. Marry My Husband (opens in new tab)

Marry My Husband art

(Image credit: Webtoon)

Authors: Sung Sojak (writer/artist)

Publisher: Webtoons (digital)

What is it?

At the very end of her life, Jiwon learns that her best friend and husband have been having an affair. It's a tragic discovery that leads to an even more tragic death, but for Jiwon, the end is the beginning. Reincarnated as her younger self, Jiwon gets a unique chance at revenge. Now, she'll stop at nothing to get her cheating husband and backstabbing best friend together.

Why should you read Marry My Husband?

Webtoons don't come with page turns; they shepard the reader down one long, unbroken emotional arc. While any book could work this way, it's especially effective in a story with a lot of moving parts or with a nonlinear relationship to time. Marry My Husband fits both bills, and though the plot might seem complex, it's one of the most binge-able offerings on the site.

Sung Sojak blends kaleidoscopic speculative fiction with heavy soap opera drama in a way that will both disturb and fascinate a reader, especially in how it handles the concept of inevitability. Though there have been and continue to be plenty of 'doing your life over' stories in the romance genre, none pack the same punch as Marry My Husband.

Read: Webtoon (opens in new tab)

6. X-Men: Red (opens in new tab)

X-Men: Red art

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Authors: Al Ewing (writer); Stefano Caselli, Juann Cabal, Andrés Genolet, Michael Sta. Maria, and Madibek Musabekov (artists); Federico Blee, Matt Wilson, Jesus Aburtov, Fernando Sifuentes, Matt Hollingsworth, and Chris Sotomayor (colorists); Ariana Maher and Cory Petit (letterers)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

What is it? 

Marvel's mutants decided to break away from humanity in the Jonathan Hickman-written X-Saga. Now, they've terraformed and colonized Mars to continue building a society that works for them. But just because they've left humanity doesn't mean they can escape human nature, and just because the planet is full of mutants doesn't mean there isn't need for the X-Men.

Why should you read X-Men: Red?

You knew that we had to include one of the titles in Marvel's ongoing X-saga, our only problem was deciding which one. After all, many solid stories and conspicuous concepts are coming out of that line. And it's for that exact reason that we've chosen X-Men: Red.

This book is the best way to get a snapshot of the new ideas in the X-saga while at the same time focusing on familiar characters. We see how concepts like immortality and emancipation from the human race affect our favorite X-characters personally.

But don't think X-Men: Red doesn't stand on its own. It's also a story of the intentions that go into building a society, and the inevitable alliances and betrayals that occur. Whether you've been following the X-saga from the jump or want a clean start, X-Men: Red is for you.

Buy: Amazon (opens in new tab)

5. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest (opens in new tab)

Batman/Superman: World's Finest art

(Image credit: DC)

Authors: Mark Waid (writer); Dan Mora and Travis Moore (artists); Tamra Bonvillain (colorist); Aditya Bidikar and Steve Wands (letterers)

Publisher: DC

What is it?

The Dark Knight and Man of Steel are partnering again for their own monthly title, and they're shaking up the DC universe as we know it. It features a mystic adventure from the not-too-distant past, the introduction of a superpowered sidekick for Superman, and plenty of guest appearances. And did we mention Dick Grayson as Robin?

Why should you read Batman/Superman: World’s Finest?

Not since Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman has the Silver Age of comics been so beautifully paid homage in a DC book. The scale of Batman and Superman's adventures border on the ridiculous, but without any tongue-in-cheek 'that-just-happened' humor or a hint of modern cynicism. This is pure superhero fun, no grittiness required. 

Contributing to the bright tone of the book is the sparkling art of Dan Mora, the pen behind hits such as Klaus and Once and Future. Plus, World's Finest is a great way to hop into current DC history, as its storylines tie directly into the Mark Waid-written Batman Vs. Robin and the Lazarus Planet event, set to take over comic shops in 2023.

Buy: Amazon (opens in new tab)

4. Little Monarchs (opens in new tab)

Little Monarchs art

(Image credit: Penguin Random House)

Author: Jonathan Case

Publisher: Penguin Random House

What is it?

Little Monarchs follows young Evie and caretaker Flora across the continental US in search of monarch butterflies. Decades have passed since the sun unleashed a terrible sickness upon the globe, and only the wings of the beautiful bugs possess the cure. Part coming-of-age story and part celebration of the natural world, Little Monarchs is a post-apocalyptic tale like no other.

Why should you read Little Monarchs?

