Well, 2022 has been a heckuva year for us all, and it’s time to take stock!

I reviewed over a hundred comics for The Fanboy Factor, plus trades and graphic novels. And read hundreds more! There was certainly no shortage of post-apocalyptic scenarios, superheros who were taunted by their arch-nemesises, and bucketloads of horror. But certain books stood out, stepped aside, and made their own original statements. When I went back to review the reviews (heh), some books really stood above the rest. Here are my Top 5 picks from 2022, in random order!

Kroma, Image Comics

Issues 1 and 2 were astonishing. Lorenzo De Felici created a colourful and dangerous world, and then slid a twist at us: an enclave of humans who were hiding away in Pale City, garbed and camouflaged in black and white. Kroma was an astonishingly vibrant tale of survival of a few young people in the midst of paranoic superstition and cult-like repression. The panels were well designed for story flow, and the script kept us on the edge of the precipice all the way. The large domed buildings, the elastic poses of the children, the abrupt changes in lighting to enhance mood. The expressions, the lighting, and yes, the colouring. The story continues…

Always Never, Dark Horse Comics

In this original graphic novel, Jordi Lafebre tells us the story of a woman and man: Ana and Zeno. As we begin to read, we understand that these two older people are meeting each other again, after many years apart. 

But what is their story, and what makes it special? Lafebre casts a wide net here, recounting the days when Zeno was captaining his fishing boat, while Ana is the mayor of a large city. Separate paths, yet linked, chapter by chapter, layer by layer, wave by wave. 

Jordi Lafebre ALSO illustrates the story, with an incredibly gifted hand. The figures dance, cavort, caress and gesture in such a deceivingly simple manner. It’s hypnotic and delightful to watch scenes unfold, turn sad, and end up happy. Colourist Clémence Sapin’s colour choices enhance the lines, magnifying the mood and lending a delicate, confident finishing touch to the visuals. Lettering by Cromatik Ltd. Translator is Montana Kane. Editor is Konner Knudsen.

It’s not an A-Z story, this Alway Never: rather a layered, thoughtful recount of the intertwined lives of two people, with elements of foreshadowing, reflection and poetic symbolism. There are jokes, there are tears.

Galaxy- The Prettiest Star graphic novel DC Comics

Writer Jadzia Axelrod introduces us to a teenage boy, trapped in a body that he isn’t happy with. He doesn’t feel like he belongs in it! His family seems alien to him, his sister and brother almost like strangers. It’s a strange time indeed. But Taylor is a basketball star in his high school, with loads of pals and buddies on the team. His secrets, though, are multiple and contain multitudes. So where does Galaxy fit into all this? You’ll see. Dude, this is one princess of a wild ride!

Avoiding spoilers here, Taylor’s journey toward self-realization is mind-twisting. The dialogue is fresh, the emotions are skin-deep; yet as deep-felt as the ocean. The tender situations will inspire and affect many readers, as Taylor struggles with young love and the limits of gender roles and family identity. Axelrod’s story clicks, delivers, and satisfies the reader.

Jess Taylor delivers stunning graphics, and I DO mean STUNNING. While I feel that sometimes the flash and magnificence of the visuals occasionally interfere with sequential story flow, there are pages and pages of just brilliant artwork here. I am thoroughly impressed with their layouts, the amazing colour contrasts, the ‘1960s-retro-meets-2022-storybook-meets-unlimited-imagination’. Excellent lettering by Ariana Maher.

The Rush #5, Vault Comics

Ding dong, the beast is dead, but there is still a lot of bloodshed, shredded clothing, and sleds of sentiment in the second last issue of The Rush, #5, from Vault Comics. I picked this particular issue because I happened to review it, but the whole miniseries is amazing.

Writer Si Spurrier tells the tale of the Yukon gold rush back in the day. He fills the supernatural cavern of the script with an astonishingly good ‘ear’ for period dialogue. We feel the awkwardness of the miners and the other minor characters, struggling to express themselves, to better themselves, to help themselves to anything around, including gold.

Artist Nathan Gooden (colourist is Addison Duke, lettering Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou) deals in shapes, mass, choreography of movement. The viewpoint of the reader switches in for a textured closeup, then back to establish the surroundings. The wardrobes of the past, the snowy hills, the spruces and pines of the wilderness, boughing and bending to the artist’s will, so effortlessly.

It’s literature for the mind’s eye, the days gone by, supernaturally haunted with violence, accompanied by a ragtag bunch of miners who keep tripping themselves up. Brilliant, I say.

Paris, Graphic Novel Image Comics

“Paris”, an original graphic novel by way of Image Comics, tells the story of Juliet. A young oil painter, Juliet is struggling to find her way in 1950’s City of Lights.

She’s broke and struggling to make ends meet. Then, she has an opportunity to paint a portrait of an English girl, who is visiting Paris. But the girl’s chaperone is a tough character, prickly and domineering. She’s pressuring Juliet to hurry up and finish the darn painting, pronto! And no more sittings!!

Paris is a beautifully illustrated volume. The drawings by Simon Gane (Sunburn, They’re Not Like Us, Godzilla, Ghost Tree, etc) are done in medium weight line, with wash tone, on yellow background. Simon’s style knits smoothly with the narrative by author Andi Watson (The Book Tour, Kerry and the Knight of the Forest, etc).

The British slang of Chapman and her young sitter Deborah is priceless. Thick, almost incomprehensible to today’s ears, the words are class-aligned and classic. The scenes of the Parisien streets, the cafes, the markets. It’s like a page out of the Where’s Waldo visual vocabulary, this salad of shapes and contours.

The drama is tangible, the atmosphere hypnotic, the pace frantic, and “Paris”, is a baguette, with little cheese, and many slices of life. *Paris was originally published in 2005-2006, with many pages of new artwork and extras added for this edition.

So there you have it, my top five. It was not easy to pick just five, of course. But in doing so, I guess I revealed ‘my hand’, that is, my preferences, my taste. The top books all have strong characters, excellently ‘voiced’. The drawings are just as detailed as they need to be to tell the story, with finesse. But the drawings absolutely serve the story, and enhance the experience. And the panels flow effortlessly along, propelling the reader, entertaining, enchanting.

And since I only chose five books for my picks, I felt obliged to list a few more, ha ha. Here are a few Honourable Mentions:

North Bend, Scout Comics

Season two kept the subterfuge, the sneaky spy situations. So good.

Hitomi, Image Comics

the young assassin in training. Tastefully told, exotically situated.

Animal Castle trade, Ablaze Publications

when some animals coerce the others into slavery, things get dangerous. Dark, intense, beautifully visualized.

The Forgotten Blade Graphic Novel, TKO Studios:

Hypnotically illustrated with shapes and designs, the powerful images reminiscent of a Jack Kirby imagination.

Follow Me Down, Graphic Novel, Image Comics:

Brubaker’s ongoing saga of Ethan Reckless, whose scrapes with the downbeaten make great scuffy stories. They’re all good, but this one just has something a bit extra gritty and chewy.

Happy reading and Happy New Year everyone!

By Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!