75. Moon Knight
Writer: Jed MacKay
Artist: Rod Reis, Stephen Segovia, Alessandro Cappuccio, Federico Sabbatini
Synopsis: How can Marc Spector fight someone no one knows? Out for blood, Moon Knight hits the streets armed with only a name: Zodiac! But sometimes the streets hit back — and Marc, fighting his way through the underworld to answer a question he’s barely grasped, had better watch his back! Then, when an unnatural labyrinth swallows up his people, Moon Knight faces an impossible challenge! And as an assassin infiltrates the Midnight Mission, another hidden enemy strikes where Marc is most vulnerable. Attacked on two fronts, the Fist of Khonshu is on the defensive — but that’s where he’s most dangerous! Plus: Arrested during the DEVIL’S REIGN event, Moon Knight must fight for survival in a high-tech prison filled with the very criminals he helped put away!
Why it Made the List: I turned a corner with this current run of Moon Knight this year. That’s not to say I did not like it when it first came out, rather it just did not feel on the same level as some of the other Moon Knight runs that have made this list in years past. As the story has begun to build though I am better able to understand what is being built here.
If you are someone, like me, that was disappointed with the Disney Plus show it was great to escape back to this comic to get a superb representation of the character and his world. Jed MacKay has become one of Marvel’s best and most consistent writers no matter what character he is taking on.
74. Space Story
Writer/Artist: Fiona Ostby
Publisher: West Margin Press
Synopsis: Two women fall in love and start a family on a dying Earth. Only one escapes to space. Her family is still on the planet. They won’t give up until they find each other again.
From debut author Fiona Ostby, Space Story weaves an interstellar tale of discovering love and finding strength, courage, and hope—even in the darkest moments.
Why it Made the List: Space Story is a beginner’s guide to how the right color palette can set the exact mood you are looking for. It tells a tale of two halves one half being how this couple got together and another in the future as they are dealing with being separated by literal space. Earth is dying and the only answer is a Space station orbiting the planet but you have to go through a rigorous program to be selected.
This gives us one tale of loving and another of longing and that balance worked quite well. If this was told in a straightforward manner it probably has been overbearing.
Also appreciated how it kept it simple. Each feeling and thought was right there to absorb, and that simplicity allowed for easy investment into these characters’ lives.
Writer/Artist: Mathieu Bablet
Publisher: Magnetic Press
Synopsis: After 1000 years on his throne, the immortal former king of Hyperborea sets out for Mount Olympus to ask the gods why he was cursed with such a condition, and how he might finally be allowed to die to be with the one he once loved. On his way, he will meet men, women, gods, and goddesses who will influence and reveal truths to the traveler that he has long since forgotten.
A sweeping tale of Greek Mythology reimagined through the distinct lens of celebrated author/artist Mathieu Bablet, mixing intimate character details with grand landscapes in a visual style uniquely his own.
Why it Made the List: As I am getting older and I am realizing more and more the fragility of human memory. So when a comic like Adrastea examines memory but in a far more epic sense, I become immediately intrigued. Adrastea is not just about an immortal wondering around realizing how much he forgot. It was simply a way to identify with this tale ultimate form of humanity questioning the wisdom of the gods.
Mathieu Bablet’s has a different look than I am used to for French artists. His figures tend to have a more angular design and he uses a lot of lines to give more of a sketchy countenance. Where it shines though are the luscious backdrops he constructs. So much immaculate detail and design as if each page is destined to be displayed as its own unique piece of art.
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Geraldo Borges, Bruno Redondo, Daniele Di Nicuolo
Publisher: DC Comics
Synopsis: After millionaire Dick Grayson announces to Blüdhaven his plans to give all his money away to create the Alfred Pennyworth Foundation and help unhoused children on the streets, Blockbuster feels the city’s power slipping from his hands and places a target on Dick Grayson’s head…and through gritted teeth he orders his assassins to…get Grayson. Also in this volume is the fan-favorite story from Nightwing #87 presented as one continously connected 22-page image, which was nominated for a 2022 Eisner for Best Single Issue.
