2022 in comics and graphic novels

In addition to O’Brien Press’s stock shop focusing on the decade between 1912 and 1922, Michael Collins: The Irish Rebel Son traces the life of the Big Fellow from his involvement in the Easter Rising to his tragic death. Writer Mario Corrigan’s pace has a steely focus as he hits all pertinent events and allows for an adequate sense of space for his lie in state and funeral. David Butler’s art matches this subtly and solemnly.

The visual art renders the historical details memorable, which makes Rebel Son of Ireland essential for all secondary school history students.

Michael Collins: Ireland's Wayward Son, by Mario Corrigan and David Butler.
Michael Collins: Ireland’s Wayward Son, by Mario Corrigan and David Butler.

Myths and mythmaking

After focusing on Irish mythology for last year’s anthology title Turning Roads, indie publishers Limit Break have turned to Greek myths, but seen through a contemporary crime/noir lens for Down Below. Packed in a stunning cover by Stephen Mooney and Triona Farrell and featuring an almost entirely different cast of writers and artists, Limit Break is proving that Ireland is a fertile place for comic creators, confirming writer Michael Carroll’s suggestion in the his introduction to Turning Roads that a second volume must surely lie over the horizon.

Love hound

Glorious in a strong visual aesthetic, Paul J Bolger’s Hound is a clear labor of love. Originally published between 2014 and 2018 as an independently published trilogy, Bolger’s epic treatment of Cú Chulainn, co-written with Barry Devlin, saw respected American comic publisher Dark Horse release this year as a one-volume heavyweight .

The black and white artwork, enhanced by the dramatic use of red, is striking and owes an obvious debt to Frank Miller’s Sin City, but Bolger’s character design is striking, adding to a grim and tragic story that comes to given its signature twist.

Irish Book of the Year

Luke Healy’s Americana was our Book of the Year 2019 and marked him as a unique entry in Irish comics. With The Con Artists (Faber & Faber), he outlines an incident that sees childhood friends Frank and Giorgio dramatically reconnect. When the latter is hospitalized, Frank becomes involved in the life of him.

In the prologue, Healy sets in motion an ingenious sleight of hand that makes us question the notions of fact and fiction. How much of stand-up comedian Frank is Luke Healy? Giorgio is undeniably a con artist, but the protagonist is dealing with his own deceptions. Through his very simple style of illustration, Healy has created a playful and humorous treatise on anxiety.

Frame from The Con Artists by Luke Healy.
Frame from The Con Artists by Luke Healy.

Children and young adults

Featuring sophisticated silkscreen-style art and collage by Jason Griffin, African-American author Jason Reynolds’ Oxygen Mask (Faber & Faber) is an urgent and visceral account of being Black in America in the year 2020.

Continuing directly from book 1, Lize Medding’s The Sad Ghost Club 2 (Hodder & Stoughton) message to never be afraid to let your friends in is an impressive expansion on its predecessor.

Closer to home, Aoife Dooley’s Frankie’s World (Scholastic) has its spiky, punk rock-loving 11-year-old protagonist assuming that her differences must be due to the fact that she’s an alien. Combined with her energetic storytelling, Dooley’s whimsical drawing style and limited but vibrant color palette should resonate with younger readers. Anyone who sees the world differently will find a friend in Frankie.

Aoife Dooley, creator of Frankie's World.  Image: Ruth Medjber
Aoife Dooley, creator of Frankie’s World. Image: Ruth Medjber

First person comics

Comics are constantly pushing the boundaries, experimenting and innovating, and 2022 has brought us two great examples, both of which put the reader’s first-person point of view. Putting you in the shoes of computer repairman Wade Duffy, George Wylesol’s 2120 (Avery Press) has the reader follow the page’s instructions for Wade to complete his task and find his way out of the labyrinthine building. As exhilarating as it is frustrating (many puzzles have to be tackled), 2120 is imbued with a strong sense of the sinister.

Equally modern is Veronika Muchitsch’s Cyberman (Myriad Editions). Paying homage to Hitchcock’s Rear Window, the reader is put into Muchitsch’s shoes as she watches and interacts with a real housebound Finnish man who conveys his mundane life. It’s a touching and well-rendered example of documentary comics.

Graphic Novel of the Year

There have been some fantastic books this year, such as the collected edition of Jeffrey Brown’s sincere relationship trilogy Loved and Lost (Top Shelf Comix), Lazy Stewart’s touching coming-of-age story Alison (Serpent’s Tail), and the compelling blend memoir and oil by Kate Beaton industry critic Ducks (Drawn & Quarterly).

An image from Time Zone J, by Julie Doucet.
An image from Time Zone J, by Julie Doucet.

Most exciting was Montreal underground artist Julie Doucet’s return to comics after a two-decade absence. Purely as an artefact, Time Zone J (Drawn & Quarterly) is striking, its untrimmed French-fold pages creating a sense of continuous flow as Doucet conveys a brief, tempestuous affair in his indelibly inky style across a densely packed menagerie of talking heads and animals. A hilarious swirling heat fever dream.

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