50. Secret Passages
Writer/Artist: Axelle Lenoir
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Synopsis: Ever since my cosmic twin disappeared, nothing makes sense anymore. Friends, work, life–well, you get the picture.
For all of five minutes I thought therapy might be the answer. But then I remembered: I’m a cartoonist. Why waste a skilled professional’s time when I could just spend 10 years of my life making an autobiographical comic and call it a voyage of self-discovery?
So here it is: the opening chapter of my life. It’s 1985 in a small Quebec town called Notre-Dame du Lac. We’re going to get to know a little girl who enjoys chatting with the forest (that’s me!), a younger brother with demonic tendencies, a tyrannical older brother, and two marvelous parents who may or may not be aliens.
And please, PLEASE, take my advice, dear reader. If you ever find yourself in the midst of an existential crisis, don’t make a comic about it. See a therapist instead. Much love!
Why it Made the List: There are so many graphic memoirs out at a given time it is requiring creators to take unique approaches when recounting their lives in comic book form. Such is the case with Secret Passages as Axelle Lenoir throws in some grand Science Fiction elements to justify the exercise she takes the reader through. Her cosmic twin disappeared causing her to reflect on her past life.
Memoirs can quickly become the literary equivalent of torture porn as you see the creator go through hardship after hardship. Sometimes that is very necessary, but Secret Passages was a bit refreshing with this consistent sense of humor especially when it comes to going to school for the first time. Axelle’s dynamic with her teacher made the book.
So if you are tired of the same old same old when it comes to graphic memoirs Secret Passages does a lot to change the game for an extremely enjoyable and thoughtful way.
49. We Only Kill Each Other
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Peter Krause
Publisher: Comixology / Dark Horse
Synopsis: The year is 1938. The threat of World War II looms over the United States, where Nazi sympathizers and fascists have taken root on American soil in alarming numbers. In New York City, resistance to the American Nazi movement grows amongst the ranks of Jewish-American gangsters. Enter Jonas Kaminsky, a rising small-time gangster who’s embroiled in a turf war with Levi Solomon, an old-time mob boss with millions tied up in gambling and booze. When thrown together in an unexpected circumstance, it turns out that the one thing these gangsters hate more than each other is Nazis.
Why it Made the List: I cannot prove it. In fact, it’s definitely not true, but I feel like Stephanie Phillips makes comics just for me. Taking interesting stories inspired by real history and placing them into comic book form. That happened with The Butcher of Paris and now with We Only Kill Each Other.
One thing the United States tries to forget is how popular Nazis were in the US prior to the start of WWII. We like to pretend everyone was anti-Nazi from the beginning but history tells us otherwise. Comics like this help address those issues while telling an entertaining story. This is clearly a story of fiction, but that does not mean it does not address real issues that still impact us today.
48. Alice in Borderland
Writer/Artist: Haro Aso
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Synopsis: Eighteen-year-old Ryohei Arisu is sick of his life. School sucks, his love life is a joke, and his future feels like impending doom. As he struggles to exist in a world that can’t be bothered with him, Ryohei feels like everything would be better if he were anywhere else. When a strange fireworks show transports him and his friends to a parallel world, Ryohei thinks all his wishes have come true. But this new world isn’t an empty paradise, it’s a vicious game. And the only way to survive is to play.
The first game starts with a bang, but Ryohei manages to beat the clock and save his friends. It’s a short-lived victory, however, as they discover that winning only earns them a few days’ grace period. If they want to get home, they’re going to have to start playing a lot harder.
Why it Made the List: Sometimes this world can be awful, especially when you are a teenager, but could it get worse? Alice in Borderland looks to answer that question. Three high school friends are living their life the best they can when they stumble upon a strange fireworks show. Suddenly things go black and they awake to find the world has greatly changed.
For a first volume, this had a great balance of world and character-building. The structure was sound in how it would utilize the games as a way to dive deep into character’s life to better understand who they are. Dysption stories can be a dime a dozen but this setup allows for so much more variety as each game is its own unique challenge.
This leads to a story with great potential as there is intrigue in not only the mystery but the possibilities as well.
47. Wash Day Diaries
Writer: Jamila Rowser
Artist: Robyn Smith
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Synopsis: From writer Jamila Rowser and artist Robyn Smith comes a captivating graphic novel love letter to the beauty and endurance of Black women, their friendships, and their hair.