Writing a tiny blurb to encapsulate their worth is unfair to every book on this list, but for Little Monarchs, it's blasphemy. There's so much to praise; the staggering watercolors, the use of nature in storytelling, and the poignant but hopeful way it flips the post-apocalyptic formula. Oh, and the book serves as a functioning travel guide.

Yes, you can use Little Monarchs to accurately track the migration patterns of Monarch Butterflies. It's a testament to the years of research creator Case poured into the book, crafting a story that's as factually sound as it is universally accessible as it is narratively engaging. Whether middle-grade readers live in your home or not, it deserves a place on your shelf.

Buy: Amazon (opens in new tab)

3. Public Domain (opens in new tab)

Public Domain art

(Image credit: Image Comics)

What is it?

Authors: Chip Zdarsky

Publisher: Image Comics

You'd think that the biggest comic battles are at the end of an event, but for the Dallas brothers, the fight of their lives is on the credits page. Their father, Syd, is the creator of goldmine hero The Domain, but the company that owns the IP won't give him the credit he deserves. In a story echoing real-life copyright struggles, the Dallases must convince their dad to fight for what's his.

Why should you read Public Domain?

Sadly, there are real-world examples of the people to whom we owe our favorite billion-dollar franchises not getting the compensation they deserve. It's especially true in the comic book sphere. Chip Zdarsky deftly personalizes this too-common occurrence in the Dallas family, while not forgetting to create fleshed-out and lived-in characters.

Comics as a medium is not nearly as self-referential as prose or film, so it's refreshing to see a story like this on shelves. That's especially true coming from Zdarsky, whose knack for characters and surprising sense of humor helps make a story wrought with legal battles and a whole lot of disappointment an enjoyable and re-readable experience.

Buy: Amazon (opens in new tab)

2. The Human Target (opens in new tab)

Human Target art

(Image credit: DC)

Authors: Tom King (writer), Greg Smallwood (artist), and Clayton Cowles (letterer)

Publisher: DC

What is it?

After Christopher Chance takes a poison meant to kill Lex Luthor, he's got 12 days to live. And while the average person might want to spend time with loved ones (or at least relaxing), Chance decides to use his remaining hours on Earth to figure out who killed him. The problem is; his murderer is a member of the Justice League International.

Why should you read The Human Target?

It's Tom King and Greg Smallwood.

Okay, my editor says that can't be the entire reason, so let's get into it. The Human Target is a meditation on mortality first, a superhero story second, and one hell of a murder mystery third. It puts Black Label storytelling to its best use, zooming in on a particular moment in DC history and freeing it from the mountains of continuity that happened around it. 

If that wasn't enough, it may be the most visually beautiful book on this list. Artist Smallwood tackles pencils, inks, and coloring by himself, and every panel crackles with Lichtenstein levels of pop art flair. You may have heard film director Samuel Fuller's quip "Life is in color, but black and white is more realistic." Well, Smallwood has 'em both beat.

Buy: Amazon (opens in new tab)

1. The Good Asian (opens in new tab)

The Good Asian art

(Image credit: Image Comics)

Authors: Pornsak Pichetshote (writer), Alexandre Tefenkgi (artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Jeff Powell (letterer)

Publisher: Image Comics

What is it?

Detective Edison Hark is chasing a killer, and that's not even the worst of his problems. Hark, a Chinese-American working during the Johnson-Reed Act – which placed cruel, race-based mandates on immigration – must deal with a police force that loathes him, his own self-doubt, and cultural bias as black and white as the detective films of the era.

Why should you read The Good Asian?

Don't let the Dark Crises and Judgment Days fool you; we're currently exploring untouched heights in the genre of crime comics. And sitting atop that liquor-soaked, morally-dubious peak is Pichetshote's and Tefenkgi's The Good Asian. It also sits at the top of this list, partially because it takes specific ways the other entries succeed and brings them together.

Like Isla to Island, it makes a moment in history personal. Like Marry My Husband, it wallops the reader with all-too-human brutality. And like The Human Target, it uses familiar noir to say something both timely and timeless. We're not going to say "if you only read one comic this year, make it this one," because there are so many incredible 2022 titles you should read, whether they made it onto this list or not.

But hey, maybe read The Good Asian twice.

Buy: Amazon (opens in new tab)

Grant DeArmitt
Freelance writer

Grant DeArmitt is a NYC-based writer and editor who regularly contributes bylines to Newsarama. Grant is a horror aficionado, writing about the genre for Nightmare on Film Street, and has written features, reviews, and interviews for the likes of PanelxPanel and Monkeys Fighting Robots. Grant says he probably isn't a werewolf… but you can never be too careful.