Why it Made the List: This is been one of my favorite DC comics since Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo took over the title. Now, I am not this massive Nightwing fan. In fact, this is probably the first time I have stuck with a Nightwing title for so long, but reading this title just gives me the feeling I look for in DC comics.
Even things that should not work, like Nite-Mite, do to great effect. I have seen some complaints that this run has been too light, and perhaps that is the case but considering the landscape of comics that is exactly what I need when reading a DC comic.
Writer: Claribel A. Ortega
Artist: Rose Bousamra
Publisher: First Second
Synopsis: A middle grade graphic novel about Marlene, a young girl who stops straightening her hair and embraces her natural curls.
Marlene loves three things: books, her cool Tía Ruby and hanging out with her best friend Camila. But according to her mother, Paola, the only thing she needs to focus on is school and “growing up.” That means straightening her hair every weekend so she could have “presentable”, “good hair”.
But Marlene hates being in the salon and doesn’t understand why her curls are not considered pretty by those around her. With a few hiccups, a dash of embarrassment, and the much-needed help of Camila and Tia Ruby—she slowly starts a journey to learn to appreciate and proudly wear her curly hair.
Why it Made the List: Culture is a word used to encapsulate so much about the way people live. What a book like Frizzy can do is expand on what that actually means by focusing on one specific aspect of life, and based on the name you can tell it is hair. Something that may seem inconsequential to some, but can be a driving force to others. When people talk about privilege people can misconstrue what that means. A book like Frizzy can clear up that confusion. When you have to go through hours of pain as a child to fit into what society expects. Frizzy can work as a window to another world and motivation to accept who you are and the way you look. One of the best comics for young readers this year along with any adult willing to learn.
Writer/Artist: Sophie Burrows
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Synopsis: Life is full of connections – if you know how to make them. Crushing follows two people – one determined and a bit awkward, the other unsure where to begin – longing to find out where they belong. Their intersecting and overlapping journeys reveal hidden connections and the unpredictable and unexpected ways we may find each other.
Achingly beautiful, quietly defiant, and full of subtle wit and wisdom, Crushing is a story told in silence; a story without words but bursting with life and color.
Why it Made the List: Crushing is a nearly wordless comic about a very simple but vital part of our existence-human connection. You have a woman who is clearly yearning to find someone to connect to and a man who lacks the confidence to reach out. Throughout the comic, you are just waiting for the classic ‘meet-cute’ moment, which makes you wait for it bit by bit.
Sophie Burns shows how coloring can go a long way to express the importance of a scene. Red is used to accent these characters through hair color, clothes, or a random bag of chips that they yearn for. I found the simplicity of this entire piece rather endearing. Without any dialog, you know exactly who these people are and what they want. Amazing what one can create with the skill of storytelling.
69. Vann Nath: Painting the Khmer Rouge
Writer: Matteo Mastragostino
Artist: Paolo Castaldi
Publisher: Life Drawn
Synopsis: The true story of the Cambodian painter Vann Nath, who used his art to fight against barbarism and tyranny.
In 1978, a young painter named Vann Nath was arrested by the Khmer Rouge, the violent and totalitarian Communist Party of Kampuchea that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Imprisoned in the infamous Tuol Sleng prison, better known as S-21, painting became synonymous with survival for him. Ordered, like many Cambodian artists and craftsmen, to put his talent to use to glorify his captors, upon his release he continued painting—this time, to remember and pay tribute to the victims of Pol Pot’s regime.
Why it Made the List: Painting as therapy can be a powerful tool. A therapeutic exercise that allows people to work through tragedy in a way simple words cannot. So a graphic novel about Vann Nath, a famous artist, who lived through horrific capture by a totalitarian regime, makes a lot of sense.
Art can also be used to denigrate for the purpose of propaganda as Vann Nath was forced to do by his captors. So there is a level of poetic justice to now use a similar art form to expose their crimes. You do worry a comic like this could try to take advantage of people’s tragedy for their own personal gain, but here respect is paid in telling this story.