Wash Day Diaries tells the story of four best friends—Kim, Tanisha, Davene, and Cookie—through five connected short story comics that follow these young women through the ups and downs of their daily lives in the Bronx.
The book takes its title from the wash day experience shared by Black women everywhere of setting aside all plans and responsibilities for a full day of washing, conditioning, and nourishing their hair. Each short story uses hair routines as a window into these four characters’ everyday lives and how they care for each other.
Why it Made the List: My hair routine could not be more basic. In fact, most of it is just putting on a hat as soon as possible. Reading Wash Day Diaries I realized how easy I have it.
Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser is a collection of short stories about a group of friends living their lives. Imagine if you got the dedication to the culture you see in a Spike Lee movie meshed with the matter-of-fact life approach of a Richard Linklater story. Characters are their own. Sure they are friends but everyone has their own personality, desire, goals, and they are all unique to themselves.
It is funny and heartfelt with a nice spice of drama. They are great characters that are even better when they are together. They feel like real friends and being around them feels right.
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Luca Maresca, Rogê Antônio, Jen Bartel
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Synopsis: Smashing new adventures starring the best character ever! Jennifer Walters, the Sensational She-Hulk, is no longer savage — and now she needs to put her life back together. She’s got a legal career to rebuild, friends to reacquaint herself with (and maybe represent in a court of law) and enemies to…well, she may not want to connect with them, but they are definitely going to connect with her. And Jen is about to be sent down a road she’s never traveled — one that will shake up her life…and possibly the whole Marvel Universe! One of the most dangerous things ever to exist lands in She-Hulk’s lap, and she’s got to figure out what the heck to do with it. Good luck with that, Jen! And with…Super Fight Club?!
Why it Made the List: 2022 was a great year for She-Hulk. I was a major fan of her Disney Plus show and we got quite a great comic as well. Both the comic and show feel very similar even if their stories were nothing alike. Plus Jack of Hearts is back. How can a comic be bad when Jack of Hearts is in it?
The Super Fight Club was a fun idea that lead to some great scenes. Including a fun guest appearance from The Thing. I mentioned with Mark Waid taking over World’s Finest that it feels like a DC comic. The same can be said with this as a classic Marvel comic. The type of stories that existed before major events were such a staple, yet at the same time, this could work great with brand-new readers as well. In fact, this would be a great first comic for anyone, and you can pretty much pick up any issue in the run so far.
45. Pinball: A Graphic History of the Silver Ball
Writer/Artist: Jon Chad
Publisher: First Second
Synopsis: In 1976, champion player Roger Sharpe stepped up to a pinball machine in a Manhattan courtroom. The New York City Council had convened to consider lifting the city’s ban on pinball—a game that had been outlawed since 1942 for its supposed connections to gambling and organized crime. Sharpe was there to prove that, unlike a slot machine, pinball wasn’t a game of chance designed to fleece its players—it was a game of skill that required a measure of patience, coordination, and control. To prove his point, he proclaimed that he would launch his ball into the center lane at the far end of the playfield—much like Babe Ruth famously pointing to the fences. Sharpe pulled back the plunger and released, and the fate of this industry and art form hung in the balance.
Thus opens Jon Chad’s comprehensive graphic novel to the history of the captivating, capricious—and at times infuriating!—game of pinball. Tracing pinball’s roots back to the Court of King Louis XIV, through the immigrant experience of early 20th century America, the post-War boom and bust, right up to the present day, Chad charmingly ushers readers through the myriad facets of this most American of pursuits—capturing not just the history but also the artistry, cultural significance, and even the physics of the game.
Why it Made the List: I fully believe that the best way to learn about something historical is through the medium of comics. You can convey so much information in a way that is both informative and entertaining. Such has been the case with comics that have covered the history of Animation, Wrestling, Baseball, and now Pinball.
Not that it is an easy thing to do. You need creators with a keen eye for design, knowledge of the material, and the ability to put that all together into a cohesive story. Such is the case with Pinball: A Graphic History of the Silver Ball. One of my biggest takeaways is how society tends to create these ‘Ultimate Evils’ that will corrupt society unless they are stopped. Comics were once a target and oddly so was pinball. Seeing the fear that was manufactured over something considered so mundane today makes you realize fake outrage has long been the norm.
