The GateCrashers get together one more year to tell you about our favorite comics (and some mangas!) that we’ve read throughout 2022. Join us, and find out what comic you need to read from this year!
A.X.E: Judgement Day by Kieron Gillen, Valerio Schiti, and Marte Gracia.
Comic events often are more hit than miss, but AXE: Judgement Day is a rare exception that manages to capture both the grand, high-stakes action and scale of your typical event while also managing to tell a deeply intimate and personal story of humanity and it’s worthiness in a way that feels deeply inspired by writer Kieron Gillen becoming a new father.
Marte Gracia continues the stellar colouring you expect from one of the best in the business, as does Valerio Schiti, who proves his fantastic costume design skills, demonstrated by the SWORD redesigns I’m still obsessed with, extend to Kaiju and Celestials. Schiti excels in the main story, whether it’s the ongoing looks at the daily lives of the people affected by Judgement Day or massive city-scaled battles packed with heroes, gods, and monsters the size of buildings. Valerio Schiti is far from the only incredible artist working on this event, with Gillen working on nearly a dozen tie-in issues to the event alongside some other amazing artists, a personal favourite being Pasqual Ferry on AXE: Eternals.
However, the real highlight of this event belongs not to the main book but the X-men Red tie-ins, as Al Ewing continues his long tradition of taking an event and making the absolute best out of it alongside Stefano Caselli, telling one of the best X-men stories of the Krakoan era. Weaving the ongoing narrative of X-men Red through Judgement Day and bringing them together into something that pushes both stories forward and gives one of the most exciting and heartbreaking arcs I’ve ever read.
As a big Eternals fan, it’s refreshing to see them be allowed to take centre stage in the Marvel Universe for a change, as AXE brings a great conclusion to Gillen’s far too brief Eternals run, while also connecting to the ongoing X-men narrative both in Gillen’s own Immortal X-men and others, and even featuring a few Avengers. Judgement Day pushes the Marvel Universe forward in interesting new ways while also stopping to examine the human cost of the big apocalypses that seem to happen biweekly. It is everything a big summer event could be and one that’ll be talked about for years to come.
One Bad Day: Riddler by Tom King and Mitch Gerads.
To say it was the year of The Riddler would be underplaying just how much incredible storytelling was done with Batman’s most annoying rogue. Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Clayton Cowles joined forces to kick off the One Bad Day series with one of the strongest Batman rogue stories since The Killing Joke. The story explores how the Riddler hasn’t scratched the true depths of the true horrors he was capable of until now. This is a perfect stand alone story for anyone who enjoyed The Batman’s portrayal of the most punchable face in the DCU.
Nightfall: Double Feature by David Andry, Tim Daniel, Daniel Kraus, Chris Shehan and Maan House
Horror is my home. Horror are the stories I’ve always felt the safest with. Horror is constantly the place where I see mediums (is comics a medium or format gab?) pushed to new places. Nightfall is doing just that by doing a midnight double feature style format which horror is synonymous with. Each of the two stories explores very different styles of horror, but both have deeper themes running below the surface. With two distinct art styles, this is a series you need to jump on if you’re looking for some brilliant horror. 2 stories for the price of one is also something you don’t want to pass up.
Sakamoto Days by Yuto Suzuki.
Dan “The Manga Man” McMahon here to tell you about a must-read series that Jake turned me onto. Sakamoto Days follows a convenience store owner who was once the world’s top assassin. While dealing with a new protege and a bounty on his head, Sakamoto must keep everything secret from his family, who he loves dearly. It’s a wonderful goofy romp that can have incredible scenes of unforgettable action followed by a wholesome family bonding moment. This is the good stuff. Worth checking out!
Do a Powerbomb! by Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer, and Rus Wooton.
If there’s one comic not from Marvel or DC that I felt made a big impact, it’s the wild and eclectic Do A Powerbomb by writer/artist Daniel Warren Johnson and his team, which includes colorist Mike Spicer & letterist Rus Wooton. Within the context of a wrestling story with a unique twist, Johnson has crafted a world with characters that are easy to root for and equally memorable adversaries for heroine Lona Steelrose to contend with.
Johnson also pulls double-duty in Do A Powerbomb, providing the miniseries with some amazing art on top of his writing. This series might contain the best depiction of wrestling in a comic book that I have ever seen. Above all else, however, what makes Do A Powerbomb shine is the compelling family drama that Johnson has embedded into this mishmash of a story. The strong familial bond with Lona, her father, and mother – all of whom are wrestling heroes of the past, present, and future – is what ties this story together, and Johnson plays to those strengths real well. It’s a total package that’s complemented well by Spencer’s colours and Wooton’s letters.