68. Damn Them All
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Publisher: Boom Studios
Synopsis: In this new dark supernatural thriller for fans of We Have Demons and Something is Killing the Children, meet Ellie “Bloody El” Hawthorne: occultist-for-hire.
Following the death of Ellie’s uncle, an infamous magician and occult detective, the 72 devils of the Ars Goetia are mysteriously freed from their infernal realm.
It’s now up to Ellie to track down each of these exiled demons and damn them right back to Hell by any means necessary… holy water, conjuration, or just her trusty, rusty claw hammer.
Legendary The Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard teams up with Step By Bloody Step scribe Simon Spurrier to introduce your favorite new occult antihero since John Constantine!
Why it Made the List: Two years ago Simon Spurrier’s run on Hellblazer was my favorite comic of the year, and this title Damn Them All captures pretty much everything I loved about that book only a few issues in. I was hesitant to rank it this high since I have only read three issues at this point, but if this series finishes just as well as it started no doubt it will be in my top 10 for 2023.
It is also great to see Charlie Adlard’s art again. He does not get enough credit for what he brought to the Walking Dead universe so if anyone thought his run on that was a fluke check out what he is doing here. The guy can do great character work within a horror setting like no other. Really hoping we get a long run on this book as we did with The Walking Dead.
67. My Wandering Warrior Existence
Writer/Artist: Kabi Nagata
Publisher: Seven Seas
Synopsis: Nagata Kabi, the award-winning creator of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, embarks on a search for romance in this brand-new diary comic!
Nagata Kabi’s groundbreaking autobiographical work has captivated audiences around the globe, starting with the viral online comic about identity that would become the graphic novel My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. Readers from all backgrounds have been moved by the author’s ability to capture complex emotions through her art and text, giving insight into feelings they may have struggled to articulate themselves. Nagata Kabi’s memoirs, including the Eisner-nominated My Solo Exchange Diary and new release My Alcoholic Escape From Reality, have explored themes of physical and mental illness, sex and sexuality, family, and independence. Follow the newest installment of this trailblazing series with My Wandering Warrior Existence, Nagata Kabi’s exploration of longing for love and marriage.
Why it Made the List: Have you ever heard the term overshare? When someone gives you way too much information about their personal life. Well, that pretty much describes the career of Kabi Nagata. With each memoir, she reveals herself with reckless abandon. She is not afraid to show her ignorance, fears, and worst moments on the page.
Now, if you are worried that this is a cavalcade of sadness that is not the case. Nagata has a sense of humor and My Wandering Warrior Existence is far less serious than her last title My Alcoholic Escape From Reality. Not as many life-and-death stakes in this one. It does get rather awkward at times. I mean the opening is her getting wedding photos done of a wedding that does not actually exist. What it demonstrates well though is how human connection is not easy, especially the older you get.
Writer: Zack Kaplan
Artist: John Pearson
Publisher: Vault Comics
Synopsis: When an introverted tech geek accidentally discovers mind control, he and his friends do something unexpected – they put the science into an app to help users break their technology addiction. But as their Mindset app achieves a dangerous cult following, lies, conspiracies, and murder come to light. Are they helping people or controlling them?
Why it Made the List: Imagine if the worst people you can imagine, Tech Bros, got the power to control minds. Scary thought right? Well with Mindset that idea is explored.
What I find fascinating about this comic though is the art of John Pearson, because it is in direct contrast to what you would expect in depicting the world of tech jobs. When you think of Google or other startups everything seems rather polished and clean. Pearson’s art is rough and abstract and packed with innovation. I find myself just staring at his pages because there is so much to absorb within each panel. He has a very similar style to what Martin Simmonds is doing with The Department of Truth, and I can see why he did the art for an issue of that series. Anytime I see his name on a book I’ll be picking it up now.
65. Batman: The Knight
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Publisher: DC Comics
Synopsis: How did an angry, damaged young man grow into the most accomplished detective and crime-fighter the world has ever known? How did the Dark Knight…begin?