44. Lost Lad London
Writer/Artist: Shinya Shima
Translator: Eleanor Ruth Summers
Publisher: YEN PRESS
Synopsis: A murder on the London Underground and a mysterious bloody knife draw a regular university student and a grizzled New Scotland Yard detective into a web of crime and suspense…
The truth about the murder of London’s mayor has roots in the mayor’s own secrets, and the real culprit has manipulated information to frame Al as suspect #1. Ellis continues his investigation in secret, and it doesn’t look to be wrapping up any time soon…
Why it Made the List: I have long been waiting for manga series just like this. Crime/noir is my favorite genre and while there are some mangas that cover that material none of them quite hit like this. Part of it may be the London setting that gives it more of an Eastern feel. The combination of cultures makes it the best of all different comic styles.
Like classic noir, the plot follows a thread of many webs. Twists and turns are the norm as right when you feel you know where it is going a new development will take place. I was definitely reminded of shows like Luther as you have this detective trying to do good even if he needs to break a few rules.
43. Policing the City: An Ethno-graphic
Writer: Didier Fassin, Frédéric Debomy, Rachel Gomme (Translator)
Artist: Jake Raynal
Publisher: Other Press
Synopsis: Adapted from the landmark essay Enforcing Order, this striking graphic novel offers an accessible inside look at policing and how it leads to discrimination and violence.
What we know about the forces of law and order often comes from dramatic episodes that make the headlines, or from sensationalized versions for film and television. These gripping accounts can obscure a crucial aspect of police work: the tedium of everyday patrols and paperwork, under a constant pressure to meet numbers.
Around the time of the 2005 French riots, anthropologist and sociologist Didier Fassin spent fifteen months observing up close the daily life of an anti-crime squad in one of the largest precincts in the Paris region. His unprecedented study, which sparked intense discussion about policing in the largely working-class, immigrant suburbs, remains acutely relevant in light of all-too-common incidents of police brutality against minorities.
Why it Made the List: Many of the issues that face minority groups in France mirror that of the United States. A breakdown in community policing where the relationship between officers and the people is an adversarial one. Where the push to drive up arrests and reliance on stats leads to countless stop and frisks incidents. Bogus arrests are the norm in order to keep those in charge happy while those that are powerless are forced to suffer for the sake of politics.
This leads to an ever-increasing hostile environment that is looking for a reason to explode and often finds it. The accounts are vivid and effectively told as Fassin’s proximity to officers and their every day gives full insight into the breakdown of basic human decency.
Comics as a form of journalism may not be common but they can be so effective as this shows. The lack of a camera makes people honest to the level of arrogance. Being a visual medium the entire facade that has been sold becomes clear in a way text can cloud. If art is the pursuit of truth, what better subject to make your muse than Policing the City?
42. The Incal: Psychoverse
Writer: Mark Russel
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Synopsis: The world of the Incal, the Matterverse, is full of strange technology, astonishing worlds, and extraordinary creations. But where do these things come from? Why, the Psychoverse, of course–a reality of infinite possibility where everything that can be exists…that is, until it is dreamed up in the Matterverse, at which point it is then pulled from one reality into the other. Tired of having their wondrous creations stolen by the Matterverse, agents of the Psychoverse breach the barrier between realities to reclaim their stolen property by force, which means the destruction and reclamation of nearly the entire universe! It is up to John DiFool, the Metabaron, Kill Wolfhead, and more to stop the destruction of their entire reality! If only any of them knew the most powerful, primordial forces in either universe was sitting just within their grasp…the Luminous Incal!
Why it Made the List: It can not be easy to follow legends. To be the person who replaces a fan favorite frontman in a band, or the quarterback meant to replace a future Hall of Famer that just retired. Can you live up to the greatness that was left behind? That had to be a question on the minds of Mark Russel and Yanick Paquette as they constructed this prequel to The Incal, which many consider one of the greatest Science Fictions comics of all time.
So how well did they do? In my opinion quite well. Now, I am not an expert on The Incal universe but this had the epic nature you would want in a comic of this caliber. It stands on its own but pays respect to the story that inspires it. Something any good prequel should do.