With strong writing, art and colors, Do A Powerbomb is a hellraising good time that may tug at a heartstring or two along the way. It’s a comic that I recommend reading from beginning to end wholeheartedly.
It’s Jeff! Season Two by Kelly Thompson, and Daniele Di Nicuolo.
Jeff the Land Shark, the breakout star of 2018’s West Coast Avengers, returns in his own comic for more adorable, goofy little adventures. A big part of the appeal of It’s Jeff! is its simplicity. Writer Kelly Thompson (Jeff’s co-creator) and art duo Gurihiru put a mischievous but good-hearted little critter in stand-alone slice-of-life scenarios, and he behaves like a cute, funny little guy. There’s no end-of-the-world scenarios and almost no words: just warm, fuzzy vibes and the occasional Marvel superhero guest star. This year’s wave of issues has been particularly fun. From shrinking serum hijinks to the highly-anticipated reunion of Jeff and Gwenpool. Each entry is short, but highly re-readable, and I personally find myself returning to Jeff’s silly little stories every time I need a pick-me-up. The world is an intense and emotionally-draining place, and sometimes you just need to find shelter in a tiny, semiaquatic shark doing delightful shenanigans.
It’s Jeff! is currently a Marvel Unlimited digital exclusive, but both seasons will be included in a physical edition that hits comic store shelves next March.
Minor Threats by Jordan Blum, Scott Hepburn, Patton Oswalt, and Ian Herring.
Jordan Blum and Patton Oswalt once again team-up to deliver an unexpected take on supervillains, but this time it’s something quite different than their M.O.D.O.K. series on Hulu.
The series is a passionate tribute to the ultimate underdogs of superhero comics: the D-list supervillains who have powers like “vermin manipulation” and “toy control” who are more comfortable robbing banks than attempting to conquer the world. In short, they’re the kind of crooks that no one takes seriously- but Minor Threats *does* take them seriously, and that’s what makes this series so appealing. This story takes character archetypes familiar to fans of both Marvel and DC comics and does something wholly original with them. There are projects from the Big Two that explore what it’s like to be at the bottom of the food chain in a world of superheroes and villains (2021’s The Suicide Squad is a favorite of mine), but they never quite get to explore every minute implication of the social hierarchy the way Minor Threats does.
Artist Scott Hepburn does a wonderful job crafting this lived-in world where cityscapes are built around kaiju bones and temporal anomalies- reminders that the big leaguers don’t bother to clean up after their epic battles.
Our protagonist, Frankie (aka Playtime), is only a supercriminal because her mother was, and she can’t escape it for a different lifestyle in a way that feels very grounded in actual generational struggles. This comic is a deconstruction of the superhero genre, but it’s one that comes from a place of love rather than spite. It follows certain concepts to the logical conclusions that mainstream comics purposefully don’t reach, but at the same time it joyfully embraces the colorful and outlandish parts of these stories. Minor Threats masterfully manages to be deep and insightful while also being unapologetically fun and bombastic. It’s a must read.
Photon #1 by Eve Ewing, Luca Maresca, and Michael Sta. Maria.
Every single time I asked myself what my best comic of 2022 was, I second-guessed my pick – because it was the last Comic I reviewed, but also because it was The archetypical example of what people expect from a comic book.
On some level, I want to have a unique pick that showcases a unique thing that the industry can do, that only comic books can do in this medium, and the very first issue of a Marvel superhero comic book rarely gets to be that – Particularly when it’s introducing a whole new audience to a character that has existed for 40 years but has never had a solo title to call her own, despite having lead several teams including the Avengers before.
But let’s back up for a second. Like it or not, superhero comics are most people’s popular conception of the medium, at least in America. If we want to see people explore all of the weird and wonderful Corners that only this medium can provide, superhero comics that are both accessible and thought-provoking are great way to make that happen.
And I can’t think of a better example of that than this year’s Photon # 1.
Managing the Balancing Act between staying true to the history of a character, introducing a new audience to a new protagonist and a new medium and a brand new start of a story, and Bridging the Gap between the well-known Marvel of the movie and television world and the storied, textured Multiverse that the comics can provide – that’s tough.
Doing all this would be hard to pull off as a story, and doing so as a statement with artistic depth and clarity of purpose, given the page count of a single paperback, would be an achievement. But I’m not here to recommend Photon as a whole book – Eve L. Ewing, Carlos Lopez, Luca Maresca, and Ivan Fiorelli did all of this with issue number one. Not with a book, but with a chapter.
If there is a testament to the storytelling power of 20 slim pages of paper, this is it.