Bruce Wayne’s journey toward becoming the Dark Knight has begun, and he has many hard lessons to learn before his education is complete. His adventure begins in the City of Lights, Paris, where he’ll train with a world-renowned cat burglar and come into contact with a horrifying serial killer stalking the city’s wealthy elite…will this “first test” for the young Batman prove deadly?
Why it Made the List: This isn’t revolutionary in terms of character context but the level of storytelling is sound. Bruce’s feeling of isolation is well represented as he is often alone or separated in each panel. As he walks into Wayne Manor there is this ever-long shadow that hangs over this empty building devoid of the life it once had.
Colorist Ivan Plascencia covers the world in shadows as well. A soft color palette is used to represent the underlying youth that still exists within Bruce’s world. This plays like a well-crafted cover song that may have the lyrics of something we heard before but enough new sound to make it its own distinguished creation. May not bring in new fans but satisfy the old.
Chip Zdarsky has taken over the main title of Batman and while I have enjoyed what he has done with that book thus far from a story perspective this was better executed. Batman has had more origins in the comics than anyone but the detail in his journey allowed it to stand out. It wasn’t in a rush to put on the cape and cowl and allowed who Bruce was before Batman to be more defined.
Writer: Neil Gaiman (story) Colleen Doran
Artist: Colleen Doran
Publisher: Dark Horse
Synopsis: An elderly widow buys what turns out to be the Holy Grail from a second-hand shop, setting her off on an epic adventure with a knight who brings her gifts of ancient relics in hope of winning the cup.
From the Eisner and Bram Stoker-award winning team of Snow, Glass, Apples comes a delightfully humorous and charming new graphic novel adaptation.
Why it Made the List: This was a quaint tale in the best of ways. An elderly woman finds the Holy Grail at a thrift store and it brings a famous knight to her door as he tries to convince her to gift him the illustrious cup. A setup to explore the beauty and bittersweetness of human life
Colleen Doran is such a phenomenal storyteller and should be given the green light to adapt any Neil Gaiman work after really enjoying this and Snow, Glass, Apples. The color palette has the look of a historic Renaissance painting and the feeling of the decor of your favorite eclectic Aunt.
The entire experience has the warm embrace of a refreshing mug of tea on a cool Autumn evening. There are no dire circumstances here despite dealing with items of immense power and wealth. Instead, there is patience to embrace the wonders of the world around us.
63. Two Heads: A Graphic Exploration of How Our Brains Work with Other Brains
Writer: Uta Frith, Chris Frith,Christopher D. Frith, Alex Frith
Artist: Daniel Locke
Synopsis: This “charming and addictively accessible introduction to neuroscience” (Steven Pinker) takes us on a highly entertaining tour through the wonders and mysteries of the human brain—from a renowned husband-and-wife team of cognitive neuroscientists.
Professors and husband-and-wife team Uta and Chris Frith have pioneered major studies of brain disorders throughout their nearly fifty-year career. Here, in this “pleasing mix of wonder, genial humor, and humility” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), they tell the compelling story of the birth of neuroscience and their paradigm-shifting discoveries across areas as wide-ranging as autism and schizophrenia research, and new frontiers of social cognition including diversity, prejudice, confidence, collaboration, and empathy.
Why it Made the List: Over ten years ago I had neurosurgery (nothing serious), but it did lead me to be fascinated with how the brain works. So of course a graphic novel like Two Heads: A Graphic Exploration of How Our Brains Work with Other Brains is something that fits right into my interests.
Reading this two things became very clear. The first is how little we actually know about how the human brain works, and the second is how hard it is to actually study the brain. Doing this as a comic was a great choice because some complex stuff is being covered here–not rocket science but close! But the information is organized well to give you a basis before diving deeper into the more complex information.
What also helps is the personal connection. Alex Frith is not just talking to random doctors but his own parents. Does that change the information presented? No, but it makes something that could just be formal information much more relatable. If more information was presented like this we would have a much smarter populace.