Being a Mark Russel fan I was curious how much of his style would show itself, and his trademark sense of humor fits right into this world. What is the key though is his dissection of religion as this powerful tool that can shape and destroy universes depending on who is wielding it.
Artist Yanick Paquette does as well as anyone can to represent the world Moebius created. He knows how to fill the page especially when it comes to scenes within the Psychoverse. Page borders drastically change to this black liquid-like design as if the page itself is alive.
41. Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Bilquis Evely
Publisher: DC Comics
Synopsis: It’s Supergirl like you’ve never seen her before, in a character-defining sci-fi/fantasy masterpiece from Mister Miracle writer Tom King and Wonder Woman artist Bilquis Evely!
Kara Zor-El has seen some epic adventures over the years, but she now finds her life without meaning or purpose. Here she is, a young woman who saw her planet destroyed and was sent to Earth to protect a baby cousin who ended up not needing her. What was it all for? Wherever she goes, people only see her through the lens of Superman’s fame.
Just when Supergirl thinks she’s had enough, everything changes. An alien girl seeks her out for a vicious mission. Her world has been destroyed, and the bad guys responsible are still out there. She wants revenge, and if Supergirl doesn’t help her, she’ll do it herself, whatever the cost. Now a Kryptonian, a dog, and an angry, heartbroken child head out into space on a journey that will shake them to their very core.
Why it Made the List: One of my favorite Westerns of all time is True Grit. (Yes the Coen brothers remake sorry to the purest) So it was not long into reading Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow that it became clear we were seeing the story being told in the world of DC comics. Not what I expected but I was happy to get it. To make it more fun Supergirl was playing the role of Rooster Cogburn, and not surprisingly it worked. Bilquis Evely is a phenomenal talent and she was tasked with a lot during this run, and showed she was up to task of creating this superhero science fiction western epic.
40. Welcome to St. Hell: My Trans Teen Misadventure
Writer/Artist: Lewis Hancox
Synopsis: A groundbreaking memoir about being a trans teen, in the vein of FUN HOME and FLAMER… and at the same time entirely its own.
Lewis has a few things to say to his younger teen self. He knows she hates her body. He knows she’s confused about who to snog. He knows she’s really a he and will ultimately realize this… but she’s going to go through a whole lot of mess (some of it funny, some of it not funny at all) to get to that point. Lewis is trying to tell her this… but she’s refusing to listen.
In WELCOME TO ST. HELL, author-illustrator Lewis Hancox takes readers on the hilarious, heartbreaking, and healing path he took to make it past trauma, confusion, hurt, and dubious fashion choices in order to become the man he was meant to be. It’s a remarkable, groundbreaking graphic memoir from an unmistakably bold new voice in comics.
Why it Made the List: This was one of the more humorous comics I read all year. I have seen a lot of people compare this to something like Fun Home, and considering the subject matter, I can understand where that comes from. Truth is though this is a much lighter read. There are serious moments, but Lewis Hancox spends a lot of time just laughing at himself and the way he acted growing up.
That makes those moments when Hancox is confronted with hate and fear for being different all the more difficult to read. There is such a kind and free spirit there and it is being crushed by people who are just fearful of something they refuse to understand.
Writer: Sara Alfageeh
Artist: Nadia Shammas
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Synopsis: Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It’s the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training program.
It’s not how she imagined it, though. Aiza must navigate new friendships, rivalries, and rigorous training under the unyielding General Hende, all while hiding her Ornu background. As the pressure mounts, Aiza realizes that the “greater good” that Bayt-Sajji’s military promises might not include her, and that the recruits might be in greater danger than she ever imagined.
Aiza will have to choose, once and for all: loyalty to her heart and heritage, or loyalty to the Empire.
Why it Made the List: Fantasy worlds are often filled with orcs, dragons, and other magical creatures but with Squire, it is a fantasy world void of that magic and instead filled with true-to-life humans and their very human conflicts.
The world of Squire is vivid with clear influences from parts of the world like the Middle East that are rarely more than stereotypical allegories in fantasy stories. The art design and colors are crisp and take full advantage of the three-panel grid framework to keep the pace moving while being full of inventive layouts.
