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The comics medium is a beautiful and interconnected ecosystem, and nowhere is that better represented than in Polygon’s list of the best comics of 2022. From Marvel and DC’s blockbuster series to alternative indies and the highlights of a year in manga, comics culture remains rooted in the books that inspire it all.
The comics on this list are already in paperback form for your eager hands — no worries for trade-waiters. Comics were considered eligible if they were collected for the first time, or published their final collection, in 2022.
The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton
By Kyle Starks and Chris Schweizer
Many of this year’s best comics are heavy and measured or beautiful and philosophical, comics that are trying to tell little-heard truths or stories of little-known figures. The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton exhibits all the same mastery of craft and love of story as the rest of the books here — but funnels all that artistic focus into the best screwball comedy of 2022.
If The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton were a movie, it would already have a two-sequel Netflix deal. Trigger Keaton, a washed-up martial arts movie star, the most despised asshole in Hollywood, and a clear stand-in for Chuck Norris, has wound up dead. Six people who played opposite him in his biggest wins and flops suspect foul play, and are determined to bring the killer to justice in spite of how they all frrrrrreakin’ despise Trigger Keaton.
This strangers-to-family group of former child actors and working adult thespians sleuth their way through an over-the-top world of Hollywood action-movie making, where crossing a brother stuntman means a STUNTMAN WAR, where the biker gang about to beat you up pauses to give you a pep talk about sticking up for your friends, and where all the catchphrases are the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard. The dialogue is amazing, the pacing is amazing, the layouts are amazing, the fights are amazing, the car chases are amazing, the depressingly plausible fake TV shows are amazing — heck, even the lettering is amazing. —Susana Polo
The Many Deaths of Laila Starr
By Ram V and Filipe Andrade
There are comics that feel more like a poem than plotted panels on a page — comics that leave you not so much with memorable dialogue or dramatic set-pieces, but something more ethereal and less susceptible to description: a mood, a color, a sense of something gained or lost.
The Many Deaths of Laila Starr is that kind of comic. Ram V and Filipe Andrade’s story of an avatar of Death (capital D) fated to spend her days in a mortal life may have the basic form of a myth or fable, but it has the airy quality of a watercolor painting. Andrade’s art is all sketchy lines complemented by pastel colors that blend each panel into the next. And Ram V’s prose doesn’t so much propel the action as circle around it, leading us back and forth along with the lead character as she moves, fitfully and imperfectly, toward some kind of enlightenment.
In the end, we’re left with a meditation on life, death, and the possibility of finding peace between the two that lingers long after the final page, and invites us to begin the cycle all over again. —Zach Rabiroff
Wash Day Diaries
By Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith
It’s no surprise that Wash Day Diaries has found a place on our year-end list. One of 2022’s most powerful, delightful, and beautifully illustrated reads, this slice-of-life graphic novel follows four Black women and best friends in the Bronx — Kim, Tanisha, Davene, and Cookie — as they experience life, love, and work through the lens of hair care.
There’s a radical softness in both Rowser’s charming writing and Smith’s pastel-hued illustration. Expanding on Black Josei Press’ gorgeous and award-winning comic Wash Day, the graphic novel is made up of five interconnected short stories — so you’re really getting five of the best comics of the year in one — each of which centers a different character and their hair routine as an entry point into their day and the friendship they share. Rowser and Smith are a creative force to be reckoned with and have made a truly timeless and vital comic that will continue to delight readers for years to come. —Rosie Knight
Welcome to St. Hell: My Trans Teen Misadventure
By Lewis Hancox
Cartoonist Lewis Hancox’s memoir guides us through his experience of trying to survive high school while struggling with gender dysphoria. Every teen (cis and trans alike) can appreciate the frustration, awkwardness, and heartache here, https://shravskitchen.com/ even if it’s not identical to their own life. At the same time, Hancox pokes fun at his emo-loving, skateboarding, dramatic teen past, and his art style allows for things to be silly in parts.
Lewis the Author cleverly breaks the fourth wall throughout the story, popping in as narrator and sometimes even speaking directly to his past self. During some of the roughest moments when his loved ones react badly or say the wrong thing, Author Lewis pulls his present-day persona into the book. The reader learns how his parents and the few close friends he had during that time worked on themselves and ultimately embraced Lewis for who he is. Even when things seem hopeless in the story, adult Lewis keeps popping in to let us know that, like the saying goes, it indeed gets better. —Katie Schenkel