62. X-Men: Red
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Stefano Caselli, Juann Cabal, Stephanie Hans, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Arthur Adams, Christian Ward,
Synopsis: Who can save the red planet? The mutants of Arakko spent millennia scarred by war—but on the world once called Mars, they’re learning to live in peace. Storm knows something greater than a queen is needed to keep this fragile new world together—but while she has a broken Magneto in her corner, Roberto Da Costa is making his own moves. Abigail Brand of S.W.O.R.D. has other plans to influence Arakko, with an unstable Vulcan on her side and Cable keeping his own secrets! And what of the ruthless Tarn the Uncaring, who now sits on the planet’s ruling council? As machinations and revelations rock the red planet, the clock ticks down to interstellar war—and judgment day is coming. It’s a new world full of intrigue, and someone has to fight for it!
Why it Made the List: This could make the list solely for how well Storm has been represented in this series so far. She has long been one of my favorite X-Men, but sometimes X-Men writers do not know how to handle her character. With her god-like powers people tend to just try to find a way to put her on the sidelines So how do you write a god? Well, treat her like one and show the force of nature she is not just with her powers.
Al Ewing has made some of Marvel’s best comics over the last few years and that has continued with this series, and one consistent with the X-Men books is the amount of vastly talented artists they use. Juann Cabal may be my favorite in this group, but everyone brings it when taking on this title.
61. Usagi Yojimbo
Writer/Artist: Stan Sakai
Synopsis: The rabbit ronin’s newest adventures continue in this fifth volume that sees Usagi and Yukichi on a mission to deliver a valuable object!
But first, in “A Ghost Story,” Usagi and Yukichi come upon a young woman, Shizuye, praying at a shrine to a girl murdered fifty years ago by her married lover. Shizuye is in the same predicament, and Usagi and Yukichi take it upon themselves to become her protectors. However, all is not what it seems as the local priest warns them to beware of ghosts in the area.
Then, in “The Secret of the Green Dragon” Usagi and Yukichi are obligated to deliver a priceless jade dragon to a merchant. During their journey they witness a runner delivering a parcel of jewels to the same merchant killed on the road ahead. However, the killers left the jewels and escaped with the container leading them to the realization that the box they carry may be even more valuable than the jade within.
Why it Made the List: It is easy to forget just how good Usagi Yojimbo is and has been for thirty-five plus years. Everything about it reflects the presence of the creator Stan Sakai. Understated and never overtly trying to capture your attention. There is silent confidence that continues to execute with each and every issue. All comic creators should study Usagi Yojimbo to understand how you can have a longstanding comic that can appease fans as well as newcomers. You can pick up nearly any issue of this series and it gives you everything you need. It is a modern-day fable. With this being Usagi Yojimbo’s last year with IDW (for now) Stan Sakai continued plugging along as a great storyteller. Although he may be leaving IDW it is not the end of the series as he will be returning to Dark Horse next year. Wonder what he has planned for the future.
60. My Bad
Writer: Mark Russell, Bryce Ingman
Artist: Peter Krause
Synopsis: A sharp super-hero spoof from a stellar team that includes co-creators of Irredeemable and Second Coming! In Gravel City, the super-villain Emperor King has devised not only a sadistic death trap for his arch-enemy, The Accelerator, but also the means to penetrate the top secrets of his other arch-enemy, The Chandelier. Get in on the ground floor of the important new comic book universe!
Why it Made the List: Ahoy gave Mark Russell, Bryce Ingman, and Peter Krause the keys to create their own superhero universe and I could not be happier for it. Russell has been one of my favorite writers in comics for years now so I am not surprised he was able to pull off this humorous take on characters that seem familiar but remain original. Peter Krause is an artist I did not know much about and I am happy to add him to my list of artists to keep an eye out for in the future.
I have read a lot of comedic comics that had art that just did not mix well with the words on the page. The script was solid but the tone could never settle. Not the case with My Bad. Krause has a bit of a classic superhero style that leans to the cartoony side. Characters have great expression and the colors are bright and balanced. Everything fits together quite nicely.