Squire, is a story about realizing the world you know may not actually represent the world at large. Not only for the characters within the books but those like myself who can see how rarely characters like this are represented properly. A clear critique of colonization and the methodology of tricking people into thinking there is heroism in the conquering of others. A fine lesson to learn and an even better story to experience
38. Barbaric: Axe to Grind
Writer: Michael Moreci
Artist: Nathan Gooden
Publisher: Vault Comics
Synopsis: When a foe from Owen’s past returns, he embarks on a bloody mission to succeed where he once failed and kill a malevolent demigod. Which suits Axe just fine, considering he hasn’t gotten drunk on god blood yet! Meanwhile, Owen’s former barbarian comrade, now a timid vampire, gets cold feet about a life of violence. But in the world of BARBARIC, where orcs, giant spiders, and devil bats roam the land, and doing good is full of gore, is there any other way?
Why it Made the List: If you are a person who enjoys sand and sandals type of stories Barbaric needs to be on your reading list. It starts with the foundation that started with Conan and twists and turns it into something new and exciting. I never thought a talking drunk ax would be one of my favorite comic book characters but here we are. The action is crisp and clean and the general dilemma of always having to do what is morally right has proven to be quite dynamic.
The second volume built well on the first adding a lot of intriguing lore to this world. Although this is very much inspired by something like Conan it is very much forging its own legacy.
Writer: Victor LaValle
Artist: Leonard Kirk
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Synopsis: The island nation of Krakoa has ushered in a bright new era for mutantkind — paradise after years of persecution. But even mutants must deal with monsters in their midst, and Victor Creed is perhaps the worst. One of the first acts of the Krakoan Quiet Council was to exile the savage Sabretooth to the pit beneath Krakoa, locked away in an endless darkness for his countless crimes against both mutants and humans. Now, you’re about to find out what Sabretooth has been up to since he was banished — and it’s not what you expect! And when he welcomes five more mutants to his own private hell, are they ready for what they’ll find? No, they are not. Can these exiles find a way to stop fighting each other and start working together…on a way out?
Why it Made the List: The way you treat the worst of your society says a lot about who you are as people. For the members of Krakoa, the worst of the worst happens to be Sabretooth and with this series, we see what he went through during his imprisonment. Since the start of House of X, I wonder if this entire time we would find out the X-Men were really the villains after all..at least Professor X. This helps fuel my suspicions while making Sabretooth the most interesting he has ever been as a character. It works as a great counterbalance to the rest of the X-Book line. One of the biggest surprises of the year for me.
36. Hell is a Squared Circle
Writer: Chris Condon
Artist: Francesco Biagini
Synopsis: Ted “The Irish Mooska” Walsh is a third-tier wrestling heel with a problem — himself. He’s behind on rent, child support and his career, but he thinks he can change things. As he attempts to take control of his life, his actions leave him with blood on his hands. Ted finds himself on the run from the authorities and the darkness of his past. As Ted tries to escape his former self and build a new, better future, his mistakes come back to haunt him — in the ring and out of it.
Why it Made the List: This past year I got into wrestling at a level I had not been since my days in Middle School. Even watching New Japan on the regular for the first time in my life. Surreptitiously this year we also got a lot of really great wrestling comics. Strange how the world works. Hell is a Squared Circle focus on the ‘darker side of the ring’ when a wrestler tries to escape a troubled past. Do you need to be a wrestling fan to enjoy this story? Not at all. Similar to how you do not need to be a boxing fan to enjoy Rocky or Creed. The sport is just the vehicle. The characters are what make it work. One of the best one-shot comics of the year by ar.
35. Our Little Secret
Writer/Artist: Emily Carrington
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
Synopsis: At 15, Emily is a relatively typical teenage girl living in the Maritimes. She lives with her eccentric dad as he prepares to build a log cabin. She rides her beloved horse and spends all her free time taking in the fresh air. But things aren’t perfect, the winters are harsh and her dad’s place is cold and draughty. Enter their neighbour who sees a girl in need and offers to lend a hand. Three words: “OUR LITTLE SECRET,” and Emily’s fate is sealed.
Twenty-five years later, Emily is adrift and depressed when she spots her neighbour again on a ferry. The events of that long-ago winter come rushing back, and she is forced to reckon with the past anew. She vows that she will bring him to justice, tell her secret, and come to terms with the wounds that defined so many years of her life. Inept lawyers, expensive therapy, and a broken justice system block Emily’s path to peace. Only when she rediscovers her youthful artistic talent by putting pen to paper does she see a way out.