59. Batman / Superman: World’s Finest
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Dan Mora, Travis Moore
Publisher: DC Comics
Synopsis: The Dark Knight. The Man of Steel. They are the two finest superheroes that the world has ever known…and they’re together again in an epic new series from the legendary talents of Mark Waid and Dan Mora!
In the not-too-distant past, Superman’s powers are supercharged from a devastating chemical attack by the villain Metallo…and the only ally that the ultra-powerful Man of Tomorrow can turn to in this turbulent hour is Gotham’s own dark vengeance: the Batman. A nearly fatal burst of power drives Bruce Wayne to his own extreme measures to help his friend…enlisting none other than the Doom Patrol for aid. It’s the World’s Greatest Super Heroes from the world’s greatest talent in an epic collection experience that kicks off the next big events in the DCU. Get ready, it’s time to soar.
Why it Made the List: One of the biggest highlights of 2022 was having Mark Waid writing DC comic characters again after such a long hiatus. There are few people on this planet that understand these characters better than him. With all the turmoil with DC films right now I would highly advise them to hire Waid to teach any of their writers or directors about what makes the DC universe so special.
They could also just read this comic. Dana Mora has turned into a superstar in these last few years so I was happy to see he was the person chosen to take on this book. The best way to describe this book is with food. So I grew up in Pennslayvina in an area that had a plethora of places that made amazing cheesesteaks. I have since moved to a part of the US that just can’t do it quite right. Even when they try to use branding like ‘Philadelphia Cheesesteaks”. So when I get a craving for a real good cheesesteak I have no place to go, which makes return visits back home worth it to experience to fulfill that craving. This book fulfills a craving that has not been filled in years. It’s as good as a cheesesteak. I literally could not give it higher praise than that.
58. Spy x Family
Writer/Artist: Tatsuya Endo
Publisher: VIZ MEDIA
Synopsis: Master spy Twilight is unparalleled when it comes to going undercover on dangerous missions for the betterment of the world. But when he receives the ultimate assignment—to get married and have a kid—he may finally be in over his head!
Yor is assigned to bodyguard a mafia family on a cruise ship by the secret organization Garden. But with Lloyd and Anya also on board thanks to a giveaway they won, Yor is starting to have doubts about her secret life as an assassin…
Why it Made the List: This was a book that basically said, “Yea, we are just going for it!”. Spys, Assassins, a kid orphan with telepathic powers? Yep, to all of that. Either you go with it or you don’t because it is going full speed to get this concept established.
A spy is forced to start a family is basically a sitcom concept and it doesn’t shy away from that. There is always a sense of humor that is clearly winking at the audience. It leads to a fun light read full of laughs.
57. Step by Bloody Step
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Matías Bergara, Matheus Lopes
Publisher: Image Comics
Synopsis: THERE IS A GIRL. She has no memory and no name. Nothing but a GUARDIAN. An armored giant who protects her from predators and pitfalls.
TOGETHER THEY WALK across an extraordinary fantasy world. If they leave the path the air itself comes alive, forcing them onwards. Why? The girl doesn’t know, but there’s worse than beasts and bandits ahead. CIVILIZATION, with its temptations and treacheries, will test their bond beyond its limits. STEP BY BLOODY STEP is a fantasy opus from the Eisner Award nominees behind CODA (sélection officielle Angoulême 2021): MATIAS BERGARA (Hellblazer, THE SCUMBAG) & SI SPURRIER (X-Men Legacy, Hellblazer, The Spire). Breaking new ground for the possibilities of sequential art, this completely wordless visual feast will delight fans of Princess Mononoke, ISOLA, and the visionary works of Moebius.
Why it Made the List: We can argue all day about what is the greatest invention in human history, but there’s no doubt the creation of language would need to be near the top. Without it, we couldn’t even have the argument, to begin with. So what happens when a comic decides to remove every bit of language from its pages? Are we brought back to a time in place when our visual sense was astute enough to asses a situation or is all understanding simply lost due to the lack of comprehension? With Step by Bloody Step by Simon Spurrier, Matías Bergara, and Matheus Lopes it is much more the former.
Reading this I did wonder if this was simply a way to not have to pay a letterer. Does the lack of language enhance the experience or is it just a gimmick? The mileage on that answer may vary but I will say it does make you pay attention to the art a great deal more and considering the level of craftsmanship with the art that is a good thing.
The narrative is simple enough as we see this massive creature trying to protect this girl for reasons we do not fully understand. It is a quest for survival where dangers of all types from monsters to armies are around every corner. I tend to find Spurrier to be the type of creator that leans heavily on his written word, especially with epics like this. A change of pace like this was an incredible achievement that put everyone to the test, particularly the artists. A great byproduct of all of this is the universal nature of this story. We all get to experience it together no matter what language we speak or read.
56. Trve Kvlt
Writer: Scott Bryan Wilson
Artist: Liana Kangas
Synopsis: Marty Tarantella has been flipping burgers for 15 years. He has no kids, no hobbies, no love interests, and, essentially, no life. But what he does have is a plan to change everything. Years of watching the daily rhythms of the neighboring stores has given Marty the idea for a perfect heist, but when he accidentally steals a supernatural weapon from a cult full of violent lunatics, the resulting Satanic panic will be way above his minimum-wage pay grade.
Why it Made the List: I love stories when people get into situations they are not at all prepared for or have the skills to find success. When someone jumps into a situation on impulse and quickly realizes they are over their head. Something the Coen Brothers are really good at, and Trve Kvlt felt like if you took two Coen brother’s movies Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski, and merged them into one.
I never knew where this story was going. We start with a Fast Food worker robbing a lonely strip mall and suddenly demonic cults! What’s brilliant is how well those shifts are built into the story. A throwaway line becomes an important plot point shortly after. This yielded a story that is chaotic but fluid as it moves from moment to moment.
55. Issunboshi: A Graphic Novel
Writer/Artist: Ryan Lang
Publisher: Oni Press
Synopsis: An epic graphic novel retelling of the Japanese folktale about the one-inch Samurai, Issunboshi.
In a feudal Japan where creatures of myth and folklore are real, a demon sets out to reforge an ancient weapon to take over the world. The only person who can stop him is a six-inch-tall would-be samurai, who also happens to be the final and most important piece of the weapon.
Why it Made the List: What amazing lighting this book had. That might not seem like the most important thing to point out when talking about a book, but Ryan Lang knows how to stage a scene with basic concepts of lighting and scale. I was not surprised he comes from a love of animation as his style feels more akin to that medium than that of comics. It is also apparent in the page design with the limited but spacious panels. Loved looking at every single page of this.
Being based on a classic Japanese folktale the story seemed to stay true to its routes. A classic epic that showcases the challenge to become a hero, especially one who is destined for greatness. Fans of shows like Samurai Jack or comics like Usagi Yojimbo will get a great deal out of this.
54. Hulk: Grand Design
Writer/Artist: Jim Rugg
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Synopsis: The acclaimed GRAND DESIGN franchise continues with the Monster…and the Madness! Writer/artist Jim Rugg follows in the tradition of Ed Piskor and Tom Scioli by unfurling the full saga of the Incredible Hulk, from the very beginning to the present day! From Bruce Banner’s volatile upbringing to the fateful gamma bomb detonation that changed everything – to years of anger, smashing and just wanting to be left alone! He’s been a hero…a hate figure…even a world-breaker. Now witness the biggest moments in the Hulk’s history – through the eyes of a single visionary storyteller! You’ll never look at Bruce Banner the same way again!
Why it Made the List: I have really enjoyed all the different Grand Design books. We got X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and now the Hulk. Jim Rugg knows comics as well as anyone. You just have to watch his YouTube channel to realize that. Fittingly he also knows design and that was key for this series. Taking decades of history and fitting it into two comics is not easy. When you are also trying to make it into a story that makes sense the difficulty level escalated rather quickly.