Now in her fifties, Carrington has crafted a compulsively readable debut that shows a powerful command of the comics medium. Our Little Secret is a testament to survival and to the importance of telling your story your way.
Why it Made the List: The term groomer has been completed by co-opted by a lot of hate groups to try and legalize their prejudice towards people of the LGBTQ community to the point the word is losing all meaning. Emily Carrington’s graphic memoir shows what actual groomer behavior is like and the massive damage it can cause a person and the types of people that tend to be targeted the most.
Carrington brings us into her past life to see the varying levels of dangers she grew up around. Whether it was a shoddy cabin with barely any heat or men who knew how to pray on vulnerable children. I will never forget the way she describes that cabin. It gave me a new respect for where I rest my head. Unquestionably a tough read at times with what is depicted, but also a powerful one seeing someone refuse to give in to those that harmed her.
34. Dark Spaces: Wildfire
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Synopsis: Six weeks into the slow burn of the historic Arroyo Fire, a crew of women from an inmate firefighting program are risking everything on the frontlines when their newest recruit – a white-collar convict with a deep network of shady dealers – discovers they’re mere miles from her crooked former associate’s mansion. When she proposes a plan to abandon their duties and hunt for riches under cover of smoke and ash, the team must decide if they’re ready to jeopardize their one sure path back to normalcy for a shot at a score that would change their lives… But is this a flicker of fortune or a deadly trap?
Why it Made the List: This might be what the kids call a hot take, but I believe 2022 was the best year of Scott Snyder’s career. Maybe he did not have a book as popular as his Batman run, but the quality of comics he helped put out along with the variety of stories was hugely impressive. Of all his books Dark Spaces: Wildfire was my favorite. For a guy who is known for horror and superheroes, this was a straight human story. A robbery in the middle of a forest fire, but it was human drama nonetheless.
Hayden Sherman also came up with some creative page layouts within this series. One of my favorite issues was when a number of pages were designed like different rescue symbols. It was like he created a challenge for himself with each issue and pulled it off every time.
33. Iranian Love Stories
Writer/Artist: Jane Deuxard, Deloupy
Publisher: Graphic Mundi
Synopsis: Gila, 26, was at a party when the police showed up. The men were able to get away with bribes, but the women were taken to the station, and anyone who’d been drinking was forced to submit to a virginity test. She never went to another party after that.
Zeinab is 20 and she loves being a woman in Iran. She says that she feels like a queen! And despite all the risks, she confesses that she makes love with her boyfriend because the danger excites her.
Vahid is 26. He was a leader with the Green Movement. Then he watched his friend Neda die right in front of him. Now he keeps his head down, trying to finish his studies.
In a series of vignettes based on clandestine interviews, this award-winning graphic novel explores the politics and love lives of ten young Iranian men and women from diverse backgrounds. The result is an honest portrait of Iranian youth today and a rare glimpse into a society where the sexes are strictly segregated–and Western journalists aren’t welcome. Through rare testimonies from across the country, we learn about traditional marriages, the pressures of living under the regime, and how young people escape the police and defy tradition to live their love stories.
Why it Made the List: I am a big believer that what the world needs more than anything is empathy. It is easier said than done, but a big part of that is taking time to better understand each other especially people from different cultures and parts of the world. There are a number of ways to do that and art and a comic like Iranian Love Stories is certainly one.
Iranian Love Stories is more than a piece of art and functions as a piece of investigative journalism as it interviews Iranians about their life and how they handle relationships with the restrictions placed upon them by elders and the government. What is apparent is the conflict that exists between much of the youth and the establishment, and how deflated many of them feel after the results of the crackdown on the Green Movement.
Ultimately though we can see how similar we all are. How citizens are not their government and most are just trying to live their lives the best they can.
32. Eight Billion Genies
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Ryan Browne
Publisher: Image Comics
Synopsis: If you had one wish… what would you wish for? What if everyone else on the planet had one wish too? That’s Eight Billion Genies. Eight seconds after magical genies grant every person on earth one wish, the world is transformed forever…and that’s just the beginning!