Despite that difficulty, if you were to find someone who never heard of Hulk before and gave them this book I wouldn’t doubt they would think this was an original story organically put together. My question is if this trend will continue with another key Marvel character. My hope is Spider-Man but who will do it will remain a question.
53. The Forest
Writer/Artist: Thomas Ott
Synopsis: The Forest is a graphic novella told via twenty-five singular illustrations, without words, of which only Swiss artist Thomas Ott is capable. A young boy sneaks away from a family funeral and sinks into the forest depths, where he confronts man’s greatest fear and must choose his path. Drawing with a technique called scratchboard, where a white surface is covered with a black layer and scratched away, Ott creates images out of negative space to harrowing effect. In Ott’s hands, the medium becomes the perfect vessel for his eerie, horror-imbued morality tales. This gorgeous volume will be printed on heavy art paper with Pantone Black ink to best showcase every exquisite detail of Ott’s virtuosic talent.
Why it Made the List: The Forest by Thomas Ott may push the boundaries of what people consider a comic with its absence of dialog and one image per page. It could take longer to watch a Tiktok video than read this but as someone who likes boundaries pushed I found much to absorb within these pages
A clear rumination on the impact of death on a young mind Ott encapsulates the stages of grief within his visual display. Love the use of scratchboard as the impressive detail evokes some haunting imagery as sheer darkness slowly takes over. That is where this story is told.
The old adage of a picture is worth a thousand words is tested here as you can get as lost within the art as much as you choose. A unique form of craftsmanship that makes the medium of comics so special.
Writer/Artist: Danie Stirling
Publisher: Etch/Clarion Books
Synopsis: Falling in love just got sweeter in this charming, romantic YA graphic novel from WEBTOON, the #1 digital comic platform. Ray, a young seer struggling with her powers, discovers first love and friendship in her town’s magic bakery.
In a very special town, there’s an even more unusual bakery with a selection of baked treats hand-crafted to help your dreams come true. For Ray, a quiet young woman with special powers of her own, the order is always the same: a hot tea with a delicious side of romance.
When Ray meets Laurie, the kind barista who aspires to be a professional musician, she gets a real taste of love for the first time. But even with a spark of magic, romance isn’t so simple. Both Ray and Laurie are chasing their own dreams and even when Ray starts to see the future, she can’t predict her fate with Laurie.
Why it Made the List: With Crumbs Danie Stirling made such an endearing love story. As a nearly 40-year-old dude, I am clearly not the target audience for this, but I can recognize a good YA comic when I see one. Love seeing Webtoons step into the physical media more, and despite being designed for online reading this reads great in the physical format.
Love that Ray and Laurie have their own stories and goals outside of just their relationship. Stirling takes time to make sure both feel like complete people to make you invested in their relationship and all the ups and downs. Oh, and then you have all the magic. I don’t know if all those elements fully worked, and it felt like a bigger story was being built there that never came to pass. I wonder if that was a purposeful choice because much of this story was working past expectations to find what you really want.
51. The Lonesome Hunters
Writer/Artist: Tyler Crook
Publisher: Dark Horse
Synopsis: From Russ Manning Award-winning and Eisner-nominated Harrow County co-creator Tyler Crook comes this supernatural fantasy about loss, power, and destiny.
An old and out-of-practice monster hunter in hiding crosses paths with a young girl that forces him to confront these chaotic creatures. As the beasts invade their tenement they set off on a supernatural road trip to stop these ancient evils in a story that explores the ways that youth informs adulthood and how early traumas can haunt us in old age.
Why it Made the List: You know what I discovered reading The Lonesome Hunters? When your protagonist would qualify as a senior citizen you got me invested nearly instantaneously, especially when they are as likable as the characters here. The story in general takes characters that would be cannon fodder in lesser stories and makes them the heroic focal point.
My first exposure to Tyler Crook was when he worked on the series Harrow County and he has grown into quite the storyteller himself. If you were a fan of that book I do not see any reason why this would not work for you. Cook’s art has such a unique texture to it. Almost like a world made of clay that is being formed as you read. He creates a world that is effortless to follow despite all the different uses of magic and special powers.