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Charles Soule (Light of the Jedi, Undiscovered Country) and superstar artist Ryan Browne (Curse Words, God Hates Astronauts) comes the most thought-provoking, hilarious, terrifying and emotional ride of the year.
Why it Made the List: Having a great concept is not a guarantee a comic will be good. It does give you a head start though. Eight Billion Genies has a concept that is not short on originality and offers a massive opportunity for creators to be creative. I love all the small jokes Ryan Browne puts into his art, especially within the background. A side comment you may think nothing of suddenly becomes a funny reference in the foreground of a future page. It makes you pay attention to all the details in hopes you will not miss anything.
I enjoyed Charles Soule and Ryan Browne last series together but this is a step above. Part of that is because there are only eight issues so there are no wasted movements. Well constructed from top to bottom.
31. Our Colors
Writer/Artist: Gengoroh Tagame
Translator: Anne Ishii
Synopsis: Set in contemporary suburban Japan, Our Colors is the story of Sora Itoda, a sixteen-year-old aspiring painter who experiences his world in synesthetic hues of blues and reds and is governed by the emotional turbulence of being a teenager. He wants to live honestly as a young gay man in high school, but that is still not acceptable in Japanese society. His best friend and childhood confidante is Nao, a young woman whom everyone thinks is (or should be) his girlfriend, and it would be the easiest thing to play along—she knows he’s gay but knows, too, how difficult it is to live one’s truth in his situation.
Sora’s world changes forever when he meets Mr. Amamiya, a middle-aged gentleman who is the owner and proprietor of a local coffee shop and is completely, unapologetically out as a gay man. A mentorship and platonic friendship ensues as Sora comes out to him and agrees to paint a mural in the shop, and Mr. Amamiya counsels Sora about how to deal with who he is. But it won’t be easy. Mr. Amamiya paid a high price for his freedom of identity, and when a figure from his past suddenly appears, the situation becomes a vivid example of just how complicated life can be.
Why it Made the List: We utilize colors often to help symbolize and express our emotions. Our intrinsic response to color help determines everything from the design of street signs to the decor of living space. In Gengoroh Tagame’s Our Colors, we see the life of Sora whose connection with art makes color an element of escape from the tribulations of everyday life.
Sora feels trapped in a world that would reject him if they knew the truth about him being gay. So at all times, he is playing a part in trying to ensure his secret does not get revealed. He does find a place of respite in a hole-in-the-wall Cafe’ that is run by an openly gay man, and he becomes a bit of a mentor to Sora as he is one of the few that can understand Sora’s plight.
Tagame has a way with human drama as he constructs a narrative that on paper would seem like a glorified high school melodrama but he builds his characters to be complete people. This recontextualizes textbook dilemmas into engaging conflicts with stakes you are emotionally invested in. Although this is a fictional tale Sora is clearly inspired by Tagame’s own life and is a key factor in maintaining authenticity in this emotional journey.
30. Deadly Class
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Wes Craig
Publisher: Image Comics
Synopsis: There’s nothing more beautiful than a total retreat from reality with someone you love in a place where you can leave behind all the noise, greed, and hate for a quiet and simple life. But does such a place truly exist? And if it does, how could the rabid monsters not come to destroy it? A final lap around the track with the outcasts of Generation X as everything they ever predicted comes true.
Why it Made the List: I feel like Deadly Class is a type of series that gets overlooked with these end-of-year lists. A book that has been around for eight years now can get lost when everyone focuses on the cool new thing. This remains one of my favorite comics ever written, and sadly this year it finally came to an end. When you have a book that runs as long as Deadly Class a satisfying ending is nearly impossible but Remender and Craig pulled it off.
For the last arc, it flashes forwards a number of years to complete this story. Often that does not work and things just feel rushed to a specific conclusion. Instead, it gave the series new life. It helped that Wes Craig did some of his best work in the book thus far, and the coloring in this was some of my favorite of the year. Sad to see this end, but could not be happier with the experience it provided. This changed the way I look at comics and that stayed true until the end.
29. Blacksad: They All Fall Down Part One
Writer: Juan Díaz Canales
Artist: Juanjo Guarnido
Publisher: Dark Horse
Synopsis: After a seven-year hiatus, this worldwide noir bestseller returns to American shores with a brand-new two-part storyline. Detective John Blacksad deals with the mob, the unions, and mid-century “master builder” Lewis Solomon, who plans to pave over New York City’s green spaces, come hell or high water. While Blacksad must navigate from the lofty world of 1950s theater all the way to the city’s seedy depths, Solomon looms above it all in pursuit of his own dreams–but at what cost? Meanwhile, Weekly finds himself in the hot seat just as an old flame comes back to burn his pal Blacksad!
Why it Made the List: I came to the world of Blacksad pretty late in the game but I quickly discovered why it was as acclaimed as it is. The bright side is I did not have to wait seven years for this installment to be released. There is something about an anthropomorphic world designed after classic noir stories that works so well.
Everything about it feels like a throwback in the best of ways. The story on paper is not an uncommon one for a noir tale. A PI trying to stop a murder that has a link to a powerful politician makes you think of classic films like Chinatown. Blacksad: They All Fall Down is not as depraved as that but has nearly the same amount of style.
Any fan of crime stories should be reading Blacksad. Hopefully, we will not need to wait another seven years for part two!
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
Synopsis: At long last, Hazel and her star-crossed family are finally back, and they’ve made some new…friends? This collection features the latest six chapters of the most epic adventure in comics, including the series’ double-length first issue back from hiatus.
Why it Made the List: It feels so good to be able to put this on an end-of-year list again. I honestly thought we had seen the last of Saga and that Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples would not be returning to this beloved story. Four years of build-up for a comic some consider the best ever is an impossible level of expectations to overcome. Would this be as good as it once was? All those concerns melted away after reading the first return issue. You never forget how to ride a bike, and Saga never forgets how to be good. Everything Saga was is still there and then some. The best part? By this time next month, we will have even more Saga as it returns yet again. Starting a new year off with more new Saga is a tradition I will not tire of any time soon.
27. Superman: Space Age
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Michael Allred, Laura Allred
Publisher: DC Comics
Synopsis: After years of standing idle, the young man from Krypton defies the wishes of his fathers to come out to the world as the first superhero of the Space Age. As each decade passes and each new danger emerges, he wonders if this is the one that will kill him and everyone he loves. Superman realizes that even good intentions are not without their backlash as the world around him transforms into a place as determined to destroy itself as he is to save it.
Why it Made the List: Superman: Space Age by Mark Russell and Michael and Laura Allred is so much more than just another Superman story. The story starts in the sixties and works as this assessment of morality during one of history’s most chaotic times. That time is further complicated due to the existence of superheroes. With assassinations and threats of nuclear war, how does one save the world? One answer to the question may be that even Superman can’t save the world but he can help people survive.
Now, this isn’t a cynical retribution on the concept of a hopeful hero from another world, but rather a testament to the need for such heroes who are Super and how they equate to everyday people willing to sit at a lunch counter despite the racist laws that deny their presence.
26. Enter the Blue
Writer/Artist: Dave Chisholm
Synopsis: What begins as one woman’s search for her own artistic courage unravels into a stunning look into what jazz music can teach us about our search for the truest version of ourselves.
For decades, seasoned players on the scene have spoken in whispered tones about The Blue: a mysterious meeting place for jazz history – a place where ghosts from this music’s storied past spring to life for those courageous enough to enter.
When Jessie Choi’s mentor Jimmy Hightower collapses at a gig and loses consciousness, she finds herself reluctantly pulled back into the jazz scene she abandoned years earlier. In investigating the music and mystery behind Jimmy’s comatose state, every thread leads to the same question: is Jimmy somehow trapped in this enigma known as The Blue? In her search to save her teacher, Jessie rubs shoulders with legends, uncovers the secret history of Blue Note Records, and faces her own deepest fears.
Why it Made the List: I have zero musical talent. In fact, I struggle to even explain why I like the music I do. The best I can come up with is, “It makes my ears feel good”. Dave Chisholm’s Enter the Blue shows me maybe the reason for that is because so much about music cannot be described with simple words.
Have you ever been around someone that has a love for something so strong their admiration becomes so infectious you cannot help but join in as well? That happened while reading this. By the end of this comic not only did I get a dramatic story I was invested in, but I also gained an appreciation for music, especially Jazz.
You may not be able to hear music looking at an image but Enter the Blue comes as close as anything to making that a possibility.